12 best Amtrak trips from Charlotte, NC

Central Park and New York City skyline

The Crescent, Carolinian and Piedmont Amtrak routes stop in Charlotte each day and can take you to destinations across the eastern United States. Piedmont trains only travel in North Carolina while the Crescent and Carolinian are longer routes that can take you as far north as New York City. Only the Crescent has sleeper cars, so if you want private accommodations on the train (roomette or bedroom) instead of a coach or business-class seat, you’ll need to choose a destination on the Crescent route.

See the list below to explore the best Amtrak trips from Charlotte. For current schedules and prices, visit Amtrak.com.

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A great day trip option for families or adults, Greensboro is only 1.5 hours away from Charlotte on Amtrak. There are multiple departures to choose from so you can pick your preferred travel time and length of stay. Top attractions include the International Civil Rights CenterGreensboro Science Center, Tanger Family Bicentennial GardenGuilford Courthouse National Military Park and the Greensboro Arboretum. The city also has many sport facilities and arenas, so you can plan your trip around an event.


Eno River State Park in Durham
Photo by Jim Liestman

The home of Duke University, Durham is 2.5 hours away from Charlotte. It is an easy day trip on Amtrak or a fun weekend getaway, especially if you want to go to a show, festival or other event. Top things to check out include the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham Performing Arts Center, the food scene and hiking trails at Eno River State Park (pictured above).

For overnight stays, the Durham Marriott City Center, Durham Hotel, Unscripted Durham and 21c Museum Hotel are closest to the Amtrak station — walking time is less than 10 minutes.


North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh is a family-friendly destination with a variety of things to see and do. There are many parks and formal gardens to check out, including the fifth oldest operating amusement park in the United States. You can also visit live music venues and top-rated museums, including the North Carolina History Museum, North Carolina Museum of Art and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Travel time from Charlotte is just over three hours and there are multiple trains to choose from on the Piedmont and Carolinian Amtrak routes. You can return same day to Charlotte if desired. If you decide to stay overnight, there are several hotels in walking distance from the station, including The Casso, Holiday Inn Downtown Raleigh and Sheraton Raleigh. See the list of all downtown Raleigh hotels for more places to stay.


Charlottesville downtown mall
Photo by Payton Chung

For a small-town experience in the Virginia mountains, plan to a trip to Charlottesville. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation home, is one of the top nearby attractions. You can also visit local wineries, explore the historic main street and pedestrian mall, and go to a game at nearby University of Virginia (walking time to the stadium is less than 30 minutes and drive time is less than 10).

Travel time from Charlotte is about five hours on the Crescent train with an arrival late morning. The return train to Charlotte departs in the evening, so you can return same day. There are many restaurants near the Charlottesville Amtrak Station as well as a few hotels (Hampton Inn & Suites is the closest), but you’ll need to use Lyft, Uber or taxi to reach Monticello and other attractions that aren’t in walking distance of the train station.

The downside of this trip is that on the return, trains arrive in Charlotte after 2 a.m.


Richmond Virgina, Falls of the James
Photo by Morgan Riley

Richmond is about 7.5 hours away from Charlotte via the Carolinian train. It is a great city for historic sights, museums, gardens and outdoor adventures. Highlights include whitewater rafting, the Maymont mansion and gardens, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (which is especially popular in the spring), Carytown neighborhood and the White House of the Confederacy.

Trains arrive in the afternoon at the Staples Mill Station, which is about 15 minutes away (via car) from downtown Richmond. It’s easiest to use Lyft or Uber to get around. You can also rent a car from Enterprise. Pickup service is available, but call ahead to confirm.

Plan to stay at least one night in Richmond. The return train to Charlotte departs daily in the afternoon. View the list of the best hotels and other places to stay in Richmond to explore your options.


Alexandria, Virginia
Photo by Ken Lund

For easy access to Washington D.C. and Mount Vernon, travel to Alexandria, Virginia. George Washington considered Alexandria his home town, and you can experience his colonial life in the well-preserved Old Town historic district. The National HarborThe Wharf and Georgetown are also accessible via water taxi or board a train at the King Street-Old Town Metro Station to reach all the sights in Washington D.C.

Embassy Suites and Hilton hotels are conveniently across the street from the Amtrak station if you’re looking for an easy place to stay. Trains arrive early and late afternoon. Plan to stay at least one night in the city.

Washington D.C.

National Mall in Washington DC
Photo courtesy yotut/Flickr.com

The Crescent and Carolinian trains depart Charlotte daily and travel to Washington D.C. The trip on the Crescent is 1.5 hours faster than the Carolinian (about 8 hours travel time), but the tradeoff is that the Crescent departure and arrival times in Charlotte aren’t ideal.

You can easily transfer to a WMATA red line subway train at the DC Union Station after you arrive for an inexpensive ride to hotels and attractions. Taxis are usually at the station as another option, or use rideshare.

Top things to do include the free museums, monuments and cruises on the Potomac River. Plan to stay in D.C. at least one night. For the return trip, you can choose between a late morning or early evening train departure (or book a flight out of Reagan National Airport).


Baltimore Inner Harbor
Photo by Chris6d/Wikimedia Commons

Baltimore is 9.5 hours away from Charlotte on the Crescent and about 11 hours away on the Carolinian. Once you arrive, you can connect with Lyft or Uber for a ride to 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.

Trains arrive in the afternoon and early evening and return to Charlotte each day in mid-morning and early evening, so you’ll need to stay in the city at least one night. View best places to stay in Baltimore to find accommodations.


Nemours Estate in Wilmington, Delaware
Photo by Robert Lyle Bolton

Known for its many parks, museums and riverwalk, Wilmington, Delaware is a just over 10 hours away from Charlotte on the Crescent and about 12 hours on the Carolinian. Trains arrive at the historic Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station near the Christina River, and you can walk to downtown Wilmington, rent a car at the station or use Lyft and Uber to get around.

One of the top attractions is the Nemours Estate that was built by the du Pont family (pictured above). Rail fans can also check out the Wilmington and Western Railroad, which has day trips. The Quoin Hotel is closest to the station, about a 10-minute walk away, and is one of the top-rated hotels in the area.


Liberty Bell in Philadelphia
Photo by Phil Roeder/Flickr.com

For an essential American experience, travel to Philadelphia on the train to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and wrote the Constitution. You’ll arrive at the 30th Street Station with the option to connect with SEPTA subway and commuter trains, taxis, Lyft and Uber.

Other top things to do include eating cheesesteaks, exploring the Reading Terminal Market and visiting the art museum, made famous by the Rocky movies. A hop-on-off sightseeing trolley and bus tours are also options for getting around the city. If you stay only one night in Philly, you’ll have at most 24 hours to explore, otherwise plan to stay two nights or longer if you want more time to see the sights.

New York City 

Times Square New York City
Photo by Sam Valadi/Flickr.com

New York City is the last stop on the northbound Crescent and Carolinian routes, 12.5 to 14 hours away from Charlotte respectively. You’ll arrive in Penn Station‘s new train hall with easy access to the subway, commuter trains, taxis and rideshare services, which makes it easy to visit the many museums, attractions, restaurants, Broadway shows and shopping destinations.

We recommend staying in New York City at least two nights to have enough time to sightsee and go to a show. Midtown (near Broadway theaters), West Village, Upper West Side and Chelsea are some of the popular areas for an overnight stay.

New Orleans

Bourbon Street in New Orleans
Photo by Marko Forsten

For food, fun and festivals, book an Amtrak trip to New Orleans. Travel time is about 19 hours, and you’ll spend a night on the train after boarding in the middle of the night. Because the departure time isn’t ideal, we highly recommend flying to New Orleans and riding Amtrak one-way back to Charlotte so you can view cemeteries, the skyline and beautiful Lake Pontchartrain in daylight and enjoy better travel times.

During your stay in New Orleans, don’t miss the top attractions, including the French Quarter, Garden District and the National World War II Museum. There are also several riverboat cruises for a unique experience on the Mississippi River.

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Top photo courtesy https://fshoq.com