Raleigh is a great place to start an Amtrak trip. The Carolinian, Piedmont and Silver Star trains stop in the city, so there are multiple routes that can take you as far north as New York City and south all the way to Florida. To start planning your getaway, here are the best Amtrak trips from Raleigh that don’t require a train transfer or middle-of-the-night travel.
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Durham is only 30 minutes away from Raleigh via Amtrak’s Carolinian and Piedmont routes. It’s an easy day trip with a beautiful botanical garden, performing arts center, great food scene and Eno River State Park (pictured above) to explore. The Amtrak station is also a short walk from the Carolina Theatre, making it easy to go to a show.
There are multiple trains to choose from each day, so you can decide on the length of your stay. Multiple hotels are near the Amtrak station if you plan to stay overnight and want to be in walking distance: The Durham Hotel, Marriott City Center, Unscripted Durham and 21c Museum Hotel.
Greensboro is another Amtrak day trip option from Raleigh with multiple trains to choose from each day. Travel time is 1.5 hours and you’ll arrive a short walk away from downtown Greensboro. Explore shops, restaurants, bars and attractions including the International Civil Rights Center, Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden, Greensboro Science Center (animal encounters), Guilford Courthouse National Military Park and the Greensboro Arboretum.
The biggest city in North Carolina, Charlotte is 3 to 3.5 hours away from Raleigh on Amtrak. Two routes travel to the city: Carolinian and Piedmont, with a slightly faster commute on the Piedmont. We recommend getting a ride from a taxi, Lyft or Uber to reach the Center City, the light rail system or attraction of your choice after you arrive.
While in Charlotte, you can check out the many museums, visit Carowinds theme park, shop at SouthPark Mall, go to a game at the ballpark, attend an event at the stadium or watch a NASCAR race. You can return same day to Raleigh if you don’t want to stay overnight. The last return train departs around 7 p.m. each day.
Only 3.5 hours away from Raleigh, Richmond is full of cultural and recreational activities. The Silver Star arrives around noon and the Carolinian in the afternoon just north of downtown. You’ll need to get a taxi, Uber or Lyft to reach the city and the many parks, gardens, museums and historic areas. Highlights include the Maymont mansion and gardens, Carytown neighborhood and the White House of the Confederacy. Due to the train schedule, you’ll need to stay at least one night in Richmond.
The childhood home of George Washington, Fredericksburg has a charming historic district near the Amtrak station. The city has many old buildings you can tour, the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, National Military Park, Battlefield and National Cemetery, where many Union soldiers are buried. Be sure to check out some of the local restaurants and breweries while you are there. Travel time is five hours on the Carolinian. Plan to stay at least one night.
George Washington considered Alexandria, Virginia his home town, making a visit here a unique way to experience the roots of America’s first president. Embassy Suites and Hilton hotels are conveniently across the street from the Amtrak station, and the charming Old Town district on the Potomac River is a 25-minute walk away.
In addition to rideshare services and taxis, transportation options include blue and yellow line trains at the King Street-Old Town Metro Station, which will take you to Reagan Washington National Airport and all the sights in Washington D.C. The Old Town water taxi is also a fun way to reach the National Harbor, The Wharf and Georgetown.
The Carolinian and Silver Star trains travel to and from Alexandria each day with a travel time of 5.5 to 6 hours (the Silver Star is faster).
With free museums, stately monuments, many events and a huge restaurant scene, there is always something to do and eat in Washington D.C. The train trip from Raleigh is about six hours via the Carolinian and Silver Star trains. DC’s Union Station has a direct connection to the WMATA red subway line, so you can easily get around without a car. Many tours are also available to help you see the many sights.
Baltimore is a historic city with interesting neighborhoods and a fun waterfront scene. After a 7.5 hour train ride, you can easily connect with Lyft or Uber to reach the Inner Harbor or attraction of your choice, including the National Aquarium, Fort McHenry and Fell’s Point neighborhood. Consider a boat tour for a unique way to see the city, and rail fans should consider visiting the B&O Railroad Museum. Tip: Washington D.C. is only 40 minutes away via Amtrak, so you can easily visit both cities if desired.
Head to Philadelphia to eat an authentic Philly cheesesteak and visit the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall or the many other museums and historic sites. Amtrak travel time is about 8.5 hours, with the option to connect with commuter trains, subway, Lyft, Uber, tourist trolleys and bikeshare once you’re in the city. The Schuylkill River Trail is an especially beautiful place for a bike ride.
You’ll arrive in the evening, so it is best to stay two nights to have a full day to see the sights. You can book tickets on the Carolinian and Silver Star trains, so you’ll have two departure times to choose from each day.
New York City
New York City is the last stop on the northbound Carolinian and Silver Star routes, about 10 hours from Raleigh. You’ll arrive in Penn Station‘s new train hall with easy access to the subway, commuter trains, taxis and rideshare services. There are many museums, attractions and Broadway shows to check out, plus world-class shopping and dining experiences. Like with Philadelphia, it is an evening arrival, so two nights in New York City is recommended (especially if you want to go to an evening performance).
For a beach vacation, take Amtrak to Florida. The shortest trip is to Jacksonville (10 hours, pictured top of page), but you’ll be sleeping for a large portion of that time as this is an overnight train ride. There’s a great mix of beaches, parks and cultural amenities, including the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, Cummer Museum of Art and Riverside Arts Market.
Winter Park and Orlando (about 13 hours) are other great places to visit. Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld are a short drive away. Or for beautiful beaches and water sports in and around Clearwater, book your ticket to Tampa (almost 16 hours away from Raleigh).
The Miami Station is the last stop in the Sunshine State, with a travel time of 21.5 hours.