New Yorkers looking for quick winter getaways from the city are in luck: Amtrak is bringing back its popular buy-one-get-one-free sale, which offers free adult companion fares for midweek trips through February. The deal applies to full-fare adult coach tickets for trips within the Empire State on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays on the Adirondack, Empire Service, Ethan Allen, Maple Leaf and Associated Thruways lines, with the exception of 7000-8999 Thruway service.
The best part? There aren’t any blackout periods through February 29, 2024—as long as tickets are purchased at least one day prior to departures and both passengers travel together throughout the entire journey.
“New York State has so much to offer," Eliot Hamlisch, Amtrak's Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer said in a news release. "There’s an adventure waiting for you in every region and city whether you want to relax, explore, sightsee, taste or experience the bright lights.”
If there's one thing we've learned over the past few years, it's that exploring your own backyard can be just as thrilling as traveling to far-flung countries. For those who'd like to incorporate more local adventure into their 2024 travel plans, trying out different rail routes in your area is a great place to start. Here's everything you need to know to take full advantage of Amtrak's BOGO sale—from the best destinations along the train lines to how to time your rail journeys with upcoming Winter holidays.
When to visit upstate New York
Midweek travel requires some planning for most of us, and savvy travelers know how to maximize those vacation days by tacking them on the bookends of holiday breaks. For families with school children, the Amtrak promotion is a perfect excuse to embark on a local adventure over the winter recess, which falls on February 19 to 23 for many of the public school systems in New York.
Two national holidays also fall within the sale period: Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 15 and Presidents’ Day on February 19—both on Mondays. Lunar New Year is also now a public holiday in New York State, which falls on a Saturday this year. Also during the sale period, Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday, meaning that couples can score a February 13 to 15 getaway for less—and what's more romantic than train travel?
While many of the holidays themselves don't line up with the BOGO sale, travelers looking for an extended break can take advantage of the midweek travel dates surrounding them. The sale applies to both one-way and round trips, meaning you could take advantage of the midweek deal one way and find a regular ticket the other on eligible Friday through Monday travel dates. Don't underestimate the benefits of a Wednesday day trip, either; many of Amtrak's New York stops are close enough to travel there and back in a single day.
Where to stop
The most popular of the routes on sale is the Empire Service, between New York City and Albany (with the occasional extended service to Buffalo and Niagara Falls), with stops in destinations like Croton-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff, Rochester, and Yonkers. Also along the line is Hudson, packed with eclectic boutiques and antique shops, as well as galleries and buzzy eateries, as well as Niagara Falls, where there just might be a chance to catch the frozen rapids this time of year.
Sports fans may also want to hop on board to Buffalo to cheer on the Buffalo Bills as they play In this season's NFL playoffs or to Syracuse to catch a Syracuse Orange basketball game in the JMA Wireless Dome, like the thrilling midweek matchups against Florida State on January 23, Louisville on February 7, North Carolina on February 13, or Virginia Tech on February 27.
Both the Ethan Allen and Adirondack lines stop at Saratoga Springs, a fan-favorite getaway Amtrak Senior Public Relations Manager Jason Abrams recommends for the rich variety of restaurants and nightlife, as well craft food and drinks.
An underrated destination often overlooked by leisure travelers is Albany, Abrams says. “Everyone thinks of it as just the state capital, but they’ve done a great job revitalizing their downtown with new restaurants and attractions,” he says.
For those who live outside of New York City, there’s no better time to take the train down to the Big Apple where crowds have thinned out, but the winter ambiance is still in full swing, especially with iconic seasonal activities like ice skating. Central Park’s Wollman Rink runs through March 15 and Rockefeller Center’s skating through March 24, while Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park brings back its popular bumper cars on ice January 12 through March 2. Savvy discount savers can also pair a visit with two-for-one deals through NYC Broadway Week January 16 to February 4, as well as score savings during NYC Restaurant Week the same period and NYC Hotel Week, through February 4.
To score the sale prices, travelers should refer to the discount code V309. Amtrak cautions that seating is limited, so the deal may not be available on all trains, dates, or departures, and the fares, routes, and schedule could always change without notice. Cancellations are allowed before departure, though a fee may be applied. Complete details for the offer can be accessed here.
“Winter is a great time to travel through these regions because you see different cities differently,” Abrams says. “This sale gives riders extra incentive to travel during this time, as well as to kick off their new year's resolutions to travel more."