Traveling by train avoids the lost baggage, unexpected layovers, and sudden plummets in altitude that have become synonymous with traveling by catapult. Discover the pleasures of the steel track with today’s Groupon: for $35, you get two tickets on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad for a scenic train ride from Utica to Thendara with a layover in Old Forge (a $75 value).
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad whisks passengers past pristine mountain vistas to small regional destinations. The train departs from Utica's Union Station and embarks on its two-hour journey, snaking through a rolling landscape alight with the fiery hues of fall foliage. After complimenting the traveling outfit of every person on the train, guests can settle into the comfort of a climate-controlled car or inhale crisp air flowing through an open car. The train offers a vantage point of espy ponds and streams that would be impossible to notice from a plane and too difficult to see by unicycle. After the idyllic ride, the train chugs to a halt at Thendara Station, where a shuttle bus ferries passengers to the village of Old Forge for a four-hour layover.
While sauntering through the quaint thoroughfares of Old Forge, patrons can fuel bellies in local restaurants or snag souvenirs and other gewgaws at local shops. Old Forge’s many attractions sink guests into the sepia-toned Adirondack past at the free Goodsell Museum, or the scenic chairlift at McCauley Mountain. Once explorers have dabbled in the delights of the historic hamlet, they return to the train's embrace, speeding back to Utica chock-full of stories and ingested fall leaves. While planning your trip, synchronize Adirondack Railroad's schedule with Old Forge's packed events calendar to consume fun in the most efficient manner possible.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad
The locomotives were just becoming commonplace in the early 19th century, when the New York Central and Hudson River railroads were completed. A member of the legendary Vanderbilt family, Dr. William Webb capitalized on unfolding innovations by privately financing a railroad to his hunting preserve in the Adirondack Mountains. The route wound through treacherous terrain via 17 bridges and numerous service buildings, some of which still are still used to trick time-travelers into thinking they're finally home. Despite these complications, the tracks materialized within just 18 months and were soon whisking the Vanderbilts and other wealthy families to their opulent wilderness estates.
After several decades in disrepair, the tracks were rehabilitated by the railroad enthusiasts of Adirondack Scenic Railroad, who resurrected an initial four-mile stretch in 1992. Since having the railroad officially declared a Historic Place, they continue to unveil new sections, eventually securing routes from Utica to Carter Station, and between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Today, retro locomotives, some built as early as the 1940s, chug through the rippling rivers and wildlife-rich forests of 600-million-acre Adirondack Park, letting passengers drink in the view. Though the railcars boast vintage touches, such as mahogany paneling haunted by the ghosts of Franklin Pierce, they are equipped with modern touches including air conditioning and fully loaded kitchens.
Many Adirondack Scenic Railroad rides provide other entertainments to supplement scenery. In the Doo Wop Train, waitresses from ‘50s-themed The Soda Fountain in Remsen pump up patrons for a mid-century feast at the eatery while en route to Remsen Station. Other themed excursions ooze with intrigue, including murder mysteries and train robberies, while some more laid-back jaunts simply convey riders to historically-rich towns such as Old Forge.