7 top attractions along Amtrak’s Cardinal route

Over the mountains and through woods and farm fields, Amtrak’s Cardinal trains provide a journey across the eastern United States. If you’re planning a trip on the Cardinal or are looking for a new adventure, explore the list below to learn about some of the top things attractions walking distance of stations along the route.

Tip: Keep in mind that the Cardinal does not run daily, only three days a week. Trains depart end-of-the-line stations (Chicago and New York) on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays so getting off the train requires lodging for two or three nights in most cases.

1. Chicago

Chicago River Skyline

Take the Cardinal to Chicago for food, theatrical performances, live music, museums, lake views and more. Amtrak trains arrive in Chicago’s Union Station just across the river from Willis Tower, the second tallest building in the United States. During warmer months, water taxis near Amtrak provide service to the Magnificent Mile and Navy Pier, or walk into downtown to check into a hotel or hop on a CTA city train. View the Chicago Transit Guide to learn more.

The closest major cities are Indianapolis (about five hours away via train) and Cincinnati (about 8.5 hours). Also, Chicago is at the end of the route, and trains only depart on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings — something to keep in mind as your plan your overnight accommodations in the Windy City.

2. Daniel Boone’s Town

Maysville, Kentucky skyline
Photo by ealparr/Wikimedia Commons

Maysville, Kentucky was settled by Daniel Boone and is home to the National Underground Railroad Museum and the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center. Along the Ohio River, the city is small, but you can walk a few blocks to the riverfront French Quarter Inn and the Moon River Bed and Breakfast. WinStay Inn and Suites is also a 30-minute walk away or check Airbnb for rentals near the station.

You may want to rent a car at the local Enterprise (be sure to reserve in advance), but Cardinal arrival times in Maysville aren’t the best: westbound trains arrive around midnight and eastbound trains arrive around 5 a.m. assuming no delays, so you’ll need to walk to accommodations upon arrival. However, renting a car at a later time expands sightseeing options and makes hiking and cabin rentals possible.

3. Historic Hinton

Hinton, West Virginia Amtrak
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Hinton Historic District (at the Hinton Amtrak stop) is one of the most intact historic areas in America. Built along the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, there are over 200 buildings constructed just before and after 1900. It’s a very walkable town with plenty of cultural, shopping, dining and lodging options for a weekend trip.

4. Birthplace of Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson Birthplace
Woodrow Wilson’s birthplace. Photo by barteverts/Flickr.com

Another historic destination along the Cardinal route is picturesque Staunton, Virginia, the birthplace former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson Park is just across the street from the Staunton Amtrak Station, or walk about 10 minutes after exiting the train to reach the Woodrow Wilson Library and Museum.

While in Staunton, choose from several charming and historic hotels near Amtrak as well as other cultural attractions and venues, including a replica of Shakespeare’s theater. For more recreation while you’re in this mountain town, the Wintergreen Resort and the Shenandoah National Park are in driving distance. Enterprise is again the closest rental car company near the Amtrak station. Reserve a car and call ahead to confirm and arrange pick up from the train station.

5. The Greenbrier

The Greenbrier golf course
Photo by teaberryeagle/Flickr.com

The Greenbrier is a historic resort in the Allegheny Mountains with golf, tennis, a spa and a casino on 11,000 acres. It is also conveniently across the street from the White Sulpher Springs Amtrak Station. This attraction is one of the easiest for a train getaway since walking time is minimal and once you’re at the resort, you don’t have to leave to stay entertained.

6. D.C. Museums

Smithsonian Museum in DC
Photo by brewbooks/Flickr.com

Hop off Amtrak at Union Station in Washington D.C. for a weekend of sightseeing. Easily transfer from Amtrak to the Metro subway trains at Union Station for easy transportation to museums, other attractions and hotels across the nation’s capital. Don’t forget: most of the museums are free.

7. New York, New York

Manhattan
Photo by Marcela McGreal/Flickr.com

Be a part of it in New York City, with Amtrak trains arriving in the heart of Manhattan. Walk to the Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Times Square and a million other destinations. Connections to the MTA subway system and commuter trains are also in Penn Station for easy transfers. Save 41% or more on New York’s 6 best attractions with CityPASS to get more out of your trip.

More Information

Amtrak to NYC
Amtrak to Chicago
DC Union Station Guide

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