Our Train Vacation – (Part 4)

Our Train Vacation – (Part 4)

Seattle to Sacramento (& beyond!)

Train Vacation: Day 9 - Yosemite - Glacier Point
Train Vacation: Day 9 – Yosemite – Glacier Point

Our Train Vacation (Part 4) took us from Seattle to Sacramento on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight.

Here’s a summary of our itinerary:

Day 7:  Amtrak Coast Starlight:  Washington, Oregon, Northern California

Leaving behind Seattle, we took an all-day journey through the mighty Pacific Northwest on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. We ‘set up camp’ with our snacks and games in a booth in the glass-domed observation car as we passed through Oregon’s magnificent pine forests and travelled near Mount Shasta and Crater Lake National Park.

After the hustle and bustle and all the walking miles in Seattle, this was a welcomed relaxing day.  We played card games, read books, gazed out at the passing scenery, and met lots of great people on similar adventures.  We enjoyed a cafe car dinner and a decent night’s rest in the coach reclining seats.

Tips:  Packing snacks and games is a must-do for a train vacation!  The kids had some much fun with their poker tournaments and other card games.  They met several new friends and the time flew by in a relaxing and fun way.  The Coast Starlight is another one of Amtrak’s great train lines.  If vacation time and money were more plentiful, I would have taken a day or two detour at Crater Lake National Park.  The views in Oregon were amazing and I would have liked the chance to explore…but that saves an adventure for tomorrow, I guess!
Train Vacation: Day 7 - Amtrak Coast Starlight - Portland Oregon - Floating Neighborhood
Train Vacation: Day 7 – Amtrak Coast Starlight – Portland Oregon – Floating Neighborhood
Train Vacation: Day 7 - Amtrak Coast Starlight - Views of Oregon
Train Vacation: Day 7 – Amtrak Coast Starlight – Views of Oregon
Train Vacation: Day 7 - Amtrak Coast Starlight - Observation Car
Train Vacation: Day 7 – Amtrak Coast Starlight – Observation Car

Day 8:  Arrive in Sacramento, CA;
Tour Old City Sacramento Underground

Arriving in Sacramento bright and early on Friday morning, we were in Old Towne Sacramento before most of the businesses opened up!  Thankfully Danny’s Hot Donuts was open for some coffee and donuts to get our crew going!

We signed up for a tour of the Old Sacramento Underground and got a glimpse into the early city’s history and its reconstruction after a flood nearly destroyed it.  We relaxed with a cold sarsaparilla and had a fun and delicious lunch at the River City Saloon! We took a tour of the Railroad museum and walked along the western storefronts of this cool town.

We met up with our west coast family and friends for a great Mexican Dinner and lots of laughs.  What a great day in Sacramento!

Tips:  I was pleasantly surprised with Old Sacramento.  We went there to see family and friends, but found the town to be loaded with a fun history and lots to see and do.  If you’re able to take a day on your train vacation in Sacramento, check out Old Towne Sacramento and you’ll feel like you stepped back in time to the days of the Wild West!
Train Vacation: Day 8 - Amtrak Coast Starlight - Good Morning Sacramento
Train Vacation: Day 8 – Amtrak Coast Starlight – Good Morning Sacramento
Train Vacation: Day 8 - Old Towne Sacramento
Train Vacation: Day 8 – Old Towne Sacramento
Train Vacation: Day 8 - Old Towne Sacramento
Train Vacation: Day 8 – Old Towne Sacramento

Day 9:  Yosemite National Park

We had an early morning departure for Yosemite National Park.  We knew that were only going to have one full day and the next morning to take it all in, so we wanted to get a jump on it!

We entered the park near the Mariposa Grove section of Yosemite and did a walking tour of the Giant Sequoias. We were going to take a Tram Tour, but we discovered that we could see more in less time if we covered it all on foot.  We walked to the Grizzly Giant and the famous Tunnel tree.  Grizzly Giant measures 28 feet in diameter and stands 209 feet tall.  It’s estimated to be 1,800 years old!!

From there we headed north through the park to Glacier Point.  This is a one of the park’s must see locations.  Within just a short walk of the parking area, you will get one of the most breathtaking views of all of Yosemite Valley:  The waterfalls; Half Dome; El Capitan; the lush valley and the granite-peaked enclosure – phenomenal view!

Wed then drove to Tunnel View for another great photo stop on our way down to the valley. Just south of Glacier Point, we got to watch a grizzly bear sal and her two little cubs walking along the roadside!

We checked into the Yosemite Lodge and then took an evening hike to Yosemite Falls and capped off the night with going to see the majestic Ahwahnee Hotel.  Here’s a more detailed itinerary of our 1 day in Yosemite National Park

Tips:  Yosemite is beautiful.  We really did see a lot in our 36 hours, but of course, there was always more to see.  The giant sequoias are phenomenal.  Pictures don’t do them any justice – you really have to see these for yourselves.  Glacier Point is a must-see.  Tunnel View was probably the best photo stop.  We also really enjoyed the evening walk in Yosemite Valley to the base of the waterfall.  If we had another day (which I would have loved to add), I would have liked to do a day hike to Half Dome.
Train Vacation: Day 9 - Yosemite - Giant Sequoias
Train Vacation: Day 9 – Yosemite – Giant Sequoias
Train Vacation: Day 9 - Yosemite - Giant Sequoia Tree
Train Vacation: Day 9 – Yosemite – Giant Sequoia Tree
Train Vacation: Day 9 - Yosemite - Mama Grizzly
Train Vacation: Day 9 – Yosemite – Mama Grizzly
Train Vacation: Day 9 - Yosemite Tunnel View
Train Vacation: Day 9 – Yosemite Tunnel View

Day 10:  San Francisco!

After an in-room breakfast, we departed Yosemite in the morning and headed north to San Francisco!  We were ‘lucky’ enough to get caught in Pride Parade traffic as we entered the city and tried to answer our curious kids’ questions as to why so many people were wearing rainbow-colored tutus (too funny)!  We drove down Lombard Street and took some fun pictures of this crazy, meandering street.  We found all-day parking near the wharf and had another great weather day for a city walking tour.  We walked to the Cable Car Museum; got ice cream at Ghirardelli’s and watched some playful seals on Fisherman’s Wharf Pier 39.  We met up with some college friends for a bread bowl of delicious clam chowder at Boudin’s and then walked down the wharf for the start of our night tour of Alcatraz Island!

The Alcatraz tour was one of the vacation highlights!  The boat ride out to the island was part of the fun.  It was dusk when we reached Alcatraz and we each donned a headset and listened to a narrated, guided tour as we walked through the jail cell rows, saw the location of the great escape, and even went in the prisoner’s cafeteria.  The boys loved this!  This tour was really well done and memorable.

We checked into our last vacation night at Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel.  This was a great location and a great deal!  I only regret spending just the one night here.

Tips:  If you only have one day in San Francisco, I’d jot down the itinerary above as we saw a bunch and had a blast!  The Alcatraz Tour was the kids’ favorite.  Lombard Street is a must see.  Ghirardelli’s is a fun treat.  And the cable cars is also a must-see.  If you walk along the wharfs, you’re likely to catch some seal activity near Pier 39.  If we had more time in San Francisco, I would have liked to do a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge over to Muir Woods.
Train Vacation: Day 10 - San Francisco Cable Car
Train Vacation: Day 10 – San Francisco Cable Car
Train Vacation: Day 10 - Pier 39 Seals
Train Vacation: Day 10 – Pier 39 Seals
Train Vacation: Day 10 – Alcatraz Evening Tour – Jail Cell
Train Vacation: Day 10 – Alcatraz Evening Tour – Jail Cell
Train Vacation: Day 10 - Alcatraz Evening Tour
Train Vacation: Day 10 – Alcatraz Evening Tour

Day 11:
Point Montara Lighthouse & Flight home

We woke up to the sound of crashing waves and seagulls at Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel.  We had a few hours until we had to be at the airport so we took a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway.  We drove down to Half Moon Bay and ate at Caffe Muzzaluna – very nice spot.

Overall, our family’s train vacation was amazing.  There were times when we all wished that we had an extra day or wished that I had upgraded our coach seats to sleeper car, but the reality is that with a limited budget and limited vacation days – we did great.  I’d do it again.  Our nation has so much to see and do and taking the train across the country was such a unique way to see so much.

In total, we toured 3 National Parks (Glacier, Mount Rainier, and Yosemite) and 5 cities (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Seattle, Sacramento, and San Francisco) and we came back with so many amazing stories and memories.  My wife will tell you that this was our most exhausting vacation…and I’d have to agree.  But is a fun-type of exhausting and one where we could all sleep on the flight home and dream about the amazing adventure we just had.

If you are looking for a memorable family vacation that extends well beyond a week at the beach – look at the itinerary above and start penciling in the dates of your next trip.

 Adventure is out there!!  

Train Vacation: Day 11 - Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel
Train Vacation: Day 11 – Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel
Train Vacation: Day 11 - Flight Home
Train Vacation: Day 11 – Flight Home

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