Scenic Train Rides on the West Coast

Desperation motivated my first train ride. My car had broken down in Stockton, California and I had just a few hours to get to work in San Jose. 75 miles never seemed so far. Ruling out the bus (too slow) and a taxi (too expensive) I found my way to the A.C.E. train station. A commuter train, the Altamont Corridor Express runs daily from Stockton to San Jose and back. Boarding with the low expectation of a boring ride, I was instead treated to a gorgeous scenic journey through pasture lands and lush canyons. And I could relax with my coffee and actually enjoy the scenery. The short trip opened my eyes to train travel. The following are two of my favorite west coast train rides.


Amtrak’s Coast Starlight


The Coast Starlight makes an epic 35-hour trip from Los Angeles to Seattle, winding its way through some of the most picturesque parts of California, Oregon and Washington states. The train boasts an observation car with floor to ceiling windows and comfortable, outward facing, chairs to take in the grandeur. The route parallels the California coast before heading inland through rolling hills and vineyards. Although a portion of the journey occurs overnight, you can still witness many amazing lakes and waterways including Lake Shasta, the Columbia River, the Willamette River, Puget Sound and more. Amtrak also permits you to get on and off the train as often as you like, allowing for an extended tour if desired.


 Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad


The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad offers a charming 90-minute trip on board a steam-powered locomotive. This small, tourist train offers a fully open car, a covered car and a fully enclosed and restored passenger car. You can even ride in the engine car for a small additional fee. The train ride is family friendly and allows dogs in the open car. The views of Tillamook Bay are unsurpassed and the surrounding marshlands also offer unforgettable views. The most popular train ride goes between the towns of Rockaway Beach and Garibaldi, with a brief 30-minute layover.

Planning a Trip to the West Coast

Whether you’re going to Disney World or just want to have fun on the beaches of California, carefully planning your trip will have a huge impact on your experience. From choosing the hotel to renting the car, there are a lot of things you’ll need to do before your trip can get underway.


The Californian coast is the least crowded during the autumn months. If you’re looking to travel to the state without the huge crowds that are often present, it’s important to go during the off-season. Planning out the trip months in advance also helps you to save a lot of money as flights and hotels will offer their best rates about four to six months before your trip happens.


First, you’ll need to figure out which airline you’ll be taking to get to California. The cheaper flights will have a lot of transfers, which can get annoying but will wind up saving you a lot of money on your trip. You can also choose to drive cross country, but expect this to take about a week if you’ll be coming from the east coast.


You need to rent a hotel for the entire time you’ll be staying to have a safe, comfortable place to rest. Hotels offer frequent stay rewards, so make use of these discounts if you travel a lot. The hotel may also offer cheaper rates if you’ll be getting there during the week as opposed to the weekend.


When you take a plane to California, you will need to rent a car to get around. Even if you’re planning on staying in Disney World, you may still need a car to get to different areas outside of the park. Car rentals can be pretty expensive, especially if you put additional insurance on the vehicle, but they are a necessary evil when traveling. Most car rental companies can be found inside the airport where you’ll be arriving.


Before you actually get to California, create an itinerary of what you and your family will be doing. This ensures that each day you’re there, you’re having lots of enjoyable fun and a trip you won’t soon forget.


Seattle Tourism Industry Seeks Improvements After Dismal Survey

By all accounts, Seattle should be a paradise for tourists; after all, the Emerald City is the home of Starbucks, the Mariners, a thriving independent music scene, a bustling tech industry, and a lot more. Unfortunately, a recent survey by J.D. Power and Associates among 26,000 people who have visited the top 50 tourism markets in the U.S. indicates that Seattle is too expensive for most visitors.


Seattle is currently ranked 37th on the Top 50 list, which means that tourists are more fond of spots such as Jacksonville, Florida and even Columbus, Ohio. Altogether, the sentiment by 600 tourists who visited Seattle in recent months can be summed up as: “Nice city; too bad it is so expensive!”


Survey respondents complained about the high costs of lodging, entertainment and transportation while visiting Seattle; however, such complaints were not made about the cost of meals. The Seattle Times looked into the average cost of hotel rooms during the summer season in Seattle and found them costly at $193 per night, and this is for national chain hotels that offer the same amenities across many tourism markets.


Great Food, Not So Great Hospitality


Another aspect that Seattle seems to be lagging in is the friendliness of hospitality staff. Florida cities seem to be leading the nation in this regard, followed by California on the west coast.


Not all the answers provided by the survey respondents were negative. Seattle visitors seem to enjoy the city despite the constant drizzle, and they also gave high points to the diversity of cuisine and cultural event. The natural sights in the Puget Sound were also lauded, but the cost of the tours was not so enticing. The cleanliness and layout of the city also got high scores.


Overall, Seattle is not doing so bad as a West Coast travel destination. Portland, the progressive city in Oregon located in a much desirable climate, scored 42 on the aforementioned survey, and similar sentiments related to pricing and a certain lack of warmth emoted by hospitality workers were shared.