Saturday, January 14, 2017

On The Road

So, I came across this blog post about a week ago - you've probably seen it shared on Facebook, all about traveling across the US via Amtrak for only $213. In reality, it's about double that, if you want to get on and off the train at all; but the idea captured my imagination, big time. I mean, I have never seen the Rockies, I've never seen the prairie, I've never even been to Chicago. Susie is 11, which means that she still enjoys spending time with me (I know, that won't last) AND she is half-price on Amtrak for another few months.

Have I mentioned how much I love train stations?

So a plan was born: Susie and I (Rachel is also invited, but only if she doesn't glare at us) would get 15-day Amtrak rail passes, good for 8 stops anywhere in the US. We are planning to sleep primarily on the train, to keep things simple and costs low, with maybe a stay at a hostel in San Francisco thrown in there to mix things up.



We've spent a lot of time poring over this thing.


We are very excited (do you realize how much knitting I could get done on a cross-country train ride?). But here is where you come in: I need suggestions on what touristy things to see if I have, say, 12 hours to spend in a particular city. Fun sights, yarn stores, independent booksellers, iconic local food we have to try, did I mention yarn stores?  We're looking at Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, for starters. But we are open to other suggestions!

Also, we researched how long train rides between all these cities would take. You know what? This is a REALLY BIG country.







22 comments:

  1. Oh, my goodness! What a great plan!
    If you make a loop and come to Spokane, I will take you to Paradise Fibers. https://www.paradisefibers.com/

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  2. When I first read that article I looked into this for myself and my 11 year old! Might do it in the fall.

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  3. In Salt Lake you are only about an hour from me! For sure see temple square. If you can manage an evening time there, there are usually free concerts in the tabernacle going on (the weird upside down oval roofed building). This is where the Mormon Tabernacle choir broadcasts from, but lots of groups perform there. There is the tracks system that can take you all around downtown for cheap -like a cable car kind of thing. Lots of museums on the east side by the U of U -their art museum is fabulous-, the LDS church has a big family history library right near temple square where you can look up your ancestors for free -kind of fun. Lots of good restaurants. I recommend the Red Iguana for Mexican (kind of a dive, but get the Molé sample platter -amazing, The Roof in the Joseph Smith building for fancy, Copper Onion for hip. I also like the Little America hotel restaurant. Kind of a traditional American/French theme.Oh - go to City Creek center for a great mall, but Tony Caputo's is my favorite shopping -deli, food imports, cheese cave etc.

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  4. I'd visit the museums in Chicago - but they aren't free. Museums in Saint Louis are mostly free, as is the zoo.

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  5. I don't know any of those cities to give advice, but I just want to say that it sounds like a great trip, and I'm so glad you're doing it! Take lots of pictures, and bring the blog along for the ride, please.

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  6. Denver's Union Station has been recently remodeled and is a supercool place to hang out. Snooze for breakfast is worth the line, open until 2:30 pm. Glenwood Springs would be worth the 24 hours you would have to stop there. Plenty of affordable hotels, and two sets of hot springs. One is a traditional Victorian huge pool, walking distance to the train station, and Iron Mountain Hot Springs, New with small soaking pools and a great kids area. A really great, small Rocky Mountain town.

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    1. Wow -now I want to visit Glenwood Springs!

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  7. That sounds like an awesome trip!! Unfortunately, I've not been to any of those cities so I have no advice.

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  8. This sounds like so much fun! I can't wait to hear your stories!

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  9. This is exciting! And I am a wee bit jealous.

    In Chicago the Bean is a cool art thing to see. It has an official name, but I don't know what it is.

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  10. How fun! Our family gets Giordano's pizza every time we go to Chicago.

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  11. What time of year are you traveling, because I can give advice for Chicago & San Francisco, but the weather would play a role.

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    1. I've lived just outside Chicago for most of my life, and have family in San Francisco.

      For Chicago... Keep two things in mind: 1) Spring comes *really* late to this city (as in, everything is still brown at the beginning of May, so plan for potentially cold weather). 2) Chicago is, geographically, a huge city, much larger than the major cities on the East Coast, so -- for a 12 hour trip -- you'll want to stick fairly close to downtown, or at most choose one neighborhood to visit. You live outside DC, right? If so, I'd honestly skip the museums for such a short visit to Chicago. As mentioned above, they're expensive, and you get free, high quality museums at home. If you're interested in spending money on something, and you have any interest in cool buildings and/or history, I'd spend it on a Chicago Architecture Foundation tour. They have river boat tours, and walking tours. (Don't save money, if they're even cheaper, on a different boat tour, as you won't learn nearly as much.) The train station is very close to Willis Tower (aka The Sears Tower); I actually haven't been up to the top since I was little, but it will be convenient & a very Chicago experience. The Bean (officially called Cloud Gate) is in Millenium Park, and it's definitely worth walking over there. The Crown Fountain, in the same park, is also very cool. My favorite free, very cool building, is the Chicago Cultural Center, across Michigan Avenue from Millenium Park. It's the old main public library, and beautiful -- and warm! -- inside. Touristy places I'd avoid are 1) The Magnificent Mile -- Michigan Avenue just north of the Chicago River, which is fun & has lots of fancy stores, but not really something you can't experience in DC, and 2) Navy Pier, which is basically just a tourist trap, and not a real Chicago experience (although having my high school prom in the ballroom was cool...).

      For San Francisco...The city is much more compact than Chicago, but I don't know my way around enough to tell you what's easy to get to without a car. You definitely need to see the ocean (actually, you need to see the lake in Chicago too...just walk across Millenium Park, and across Lake Shore Drive so that you can look back at the skyline from the lakeshore). Back to San Francisco...my brother lives right on Alamo Square, with a view of the Painted Ladies (remember the opening scene in Full House?), which I love. Walking through Golden Gate Park is also fun. The museums, again, are super expensive, and not necessarily worth it for a short trip.

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    2. This is super helpful, thank you! Susie hates museums, so the other things you mentioned sound perfect!

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  12. Will you be asking Susie to read Kerouac? Although you may feel Freight Train is slightly more appropriate - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5s_yumYPFm4

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  13. In Salt Lake I'd say definitely visit Temple Square, and you have to try fry sauce. Almost any local hamburger place should have it, local favorites are Apollo Burger, Crown Burger and Hires Big H. The Family History Center is neat if you want to look at your family lines. https://familysearch.org/locations/saltlakecity-library
    http://www.templesquare.com
    http://www.hiresbigh.com

    Depending on how much time you have Wheeler Farm and This is the Place Monument are neat. http://www.wheelerfarm.com

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    1. I forgot to add Temple Square and the Family History Center are free and they have people there to help you.

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  14. How terrific! I'm a little jealous.

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  15. This is so exciting! I love trains, and I hope you have a fabulous trip.

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  16. If you make it to SF I'd love to meet up with you!

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