~ A relaxing travel option for drivers and families, and a unique experience for kids who’ve never traveled by train. Martinez is only a 30 minute drive from the Tri-Valley, and the train ride is one hour. Arrive in Sacramento, and it’s a short walk to the historic Old Town, or Old Sacramento.
The Amtrak Station in Martinez sits beside their historic downtown (which is also worth a visit). There’s limited parking at the station, but plenty on the side streets and around town.
Vaulted ceilings and wooden benches in the ‘new’ depot (opened in 2001), pleasantly reminded me of older railway stations. It’s not swarming with tourists, but busy enough for a small town on a popular cross-country route. There’s a visitor center too, for anyone with questions about Martinez and the Delta.
We arrived with 15 minutes to spare – which was plenty of time to purchase our tickets and peek around the station. (If it’s a weekday, and you’re parked at the depot, be sure to request a permit to display in your car.)
Board the train and head straight up the stairs to the 2nd floor for the best views. Our one hour ride trundled across the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, and then picked up speed, following a picturesque segment of Amtrak’s popular Zephyr route.
Views of the Vaca Mountains to our west and wetlands to our east – we sped across bridges, past the bay, past what’s left of the navy’s Suisun Bay mothball fleet, and paralleling route 80. There’s a dining car, (kids find this very exciting!) with simple snacks and drinks. I was amazed that the prices were fairly reasonable.
Disembark in Sacramento, and it’s a 15 minute walk to Old Town: step off the train, make your way through the underground passage, up the stairs, and you’ll walk under a long, covered walkway to get to the station – to your right, you’ll see and hear the highway – on the other side is Old Sacramento. Make a right at the sidewalk in front of the station, and then follow the sidewalk that goes straight under the highway and leads to the wooden, raised sidewalks on the other side.
Old Sacramento Historic Park contains several blocks of souvenir shops, ice cream parlors, restaurants, clothing stores, costume shops, and at least 7 nearby museums! The Railroad Museum and Sacramento History Museum were a favorite – the latter illustrates the fascinating story of how Old Sacramento came to be.
If you’d prefer to walk and listen – and be outside – while learning about California history, register for a local tour. Our animated guide for the Underground Tour of Old Sacramento introduced us to lesser known sections of this remarkable town, and our 7 year-old was fascinated by the relics displayed under the bellies of the old buildings. End the day with a stroll along the Sacramento’s River Bike Trail.
Copyright © 2010 by Rita Szollos. All rights reserved. Be wise. Don’t steal. For permissions to use any of the above images or written material, please contact me.