After considering a few cities that are 5-10 hour drives from Huntsville, Alabama (more than day-trips), my husband and I settled on a trip to New Orleans by train. Amtrak’s Crescent line runs daily each direction from New York City to New Orleans, including a stop in Anniston, AL, which is about 30 minutes from my parents’ house (A.K.A. the babysitters for our 2-year-old twin boys). We wanted to take advantage of our almost 6-year-old twin girls’ fall break from school to take a trip with them alone, so thankfully my parents were willing and able to watch the boys for us.
New Orleans has a reputation of not being a great place to take kids, so we did quite a bit of research before making this decision. We searched online and also consulted with three of our friends who have lived in New Orleans. Two of the friends offered many fabulous ideas for things to do with kids in New Orleans and the other friend was cautious about the potential safety issues and adult content we might encounter there. Taking all of their advice into account, we made plans to take the train from Anniston to New Orleans on Sunday, October 3, spend Monday through Wednesday sightseeing, and take the return train on Thursday, October 7. I thought I would post my comments about each piece of our trip so that others who might be considering a trip to New Orleans might find some helpful tidbits here.
Day 1 – Train from Anniston, AL, to New Orleans, LA
It worked out well for us that the train stopped in Anniston at 10 am, so we had a nice breakfast with my parents and our whole family before my father drove the four of us to the train station. The station in Anniston is quite small, but is perfectly functional for the two passenger trains that pass through each day, as the Crescent line makes its 30-hour journey between New York and New Orleans.
The 10-hour train ride itself went pretty well overall. The coach seats were as wide as first class seats on an airplane, reclined much further, and had a leg rest, a foot rest, and AC power outlets. Cell phone coverage for our T-Mobile phones was surprisingly good, certainly near any of the cities where the train stopped (Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, AL; Meridian, Hattiesburg, and Laurel, MS; and Slidell and New Orleans, LA). I learned on the way home that the pillows you can get from the attendant fill the gap between your lower back and the train seat, so my back was a bit sore upon arrival, but felt fine when we returned home.
What about keeping the kids entertained on the train? We brought books to read, coloring books, card games, and our computers (mostly for games), plus there was the excitement of watching the scenery go by and trips to the bathroom, the snack car, and the dining car, so Greta and Cora were actually pretty well occupied most of the time. We arrived in New Orleans at about 8 pm, went to our hotel, and settled in for the night.
Check back tomorrow for Day 2 - Swamp Tour and Steamboat Ride.