Train Travel: Going From Boston to Portland Maine by Amtrak

relationshipsU.S. Travel

My husband and I are in a friendly competition to see who can get to all 50 US states first. We have driven from New York to Salt Lake City, jumped in front of plantation homes in Mississippi, and spent afternoons in national parks all in a quest to beat each other.

After a recent visit to New England, I am in the lead with 48 states. Troy trails by one with 47. We both had Maine on our list, so visiting Portland was a major victory for me. But, getting there didn't prove to be so easy.

I was in Boston on business and scheduled an extra day in New England before heading to my next stop: the Mom 2 Summit in Key Biscayne. You know this is a serious race if I'm willing to give up a day at the beach with my friends for a cold and rainy day in an unknown city all by myself.

Let's see the difference and analyze the tough decision I had to make...

Day at the Beach

Head down to sunny Florida? (No! That's not me or my child. But notice how liberating that looks? Tempting!)

Day in Portland Maine

Or head north to cold, rainy, freezing Maine? (No! That's not me either. Hmmmm. Sunny Florida or a 48th state? The latter was definitely more tempting!)

Even though all I had in my suitcase was beach wear, I put on my hoodie, bought a $10 sweater from H&M, and was about to head out to the rental car company down the street from my hotel when I remembered that my driver's licence had expired. I only had a few minutes to come up with a plan B.

Arriving in Portland Maine Via Amtrak

I had never taken Amtrak before, but no time like the present, right? I figured it was going to be at least $200 to make the 2 1/2-hour trek northward, and although $200 was nothing compared to adding a state to my list, I was relieved to learn that a first-class ticket was less than $30. Are you kidding me? The cab to and from the station cost more than the train ride. Score!

I won't lie, I was a little disappointed at how un-animated the trains were. No Thomases or Percys or Jameses with big smiles and lessons to teach me. But, I got  over it quickly and jumped aboard the Downeastern train on track 5 for my first Amtrak experience and ride up to Portland, Maine. And here's where I want to put in a non-compensated plug.

Amtrak is awesome! Their website is fabulous and should you change your mind after buying your ticket, it isn't like a plane ride that's non-refundable. Amtrak will get you hooked up with another ticket over the phone in 2 seconds. Their customer service is fabulous. And the ride is nothing but comfy and cozy.

Check out the inside...

And check out the outside, from the inside...

I arrived a couple of hours later, jumped off the train, and tried to figure out exactly what to do, where to go, and how to tell Troy I had just taken the lead. Yah! I don't love to plan personal trips like these, so I arrived without knowing anything. Nothing like a very spontaneous afternoon with just me and my iPod to take me completely out of my environment and boost my energy.

Fortunately, I met the nicest taxi cab driver and told him to take me to a lighthouse. When in Maine, right? He turned into the resident tour guide and drove me all over the city and across the bridge to this beauty. I got a quick, but perfect Maine experience in just a couple of hours. Here's what I experienced...

A lighthouse..

...which overlooked this. When "they" say "the rocky coast of Maine," they aren't lying! You should have smelled the salty air. Mmmmm!

By then I was hungry for some New England Clam Chowder... IN NEW ENGLAND... at Gilbert's Chowder House (the taxi driver said it was the best place in Portland)!

And after that, a walk through the city, passing by water fronts, through cobble stone streets, and by old red brick buildings. All beautiful!

I can't wait to go back with my family in the fall to see the leaves change colors. At a certain point, even winning a friendly competition isn't fun when you don't get to share the amazing memories with the people you love!

Have you been to New England? Ever been on a train vacation? What tips do you recommend for both?

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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.

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