Take a Ride Aboard the Adirondack Scenic Railroad!
Something we love about Oneida County is our location. We’re smack-dab in the middle of the state and one of the few places on I-90 where our cities are RIGHT off the Thruway. Throughout my time at Oneida County Tourism, I’ve noticed patterns in travel. One is that people use us as a gateway to the Adirondacks. Whether they stop at our Welcome Center, stay the night or grab a bite to eat before heading north, they frequently visit Utica first. And being in the foothills of the Adirondacks, we’re able to take advantage of our location and proximity to this other region of the state.
One of our major attractions is the Adirondack Scenic Railroad (ASRR). People are often pleasantly surprised to learn we have this train in our area. The train departs from the beautiful and historic Union Station in Utica and heads north into the Adirondack Park. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad might be most famously known for their Polar Express Trains. However, what many don’t know is that they run a variety of trains for both adults and children. Beginning in late spring, the ASRR begins running and has several options!
But before we talk about ride options, it’s important to know about the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society (ARPS), a nonprofit organization that operates the ASRR. Since 1992, they have built a successful tourist attraction that operates in the beautiful six-million-acre Adirondack Park. Part of what makes ARPS and ASRR successful are the dedicated volunteers. Since their inception, ARPS has worked to preserve the state-owned corridor. As part of their mission to create a multi-use recreational area, they work with other businesses to provide passengers the opportunity to hike, bike and float through parts of the Adirondack Park.
To give you a better idea of what types of rides there are and what themes are appropriate for what ages, we’ll break it down. There are approximately 10 options with several dates so whatever your preference, there’s a train for you! Beginning yearly as early as April, the Beer & Wine trains kick off (and an Easter Train!). Watch the scenic countryside roll by while sipping on the best wines and brews. You’ll travel to Remsen, enjoying a selection of drinks along the way. This train is almost three hours round-trip. Passengers receive a complimentary beer or wine glass (glass only – beverage not included) with each regular adult ticket purchase. They also offer live music with local musicians for each date!
Another option is the Utica to Thendara trip with a layover. These rides kick off this month and run until October 19. It’s important to note that there are other options of Utica to Thendara with NO layover so make sure you pay attention when booking! On this trip, you’ll travel through forests, over streams and then spend a full afternoon in the beautiful Old Forge. Guests will be able to enjoy the outdoors, visit local shops and restaurants and then return home. The layover is 4.5 hours which gives riders plenty of time to explore. Departures are typically 9:30AM, arriving at Thendara at 12PM and returning to Utica at 6:30PM.
While the above options are great for adults, we can’t forget about the kids! On July 24, there is the Princess & Superhero Train. It departs at 1PM and is 1.5 hours long. Kids will have the opportunity to meet their favorite fairytale and comic book characters as they step off the page and onto the train. The ASRR will bring your favorite characters to life and offer a magical and mysterious adventure all in one. Once back at the station, enjoy a fun-filled photo opportunity with your new friends. This unique ride leaves from Utica once this summer but has other departure dates from Thendara!
Something that we’ve found across New York State is that there’s a variety of haunted attractions. Lucky for you, the ASRR takes advantage of this by offering Haunted History Train rides. Dates are 7/27, 8/31, 9/14 & 28 and 10/12 & 26. You’ll begin in Thendara where the train comes alive in a whole different way on this two-hour round-trip ghost train ride! Hear the tales of murder and crimes that left their ghostly imprints in our history. Then disembark the train to follow guides on walking trail into the forest for a thrill tour. The stories are derived from the book, Haunted Old Forge, where spirits linger on the pine-covered slopes of the Adirondack Mountains. The Drive-Thru Theatre group helps take you on a chilling journey of paranormal history of the Adirondacks. Click the link above to learn more!
A few other options are the Soda Fountain Trains, the Family Halloween Train, Fall Foliage rides and the well-known Polar Express Trains. The Soda Fountain ride travels to Remsen where guests will eat at The Soda Fountain, a 50s-themed restaurant. There are menu options for adults and children. The Family Halloween Train departs from Holland Patent and guests are encouraged to come in costume! There’s a pumpkin patch, hayride and other fun activities at the depot. The Fall Foliage rides go from Utica to Big Moose beginning in September. This is a perfect way to see the incredible fall foliage in upstate NY! There are options with and without lunch. The Polar Express rides are super popular and sell out quickly! Live the magic of the classic Polar Express while being served hot chocolate and cookies. When you arrive at the North Pole, Santa will board and visit each family. Make sure to wear your pajamas!
When taking a ride on the ASRR, whether you’re a local or visitor, there’s some amazing history at Union Station too. Our current station began construction in 1912 and was the third station on this site. It was designed by Allen H. Stem and Alfred Fellheimer, both of NYC. Utica’s Union Station is truly a gem and has long been recognized for the architectural beauty of its design and lavish use of marble on the interior. These architects also designed other famous rail stations such as Michigan Central Station and New York’s Grand Central Terminal. At the end of World War II, train transport to Utica declined and the station deteriorated so badly that demolition was considered. Fortunately, it was saved and is now owned by Oneida County. It currently serves Amtrak, Greyhound, Trailways, DMV, one of our offices and more! To learn more about the history of Union Station, visit here.
We hope you were able to learn more about the many options of train rides with the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Their website has recently been updated and contains the info included in this blog. There are unique options for kids/families and adults and we hope you’re able to take advantage! Make sure to pay attention while booking and always feel free to call them with any questions (1-800-819-2291). Happy riding!