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Weekend getaway aboard the Amtrak Cascades

Military receive 15 percent off

Photo courtesy Amtrak Cascades

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It's a crisp, Saturday morning in Steilacoom. The sun is already shining, and you're sipping a hot coffee as you flip through the local newspaper sitting on your lap. From your window seat aboard the Amtrak Cascades train, you watch the water ripple along the beach. The train rumbles to life beneath you, and your weekend getaway is officially underway as the train departs the station to take you south to Portland for a few days of much-needed fun.

Sounds amazing, doesn't it? It should, because hopping aboard an Amtrak Cascades train for a spontaneous vacation is one of the perks of living in the Pacific Northwest. A short train ride along the 467 miles of the Amtrak Cascades route can deliver you as far south as Eugene, Oregon, or as far north as Vancouver, British Columbia. In total, there are 18 stops in cities across Oregon, Washington and a small stretch of Canada.

On this trip, you're headed south from Steilacoom to Portland, where the train will deliver you to Portland's Union Station in less than two-and-a-half hours. And unlike most modes of transportation in the U.S., Amtrak Cascades offers you a chance to stand up and stretch your legs, a full dining car with Pacific Northwestern food and spirits, a free wireless Internet connection, and astounding views of the water as the train glides south from one waterfront city to another.

"There's something really nostalgic about riding the train," said Laura Kingman, marketing manager for Amtrak Cascades at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Rail, Freight and Ports Division. "There's something unique to train travel that you just can't get anywhere else. You're able to kick back in your comfy seat and watch the incredible scenery going by. Even the little bit of noise you get from the tracks can be really soothing."

Since it was established in 1994, the Amtrak Cascades route has attracted locals and vacationers alike. In 2015 alone, more than 750,000 people rode the train, which is jointly managed by WSDOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Union Station, which is in the heart of downtown Portland, is within walking distance to some of the city's most notable downtown haunts, including Voodoo Donuts, Ground Kontrol arcade, Portland State University and Director Park.  

"You can make a day of it if you want," continued Kingman, "or you can spend a couple of nights somewhere and give yourself more time to explore."

For the weary traveler, Hotel Lucia, which is only a 10-minute walk from Portland's Union Station, offers a boutique hotel experience complete with modern art collections, a nightly craft beer hour and exceptional attention to detail and customer service. The hotel is also centrally located to Portland's Food Truck Village, where travelers can find authentic global cuisine from dozens of food trucks parked alongside each other. Meal prices range anywhere from $6 to $15, and ambling from one end of Food Truck Village to the other (it covers an entire city block) is a great way to explore the city's notorious offbeat, gritty vibe.  

If you're not a fan of walking the city, you can still explore Portland by taking your bike along with you. In true Pacific Northwestern style, all Amtrak Cascades trains are equipped with bicycle racks.

"There are ten bike racks on each train," Kingman said, "and there are places along the route where you can find great bicycle trails. We also have some of the only European-style train equipment in the country. For couples, it's really romantic. For families, the train keeps kids entertained, which will keep parents very happy."

Whether you're stepping aboard the train for a weekend vacation to your favorite metropolis or hoping to city-hop through Oregon or Washington, Amtrak Cascades offers an affordable, stress-free travelling experience you won't find outside of the Pacific Northwest.

Amtrak Cascades offers military servicemembers a standing 15 percent discount, while booking in advance can land you tickets marked down by up to 25 percent. For more information about ticket prices and train schedules, visit

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