Written by By Jack Stone, CNN
Like the end of an early autumn afternoon, the fog surrounding the Long Island Railroad has lifted, leaving travelers far and wide — including many from Atlanta, Denver and Chicago — to enjoy a sea of orange as they approach the scenic destination of New York.
Indeed, as the first row of passengers is led to the train’s doors by the conductor — though, this being New York City, he doesn’t actually ring the bell — there’s a recognition of what has been an extraordinary season for the company’s East River Railroad, its fleet of locomotives transformed into an informal parade on Amtrak’s now famous summer family float.
Passengers — many little ones sporting Dr. Seuss costumes — wait impatiently for the train that will get them to their families on time.
“Shark Lovers,” “Joy Grooving Mime,” and “Chef Peter Rabbit.” Credit: Getty Images
However, there’s a slight imbalance among the passengers, as those who can afford to fly seem to give the New York City subway system less of their time than people who are using this express train to hop on an overnight bus back to their vacation destinations.
Families crowd as they await the sleepier car on the train. Credit: Getty Images North America
Although no one had ever heard of it, no one could have blamed Stephen Greenport, Florida’s mayor, when he dismissed as “bogus” claims that tourism had fallen in response to the state’s recent passage of a zero-tolerance law for so-called sanctuary cities.
As day breaks, crowds of patrons gather in front of Ben’s Chili Bowl — as well as anywhere else opened on New Year’s Eve and any day of the year — for a final gathering for a bowl of chili and a last piece of the year’s best fried chicken.
The curious are also present, as newlywed actor Paul Wesley (“True Blood”) stops to visit a mural that features Darryl Chambers.
So is the Taylor Swift fan who’s dragged along by her friend. And there’s no end to it, as more people arrive to fill the club, eager to stay until the dance floor is full.
The Grace Douglas lighthouse. Credit: Getty Images North America
As the train approaches its destination, passengers gather on the platform — some of them with children and large dogs — to watch as the “cake” arriving in Union Station is cut by chefs in the marquee dining area.
After what seems like an eternity, the train finally emerges from the tunnels — it’s more beautiful than I thought it would be — and we make it to Grand Central station.
While I get some sleep as I wander among the craft shops and antiques shops of Grand Central’s Terminal, others are making a mad dash to Grand Army Plaza, where the Halloween Horror Nights costume celebration is in full swing.
In this case, the grass that was rolling in at speed was a serving tray.
Comedy clown gets ready for the Ball. Credit: Getty Images North America
There is quite a bit of fog here, which is fitting for a place where I’d be staying. At the Breakers hotel, where I stay during this trip, it’s too early to see if this second one is going to be the last. But it sure as heck gets you more excited than the first.
It’s a big thing, really. If I arrive any later than midnight, it will be the first time in my life that I’ve shown up late at night at a hotel.