Chicago to New Orleans Train: What To Expect
This post was most recently updated on August 20th, 2021
This was our second time taking a trip on an Amtrak train. So after checking out a few options, we decided to do the Chicago to New Orleans route. Chicago being a main hub for Amtrak, gives you many options to set off on an amazing rail journey.
If you’re looking for the best scenery, we highly recommend doing the California Zephyr trip. You’ll pass through the flat plains of Nebraska, see the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, view the rugged red cliffs in Utah, then on through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.
With Covid-19 now strongly affecting the travel industry, one option for taking a trip could be booking a sleeper car. Although we went before the virus hit, having your own Amtrak sleeper car gives you a lot more personal space. And you really don’t need to interact with very many people . Even the dining car was quiet with just a few other couples at meal time.
Chicago Union Station
The historic train station in Chicago has stunning lime stone architecture and soaring 219 foot ceilings in the Great Hall. Definitely a beautiful site! But it’s also very noisy and hectic with people bustling here and there.
For a more calm and peaceful spot to wait for your train ride to New Orleans, head over to the Metropolitan Lounge. You can find the lounge just off the Great Hall between Jackson and Canal Street. It’s bright, modern, and has a good selection of food and drinks.
City Of New Orleans Train
This train from Chicago to New Orleans follows the Mississippi River Valley and leaves Chicago at 8 pm throughout the week. The whole trip takes almost 20 hours until you pull into the New Orleans passenger terminal. The time flies by fast though since most of the trip is during the night.
Then around 6:30 the next morning the train pulls into Memphis, and that’s when the best scenery begins. Travelling through Mississippi and Louisiana you’ll past by lots of dramatic cypress swamps and steel bridges. We saw a few cranes and herons. And maybe if you’re lucky, you could spot an alligator or two in the Deep South.
City Of New Orleans Train Route
- Union Station Chicago IL
- Homewood IL
- Kankakee IL
- Gilman IL
- Rantoul IL
- Champaign-Urbana IL
- Mattoon IL
- Effingham IL
- Centralia IL
- Du Quoin IL
- Carbondale IL
- Fulton KY
- Newbern-Dyersburg TN
- Memphis TN
- Marks MS
- Greenwood MS
- Yazoo City MS
- Jackson MS
- Hazlehurst MS
- Brookhaven MS
- McComb MS
- Hammond LA
- New Orleans LA
Amenities On The Chicago To New Orleans Train
The sightseer lounge on the top level of the train is a popular spot for watching the scenery. On the lower level is where you can find the Cafe for some food and drinks. You can get something to eat or drink all day until late into the night.
There is no wifi available on this train. We brought movies downloaded on our computer, but never ended up watching them. The scenery out the window was more interesting.
There are washrooms on each train car on the lower level. So you never have to walk far. Only the sleeper car accommodations include showers.
There are luggage racks on the lower levels near the doors to store your extra bags.
Amtrak Superliner Roomette
Our last train trip we travelled in coach. And although it was a nice trip, we thought we’d get one of the Amtrak sleeper cars this time. We saw Amtrak was having a 2 for 1 deal on their sleeper accommodations. So we booked the roomette.
For the Amtrak sleeper cars you have a choice of a roomette, bedroom, bedroom suite, family bedroom, or accessible bedroom. The roomette is the smallest at 3 feet 6 inches across and 6 feet 6 inches long.
The window in the cozy roomette is as big as the coach seats. So we found we didn’t need to leave our room to watch the scenery. Your two seats face each other. So one person will be looking backwards. At night the seats come together to form one bed and a bunk drops down from the top for the other.
There is limited storage in the roomettes. A tiny 6 inch closet is near the door which is big enough for a couple coats. We only had two small backpacks. So they easily fit under our seats. Otherwise you could keep your luggage on the storage racks down the hall.
Advantages of A Sleeper Car
Besides having your own space to yourself, the sleeper cars come with plenty of advantages. Before you board the train, you’ll have free access to the station lounges. Which is a big plus.
Sleeper car customers are also escorted right to their train car. Then your own personal car attendant will update you on what’s going on and answer any questions you might have. Our car attendant was from New Orleans. So we got lots of information on things to do in New Orleans.
But probably the best advantage to having a sleeper car is that meals are included for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sadly gone are the days when you sat down to fine china and silverware with someone serving you freshly cooked food. But never the less, you will get fed.
Amtrak Flexible Dining
Shortly after we boarded the train at 8 pm, our attendant came and said we could go for dinner. Once in the dining car, you place your order at the counter. You have a choice of 5 different entrees. With always a vegan and gluten free option.
For beverages you could have coffee, tea, milk, juice or pop. Plus one free alcoholic drink per trip. Our dinner came with a bun and salad. Then for dessert we had the choice of a blondie or brownie.
Dining is called flexible dining since you can make your way to the dining car whenever you’re ready. Dinner is from 5-9:30 pm, breakfast 6:30-10 am, and lunch 11:30-3 pm.
For breakfast they had a choice of oatmeal, muffins, cereal, yogurt, granola bars, and a breakfast sandwich. Lunch is the same choices as dinner the night before.
Amtrak Chicago To New Orleans
For the City of New Orleans train schedule and prices click here. We just kept checking costs at different times of the year and ended up finding the 2 for 1 price.
The rooms come with curtains you can pull closed. And at night we shut the metal door too. It has a latch you can pull over to lock once you’re inside. But there isn’t a lock on the outside for when you leave your room. The trains have always seemed really safe and secure to us. But I would still take any valuables with you when you go for a walk.
Final Thoughts On Our Train Ride from Chicago To New Orleans
We found it a quick trip on the train since most of the ride was during the night. And it was really nice to have our own space to sit and watch the scenery quietly during the day. But unless you get a great deal on the sleeper cars, I’d recommend just going with the coach seats.
Besides the stops, there are A LOT rail crossings this train passes by. And every single one of them they are required to blow the horn. I’m not sure how many times we heard the horn during the night, but it seemed to be about every 10 minutes.
If you’re a light sleeper like us, bring ear plugs. Although we brought some, you can still hear the horn really often. So sleeping wasn’t really an option. But at least we had a bed to stretch out on.
It’s also a very bumpy, shaky ride on the train from Chicago to New Orleans. A lot more so than riding on the California Zephyr. So if you have problems with motion sickness, you might want to bring some medication for that. It did make it fun though trying to walk a straight line down the aisles.
But once you pull into the Amtrak station in New Orleans with their balmy 80 degree weather, it’s all worth it!
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