If you’ve never traveled by train, you really ought to give it a whirl. My twelve-year-old daughter, Aliyah, and I had the chance to “ride the rails” last weekend courtesy of Amtrak. We traveled from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. via Amtrak’s Cascades line for a quick yet exciting two-day adventure, and I couldn’t recommend it more!
Photo: David Newman
We started our trip early in the morning. Coming in from the dark at 6:50am to catch the 7:20 train, we found our eyes needed a moment to adjust to the glow. It took construction crews and craftspeople 7 years to complete the restoration of the station, which saw its grand re-opening in 2013. It is a stunning building, over 100 years old, and so lovingly returned to its original glory. The walls of Seattle’s King Street Station are a beautifully restored white-gray marble with colorful mosaic accents, and garnished with bright gold typographic signage. It’s worth a visit just for the design and architecture itself.
Despite the beauty of the station, we didn’t have much time to revel in it long as our train was already boarding. We stopped at the check-in counter, waved a QR code found on my e-ticket receipt for the gentleman to scan, got our seat assignments and hopped on board. The interior of the Amtrak Cascades train was immaculate. The coach seats all grant you much more leg room than any plane I’ve been on, and large windows on both sides of the car give you views from which you can’t look away. Aliyah and I settled in to our seats, and soon, after the obligatory “All aboard!” was heard outside, the train lurched northward.
Author’s aside: As the train heads out of the station, you enter a mile-long tunnel known as the Great Northern Tunnel. When it was completed in 1905, it was the highest and widest tunnel in the nation at 28 feet high and 30 feet wide. (For more on the story of this technical marvel, listen to this 3-minute piece by our local public radio station, KUOW:
Anyway, as interesting as I think the tunnel is, we soon emerged from the dark into the early morning light.
The Amtrak Cascades rolls north as the sun rises in the east. Photo by David Newman.
The cardboard heat sleeves beckoned us back to Seattle for “The Ultimate Coffee Run” with 2 Days in Seattle. :)
It wasn’t long before we were getting hungry and I also really needed some coffee, so we made our way back to the Bistro Car for breakfast. We got ourselves some coffee and tea, a bagel and cream cheese, some really yummy oatmeal and fresh bananas and headed back to our seats.
We spent a relaxing three and a half hours enjoying the views out the enormous windows, reading, and talking with each other. It’s rare that we, as busy families, have this kind of time to sit back and just share time together. Train travel pretty much rules for that (even though there is free wifi throughout the train).
When we arrived at Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station, we hopped off the train and, after a few moments talking to customs officials, we were welcomed to Canada. We made our way to our beautiful hotel room at the downtown Hyatt Regency Vancouver. Happily, Vancouver’s downtown is easily reached by foot, SkyTrain (Vancouver’s light rail system), cab or, as we did, via Car2Go. When we arrived, we quickly checked in, dropped off our stuff and headed out to get some lunch and take in some of the sights.
Here are a few of our favorite things we did in Vancouver:
We had an absolutely lovely lunch at the Water St. Café. Good food and a great place to people-watch
…and text friends.
The impressive Hotel Vancouver first opened its doors in 1939, on the eve of the Royal visit
of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
We saw these heads mounted on these walls at
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park Trading Post.
Photo by David Newman.
The coolest (and only) suspension bridge park I’ve ever been to.
Photo by David Newman.
As we walked back to the train station in Vancouver, we saw a large P-Patch along the edge of False Creek
replacing a paved parking lot. Nice! Photo by David Newman.
On the way home to Seattle, we were sure to sit on the west-facing side of the train
to catch the stunning sunset which did not disappoint. Photo by David Newman.
When I asked Aliyah what her favorite part of the trip was, she said that hers was the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. That was pretty cool, indeed; but, in the end, for me, my favorite part of the trip was the travel itself. Trains are special. The ride is pretty fast and remarkably quiet. Remaining on the ground and with large windows all around, the train connects you with your journey in a way no other transportation method can. You can get up and walk around on a train and stretch your legs if you don’t want to stay in your seat. There’s decent food, free wifi, and most important of all, you get to share your time with your travel companions and experience the journey together. I wouldn’t trade that kind of time for the world.
Amtrak Special: Come to the city where the Super Bowl Champions live. Take Amtrak for 15% off an adult full fare and enjoy the journey. Book your travel now through March 27, 2015 and travel any time from now through March 31, 2015. For more information click here.