Citybound on a Budget: LGBTQ+ Friendly Train Travel to New York City from New England

Citybound on a Budget: LGBTQ+ Friendly Train Travel to New York City from New England

As a native New Englander who has lived in Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire, I've visited New York City countless times over the years and have tried just about all means of transportation from driving into the city to taking the train, and (most regrettably) the bus. I have taken trips that went off without a hitch and trips where the journey to the city almost made me want to turn around and go home, and I now have the details nailed down to a science to maximize cost and efficiency, while still enjoying the ride.

So, what is the best way to get to New York City from New England?

In case you haven't guessed it yet, my recommendation is to take the train. The Metro North Railroad has a number of stops throughout Connecticut, and from there it's a short ride into Grand Central Station. From Grand Central, there are local subway connections around the city, or you can take an Uber or taxi, or walk depending on where you are headed.

The train has on and off peak fares, and almost every time I've gone (weekends mostly) it has been off peak, which is $13.50 one way. You can download the app and pay for a digital ticket in advance, which is the simplest method in my opinion. The cars are spacious with comfortable seats and overhead storage as well as bathrooms. Read on below for my recommendation on exactly where to catch the train and why.

If you don't need to drive into the city, don't. Yes, the traffic can be chaotic but for me the main reason not to drive is parking. Driving around looking for a street spot can cut a chunk of time out of your day, not to mention you probably won't get a spot close to your destination, so you can count on doing a bit of walking. Parking for a day or overnight in a garage is very expensive - you can expect to pay at least $50, which is almost twice as much as a round trip Metro North ticket. Depending on your route you'll also want to factor in tolls, which are around $15 in and out of the city depending on your route.

Bus tickets are similarly priced to a train ticket, but in my experience the pros of the train far outweigh the bus. Most importantly, busses have a harder time navigating through Manhattan than a car, so expect to be stuck in traffic for a while. Most bus lines take you to Port Authority downtown, which is comparable to Grand Central in its ease of navigation to other places in the city.

What station to choose, and where to park

Your experience on the Metro North might vary depending on what station you board at. Some stations like Stamford, CT are popular commuter stations with big parking lots or garages. While this is convenient, if you are looking to maximize savings this isn't the station to choose because you could end up spending more than the ticket on parking each day. The train expresses into New York City from Stamford, so if you are looking to spend the least amount of time on the train, this is a good pick.

My preferred station is Westport, CT. It is just a few stops north of Stamford, but has some highlights over other stations in my opinion:

  1. The Westport station has several surface parking lots, including one (pictured below) that is free on weekends and holidays. This is perfect because most of the time I'm traveling to the city on a Friday - Sunday or holiday, and cutting out the price of parking is a huge win.
  2. There are usually plenty of seats left at this station. While Stamford gives you the quickest ride, because its such a popular station the train often fills up at this stop and seating can be limited. Westport is only 10 minutes north of Stamford, so you get the benefits of a short ride while having plenty of seats to choose from. This is particularly helpful if you are traveling with a suitcase or with others.
  3. It's a safe lot to leave your car overnight. Unfortunately you always take a risk by leaving your car parked overnight, but compared to some of the other stations in the area, the Westport lot is in a safe area and I've never been worried about leaving my car there for a few days.

Westport station has a large clean lobby with bathrooms and water fountains, and a shelf of books to read while you wait. I haven't seen the ticket counter open, but with the app you don't need it.

Once you are on the train, its a nice trip down to the city. The ride takes a little over an hour, and you pass by some nice views of the Long Island Sound. My wife and I have made this trip many times and have never had any problems with other passengers, everyone on the train and the employees are respectful and most passengers are quiet and keep to themselves.

Once you arrive in Manhattan you will be in Grand Central Terminal where you can make a pit stop for bathrooms in the dining concourse downstairs or just head out the doors into the heart of the city!

If you are planning a trip to New York City for Pride this year, be sure to check out my post on Pride Fest 2023.