Amtrak operates all long distance train service in the United States carrying more than 28 million passengers in 2010 alone. Amtrak does not offer the entertainment options you may expect from commercial airlines, but the there are many on-board activities you can partake in to help the time pass and a few you can bring with you.
Meals & Dining
Different class Amtrak trains have different on-board dining options. Long-haul trains have full service dining cars where fresh cooked hot meals are prepared and served by Amtrak wait staff. Meals in the on-board restaurant are included in first class, sleeper and Autotrain rates, and are available to all other passenger classes at additional cost. Reservations are required for all diners. On shorter routes, a variety of dining options less formal than the dining car are available including lounge, dinette, cafe and snack cars all of which keep food and drink at the ready throughout your trip. Amtrak's Cross Country Cafe serves regional fare in dual-level cherry wood-like surroundings on-board the "City of New Orleans" from Chicago to Louisiana via Memphis and the "Texas Eagle" from Los Angeles to Chicago.
Bring Your Own Entertainment
Bring your own entertainment to help pass the time. Board games, cards and books are perennial favorites and require nothing but the time to indulge. Electronic devices like e-book readers, DVD players, i-Pods and personal video games can be plugged in at your seat in business and first class cars and rooms and in some locations in coach class. Long hauls on the train also provide you with the time to catch up on work so bring your laptop. The new addition of Wi-Fi service on certain routes including the Acela Express, Cascades, Coast Starlight and Downeaster trains.
Explore the Stops
Long haul Amtrak trains make many stops on their way across the country. Some of these stops can last over an hour and allow ample opportunity for travelers to explore their surroundings a bit. Most rail stations in major cities are centrally located and allow for a quick glimpse of local culture and the chance to grab a snack or a magazine. Ask your conductor when the train will be leaving at each stop to see if you may be able to go for a walk. Many times trains run ahead of schedule and arrive at stops early but they will never leave early since there is a set departure time at each station. Take advantage of this bonus time by getting out there.
Dining cars and lounges are also great places to meet fellow passengers, socialize, play cards or try one of the board games you brought along. Many rail passengers are accustomed to extended periods of down time and seek out conversation and the companionship of others to pass the journey. Anytime day or night, you may find people in the on-board public areas, if you feel the need to chat.
Acela Express Activities
Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express trains run eastern corridor routes from Boston to Washington DC. Cafe Acela serves hot breakfast, fresh salads, wraps, panini, chowders and beverages for the on-the-go executive. In-seat dining from the full Cafe menu and wine list is also available on the Acela. The Acela also features a variety of upgrades from standard Amtrak trains, like a quiet car for reading or work and a club car for socializing.