Learn about Amtrak's Acela
Amtrak's Acela

Amtrak’s Acela: A Guide For New Passengers

Amtrak’s Acela runs several dial trains between Washington DC and the Boston South Station, and along the route, the train can reach speeds of 150 mph! In this article, you will get the basics for this train and a chance to look at its schedule.

A video of me riding an Amtrak Acela train

This Acela offers business and first class, so do not look for coach class on this train. All seats on this train are assigned at booking, but you can change them for free anytime before boarding. Remember that choices are limited as you get closer to boarding time. You can make your reservation in the Quiet Car if you have a business-class ticket.

Acela has a cafe car for business class passengers and at-seat food service for first class.

The Travels with Kev Amtrak Acela Podcast

What sets Amtrak’s Acela apart from other Northeast Corridor (NEC) Trains?

The most significant difference is the Acela trainsets; the locomotives and all the cars are semi-permanently joined on these trains. There are power cars on each end of the train. With how this train is designed, it can tilt on curves, allowing it to travel faster and smoothing the ride.

These trains also have fewer stops, allowing them to pass stations.

Regional and long-distance trains on the NEC

All non-Acela trains run slower and often make stops along the route than the Acela.

Regional trains are the cheapest but offer less comfort than Acela, but they offer coach and business class, and a cafe car.

Regional and long-distance trains combine several cars to make up a train set. If one of these cars needs work, Amtrak can remove it and substitute it with another.

The Acela train sets

On the other hand, Acela is a semi-permanent train, so if one car is “bad,” the whole is out. These semi-permanent trainsets allow for a smoother ride and for the train to tilt so they can take curves faster and safer.

The Acela route numbers are 2100-2290.

What Accommodations Does Amtrak Acela Offer?

Amtrak’s Acela offers two accommodation options: Business Class and First Class. Seats are facing both ways so that you can ride backward.

Acela does not offer a checked-bag service.

Business Class

Business class seats are in a two-and-two configuration.

This class offers:

  • Reserved seating with free changes can be changed anytime before boarding if available.
  • There are fewer stops than most NEC trains, so a faster trip.
  • Each seat has electrical outlets plus trays or conference tables.
  • Adjustable lighting and large tray tables
  • Overhead bins and a luggage rack
  • Often, you are given a seat at booking that you can change at any time before boarding.

Quiet car – part of business class

The Amtrak Quiet Car is a magical place if others play well.

These cars are where you do not hear cell phones or conversations; any conversations are in a library-type atmosphere and short.

Anything that rings or pings should be silent or vibrate; headphones are mandatory for anything that makes noise.

From my experience with Midwest quiet cars, they are self-policing, and other passengers may remind others to be quiet. I may have reminded people of the rules in the past.

While Acela’s Quiet Car is not an option when you book your trip, it is easy to change your reservations for free to this car.

First Class

Acela first class offers everything the business class does (but there is no first-class Quiet Car) and more! First-class seating choices include 2 x 2 or 1 x 2, and both have the option of tables so you can sit across from someone.

Car layouts for the Acela

How to change seats on Amtrak’s Acela

As you learned from the last section, Amtrak’s Acela has assigned seats, and you can make your reservation for free online or in the app.

As a reminder, if you want a seat in the Quiet Car, you need to make that change; the sooner, the better because they are first come, first serve. That is true for any seat you want.

Where Can You Make Seat Changes?

You can easily make changes by logging into Amtrak’s website or app.

When you select to change seats, Amtrak displays what’s available (similar to that of an airline), then pick the spot that makes you happy and hit save. You will get an updated ticket emailed to you, and the app will update when it refreshes.

Food Service On Amtrak’s Acela

Food service on this train can depend on your class.

Business Class Food Options

Anyone on the train can use the Acela Cafe car; food and drinks in this car are not complimentary. The cafe car has places to enjoy your purchase, or you can return them to your seat.

You can also bring food and drinks onto the train; you should purchase alcoholic beverages on the train. Due to FDA regulations, do not bring outside food or drink into the cafe car like all Amtrak trains.

First Class Food Options

You have an at-seat service if you are in Acela’s First Class. An attendant can bring you a complimentary meal and drinks.

First Class passengers can use the Acela cafe car if they want something else to eat.

Acela meals come on a tray containing “real” dishes and silverware with a cloth napkin.

Meal choices include breakfast in the morning, with lunch and dinner sharing the same offerings. Drinks include adult, soft, caffeinated, plus water. Besides the rotating menus, Amtrak can change the choices at any time.

The meal choices rotate around every three weeks.

Is There Wi-Fi on Amtrak’s Acela?

Yes! Amtrak offers complimentary Wi-Fi geared for this train set. Some tunnels and spots could cause the Wi-Fi to blip or have short dead zones. The internet on this train is better than that of other Amtrak trains.

Perks of Acela’s First Class

As stated before, Acela First Class includes a meal and drinks, but it has more, depending on where you start.

You can use the Metropolitan Lounge if your adventure starts at one of the following stations.

  • Washington DC
  • Boston South
  • New York Penn
  • Philadelphia

These lounges give you priority boarding or early track access, snacks and beverages, and more.

The stops of Amtrak’s Acela

Acela serves fifteen stations along the NEC.

If viewing on a mobile device, you may need to hit the download button to view the schedule.

Pets On Amtrak’s Acela

Small dogs or cats can go on Amtrak’s Acela along with you as you ride the train. Before you go, check what types of pets are allowed, pet reservations and fares, approved pet carriers, and additional details.

If you want to take your pet aboard, check Amtrak’s carry-on pet policy.

Check with Amtrak’s service animal policy if you have a service or comfort animal before booking and leaving for the station to ensure your critter qualifies. Amtrak knows this critter will be on their train and cleared to do so.

Amtrak’s Acela Wrap-up

While boarding an Amtrak train is similar, a few things are different. Some stations have marks on the platform where you should wait so you are lined up for your car and reduce loading time.

Why pick Acela?

Often, Acela is the faster option, so if time is a factor in your adventure, this could be a great reason to take this train. In sections, the train goes 150 mph. Besides speed, comfort is the other reason. These trainsets offer more legroom, better luggage space, and more comfort with a smoother ride as you roll down the tracks than traditional Amtrak equipment.

It can be faster than flying! Many train stations are in the city’s heart, whereas airports are not. Also, you do not have to go through security, so if you include the time to go to the airport, get through security, and then go to the heart of your destination, flying could take longer.

Why Shouldn’t You Pick Acela?

If you are on a budget and the compromise of a smoother ride does not fit, another train may fit your budget better. Also, Acela may not go where you need to go.

If you are on the NEC, you may find that a local, regional train may be more economical, but Amtrak’s NEC trains offer more comfort and amenities, even if not Acela.

Future of Acela Trainsets

New Acela train sets are already being tested and visible in Washington, DC. The new train sets will enter revenue service soon.

Thanks for visiting, and safe travels!


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Kevin Monteith

Kev Monteith has been traveling on Amtrak since 2012. With over a decade of experience, he has been on over 800 trains, covering over 200k miles of rail. Kev enjoys helping others achieve their travel dreams by providing support and information. Outside of travel, Kev enjoys making music as an organist and outings with family.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. As a frequent Amtrak passenger, I found this guide to be incredibly helpful! I’ve been using the Acela for work trips and it’s been a game-changer for me. The high-speed rail has made traveling between cities so much faster and more convenient. I especially appreciated the section on ticket booking and the tips for maximizing your travel experience. Thank you for sharing this valuable information! 🚂👍

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