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Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

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Minnesota
posts: 64
reviews: 7
Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

We may fly one way and take the train the other to Chicago from Minneapolis as my daughter would really like to try the train for our upcoming trip. We may take it both ways if the rates are less expensive. Right now flights and train are almost equal.

Has anyone doe this recently? I know it is almost 8 hours but it does sound relaxing. Also, I have read that they always run late... any thoughts on that?

Illinois
Destination Expert
for Chicago, Illinois
posts: 33,636
reviews: 66
1. Re: Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

I can't comment on your specific route. But I can tell you that Amtrak is notoriously late. If you're not in a hurry and don't mind spending 8+ hours on a train, go for it.

Illinois City...
posts: 5,656
reviews: 7
2. Re: Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

I haven't taken the Empire Builder myself, but am a big fan of Amtrak and think there is scenery along many of the long distance Amtrak route's that's absolutely beautiful (there is some scenery on the Chicago-NYC route that is just unforgettable) and Amtrak allows you to see things that you wouldn't see driving.

Amtrak trains do run late, but you can luck out and they can be on-time or even a few minutes early. Since they share track with with freight trains, that is a frequent reason for lateness.

Personally, I'd recommend flying here and then taking the train back, as you're less likely to have delays (although they could happen) departing out of the originating station (in this case, Union in downtown Chicago) than you are waiting for the train going this way to get to Minneapolis after traveling all the way from Seattle.

Again, you could have some sort of delay departing out of Chicago, but I'd think they'd be less severe than if you were waiting for a delayed train in Minneapolis headed towards Chicago that got delayed somewhere along the way between Seattle and Minneapolis.

Illinois City...
posts: 5,656
reviews: 7
3. Re: Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

Additionally, it'll be nice to not have to go all the way out to the airport on the last day of your trip; you just have to walk across downtown to Union Station.

Minnesota
posts: 64
reviews: 7
4. Re: Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

If there is a delay on the Minneapolis to Chicago route do you think it would be very long based on any experience you have. Actually, I would love to take the train both ways.

Illinois City...
posts: 5,656
reviews: 7
5. Re: Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

Interestingly enough, checking the last few days, the Chicago-Minneapolis stretch of the Empire Builder has actually be only mildly late or early into Chicago. The Chicago-Minneapolis stretch has been about 30-60 minutes late.

That said, I'll still go with my thought that you're less likely to run into a lengthy delay on the Chicago-Minneapolis trip than the Minneapolis-Chicago trip.

Every Amtrak long distance train has encounters lengthy delays (4-5+ hours) on occasion (freight delays on the same track, signal issues, crew changes, other technical issues, weather), although in severe cases, Amtrak usually does provide alternate arrangements (bus is often the case). Usually delays are anywhere from 30-90 minutes +/- and sometimes, as the Empire Builder to Chicago in the past few days has shown, it can be on-time or even early.

You can check train status on Amtrak.com on the front page and that will give you arrival/depature status for any train. Additionally, it will give you an estimated time of arrival for that day. So, on the day of your departure, if you did take the train from Minneapolis, you could get an idea of how the train was doing before leaving the house.

Minnesota
posts: 64
reviews: 7
6. Re: Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

Thanks DVD.... great info! Now I have a really dumb question. What do you do with your luggage on the train? I read on the website you can bring two pieces of luggage on or you can check it. Is it safe to leave it if you go to the dining car or restroom?

Also, can you bring your luggage on the busses and trains in Chicago?

Illinois City...
posts: 5,656
reviews: 7
7. Re: Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

There are luggage racks on the train although, in my experience, they're not huge. What I recommend for Amtrak travel is to have a bag of clothes and things you won't need and put an extra drink and snack (just in case) in that. Put that up on the rack. Have another smaller bag of magazines, books, snacks, camera, etc. and have that with you in the seat (there should be enough room in front of you to put it down.) If you have anything you're worried about leaving at that seat, put that in the smaller bag and carry it with to the snack car or restroom. The only valuable I've ever had on the train is my Canon ELPH, and thankfully that just fits in my coat if I want to get up and walk around.

I've never gone to the snack car (no particular reason, just prefer snacking on stuff I bring; I load up on snacks), but was fine leaving my stuff while going to the bathroom, as the bathrooms are in the same car. The conductors are often walking through the train, as well..

Make sure you have tags on your luggage.

You can definitely bring your luggage on-board Metra and CTA trains, although if you have tons of luggage, you may just want to get a cab. It's really not much of a cab ride from Union Station to most Chicago hotels.

On the train, you'll also pass by the Wisconsin Dells (there is a stop there), which are fun if you've never been. Take a look as you pass by - maybe for a future trip there. You'll also go through Milwaukee and Chicago's North suburbs before getting here.

chicago
posts: 1
reviews: 2
8. Re: Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

I would not take Amtrak if you paid me a million $. the service is horrible, trains are filthy dirty and the delays are not worth it. The trains never depart or arrive on time, just took the NY - chicago trip that was advertised as 18 hours and it took 34 hours.........

Minneapolis
posts: 123
reviews: 7
9. Re: Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

I have taken the train a few times with my teens and we always enjoy the trip. the last hour and a half gets long, but everyone should ride the train once. Also, dining on the train is fun.

USA
posts: 8
reviews: 6
10. Re: Train from Minneapolis to Chicago - has anyone done this?

I've made this trip many times. Of the times I've taken it, it's only been late twice that I can remember. The Empire Builder is a very nice train, clean and well-maintained. The dining car is great fun and the food is excellent and reasonably priced. I've met some really interesting people while dining on the train. The scenery along the Mississippi River between LaCrosse and Red Wing is beautiful. I thoroughly recommend it as a restful alternative to flying or driving.