Five ways to get to New York City from Ottawa

So you want to start spreading the news. Take a bite out of the Big Apple. Wake up in the city that never sleeps. You get the picture—you want to go to New York City. Great choice! It’s one of my favourite cities on the planet, and I try to get there at least once a year.

There’s just one small problem: Manhattan is a little over 700km from Ottawa—not exactly around the corner. Here are five options for covering the distance.

new york skyline

For the budget-conscious: The bus

If you are tall, claustrophobic or prone to motion sickness, I wouldn’t recommend this option. I did it once, on a school trip, and had a blast—but I was 21 and much more flexible, in every sense of the word, than I am now. But if the idea of 11-plus hours on the road doesn’t faze you, here’s the good news: You can do the whole trip return for a little over $200 on Greyhound (prices vary depending on the route and time of day; you’ll likely need to transfer buses in Montreal). Several tour companies, including Ottawa Valley Tours and Travac Tours, offer bus tour packages from Ottawa to NYC that include accommodation.

For the laid-back: The train

It’s no faster than the bus, and it frequently runs late. The food is cafeteria quality at best. But you can get up and walk around, and the views of the Hudson River are spectacular. This is life aboard The Adirondack, the Amtrak train from Montreal to New York City. The price is right (about $141 return), but you’ll also need to get from Ottawa to Montreal, so that’s extra money and time. All this being said, I have a lot of warm and fuzzy nostalgia for this train. There’s something uniquely lulling about watching the scenery unfurl outside your window for hours on end. Bring a stack of magazines, a few gadgets (there’s free, if sometimes intermittent, wi-fi) and a cooler of food (we used to stock up at Zabar’s deli in Manhattan for the trip home).

For the efficient: The car-train combination

New York City is very well served by an extensive web of commuter train lines, including the Metro-North Railroad, which runs along the eastern shore of the Hudson River. Conveniently, many of those stations offer cheap long-term parking. Several times, my husband and I have driven to Beacon, 600km from Ottawa and a 90-minute train ride north of Manhattan, ditched the car and hopped a train into the city. Beacon is handy because the station is easy to reach from I-87 (see directions on the station’s web page).

chrysler building vertical

For the frequent flyer: Plane

Yes, you can fly to New York; I’ve done it several times. But it isn’t that much faster than the car-train combination and it’s a lot more expensive (expect to pay at least $400 return unless you get a sweet seat sale). As well as the usual air travel hurdles (security lines, weather delays), you’ll face the added hassle of getting into Manhattan from your chosen airport. For a city where many residents don’t have cars, New York’s three airports (Newark Liberty, La Guardia and JFK) are surprisingly poorly served by public transit. Sure, it exists, but it’s slow. From Newark, for instance, many travellers take the Air Train to the nearby Newark airport train station, then switch onto an Amtrak or NJ Transit train to get to Manhattan’s Penn Station, then catch a cab or subway to their hotel. If you’re hauling luggage, it can be a bit of a pain. Alternatively, you can take a bus or splurge on a taxi, but those options can be even slower than the train, as you’ll need to travel into Manhattan via one of the city’s many congested bridges or tunnels.

For the adrenalin junkie: Car

Logically, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t drive directly from Ottawa to Manhattan. But … I’ve driven in Boston. I’ve driven in L.A. and San Francisco. Heck, I’ve driven in Montreal. In rush hour. But you could not pay me enough to drive in Manhattan, where drivers appear to have two speeds: “race car” and “stopped and honking.” Parking, if you can find it, is heinously expensive. Every street is like a video game clogged with delivery vans, kamikaze cabbies, weaving cyclists and jaywalking pedestrians. However, this is the one method outlined here I haven’t tried, so I’m not speaking from experience. If you attempt it, let me know how it goes!

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18 Responses to Five ways to get to New York City from Ottawa

  1. Juliana September 14, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    Awesome piece. I have been thinking about going to NYC and this article is both timely and useful. It is clear to me that the car-train combination is the best option, one I had not even considered before.

    I’m pretty new to this website but have become quite a fan as I felt I had seen everything around Ottawa and had nowhere else to go for day trips, so I very muchI welcome the ideas on this site.

    Thank you, Laura!

    Juliana

    • Laura Byrne Paquet September 14, 2014 at 11:25 am #

      Thanks so much, Juliana! I’m really glad you liked the post and found it useful. There are lots of other Metro-North stations to choose from, as well; we’ve always just found that Beacon works well for us.

      And it’s great that you like the website–thanks! If there’s ever anything you’d like me to cover, let me know and I’ll do my best.

      Enjoy NYC if you go!

      Cheers,
      Laura

  2. Scott Douglas September 21, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

    We drove from Ottawa for Canadian Thanksgiving last year. It was an easy drive but we left after work on the Thursday so spent the night about 3/4 of the way there, at an Interstate offramp hotel (can’t remember where but it was about 2 hours outside the city). So, add the expense of a hotel. We cruised into Manhattan mid-Friday morning though, hitting highway speeds along Harlem River Drive until our hotel by the UN. Easy drive, but ya it kills 2 days of your trip.

    • Laura Byrne Paquet September 22, 2014 at 3:15 am #

      That’s a good point that I forgot to mention, Scott–it’s easy to split the drive into two days, because there are lots of places to stop.

  3. Stefania Capovilla January 8, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

    Hi! Just found this blog and love it!

    Have you ever driven to Syracuse and taken the Amtrak from there? It’s about a 5 and a half hour ride and very pretty in the fall. You can park at the train station in Syracuse for about $8 a day. The train ticket was very inexpensive as well, I don’t recall the exact price but it was around 200 for 2 people return. It takes you right into Penn Station.

    It makes for a bit of a long travel day but definitely worth the effort. The Amtrak experience was quite pleasant compared to Via Rail.

    • Laura Byrne Paquet January 9, 2015 at 7:54 am #

      I’m really glad you like the blog–thanks so much! How did you come across it, by the way? It’s still pretty new, and I’m always trying to figure out ways to promote it.

      I’ve never thought of going through Syracuse, but that’s a great idea. I’ll have to try that the next time! Syracuse is also a fun place to spend a day or two, so that would be a bonus.

  4. @Jbrag83 January 13, 2015 at 10:19 am #

    Since moving to Ottawa from NB, I have wanted to travel to NYC but didn’t quite know the best way to do so. This post will be very useful for my first ever trip to the Big Apple in the near future!

    • Laura Byrne Paquet January 13, 2015 at 10:21 am #

      Glad to help! Enjoy the trip. NYC is actually quite accessible from Ottawa, and it is one of my favourite places in the world to visit.

  5. Robert Watt January 20, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    The drive is fantastic! Parliament Hill to the bridge at Ivy Lea, one and a quarter hours. Border to NY/ Pennsylvania State Line south of Binghampton, two and a half hours. Pennsylvania State Line to Scranton and left turn to Delaware Water Gap, one and a quarter hours. Delaware Water Gap to George Washington Bridge and Manhattan, one and a quarter hours. Total travel time 6 hours and fifteen minutes. If you had a huge gas tank and didn’t have to stop to gas up, you could do it in six hours even.

    • Laura Byrne Paquet January 20, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

      Wow, that’s a route I’d never considered, Robert, and it sounds like a good one. Thanks for the tip, Robert!

  6. Glen January 21, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    I did not realize that Greyhound had discontinued it’s Ottawa-Syracuse-NYC run. Sad to see it gone.

    • Laura Byrne Paquet January 21, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

      It does still exist, but you have to transfer in Syracuse at 2am. You can also transfer in Montreal at some more human times of the day.

  7. France January 28, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

    Hi,
    We took the train through the Adirondacks from Montreal to NYC a few summers ago. I agree that it is relaxing but it is very slow. It was a 14 hour train ride with a high number of stops. On our way back, it turned into a 21 hour ordeal because shortly after crossing the Canadian border, the train stopped due to mechanical issues and once resolved, we couldn’t finish the trip because the employees had been working too long as per their union rules. They had to bring buses from Montreal to finish the ride. We got into Montreal in the early morning hours.

    Next time, we’ll use your drive/train combo.

    • Laura Byrne Paquet January 28, 2015 at 7:05 pm #

      Yes, the Amtrak train can definitely be slow. It often gets delayed at the border, too. But 21 hours–yikes! I think the longest it ever took me was 11.

  8. Mike March 20, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    This is a great article, thanks! I just saw the blog in capital parent, and am looking forward to reading more posts, this is the first one I read. we love to go on road trips and always looking for interesting places! Been to NYC many times, and am intrigued by the Drive/Train option!
    I’ve always driven and parked, and have not had any problems driving in Manhattan and parking on the street or a garage. I’ve found that you can go online to certain websites, to find the best deal for parking and print out a voucher for the time you go, and it can cut your parking rates by 50%! Last time we paid $100 for 5 days I think which is not too bad for Manhattan.
    I’ve never done it myself but a friend of mine drives to Staten Island (avoids Manhattan) and parks at the ferry terminal and takes the ferry. I believe it’s $8 a day for parking and the Staten Island ferry is free, and drops you off on the tip of Manhattan near Battery Park. There is a subway line not too far. So there is a drive/boat option as well!

    • Laura Byrne Paquet March 22, 2015 at 8:59 am #

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Mike–thanks! And these are great tips for getting to NYC. It would never have occurred to me to drive to Staten Island, but that sounds like a useful option! If there are destinations you’d like to see covered on the blog, don’t hesitate to drop me a line–I’ll do my best. And watch the site in the next week or two for posts about New Hampshire and Boston.

  9. Nancy cooper August 12, 2015 at 7:27 am #

    Good idea this blog…one idea would be to always attach list of recurring things that are fun, so we could send it to incoming guests…I.e. Kids like experimental farm barn, ferry across to Museum of history, changing of guard etc…you’d get more traffic. Also, do you tweet to get people over to your site?

    Good luck

    • Laura Byrne Paquet August 12, 2015 at 7:30 am #

      Thanks, Nancy–that’s an excellent idea! I will start work on such a list. And I do indeed tweet (@ottawaroadtrips).

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