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Author Topic: Hi! New and looking for advice!
RRRICH
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Gil, Henry, and others -- I'm confused. Both the Hotel Colorado and the Hotel Denver in Glenwood have been mentioned in this thread of advice for Ms. Kacy. What is the name of the hotel directly across the river from the GSC station, where the hot springs are? Have I missed something?
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Gilbert B Norman
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That would be the Hotel Colorado.

It appears I was mistaken with my earlier statement that hotel was to the West of town - "just across the River" would have been more accurate..

The Hotel Denver is also noted on the linked map.

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Henry Kisor
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There actually are two hotels across the river from the station in Glenwood Springs: The Hot Springs Lodge and the Hotel Colorado. The Lodge is part of the hot springs complex and one gets free daily trips to the pool when one stays there. I've stayed there a number of times and liked it fine, but now I prefer the Hotel Denver for its convenience to the rest of town.

Interestingly, TripAdvisor rates the Hotel Denver No. 1 in Glenwood Springs, the Hot Springs Lodge No. 4, and the Hotel Colorado No. 17.

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Jerome Nicholson
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Kathy, I don't believe you mentioned how much time you intend to spend in each city.
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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by Ocala Mike:
quote:
Originally posted by notelvis:

[QUOTE]

I am on the board of an American (British) Brass Band

Uh-oh, here we go, way off-topic. One of my favorite British films:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115744/

No bagpipers or ponies in sight (terminology for a thread here about to spin off-topic Kacy) but I will add that our guest soloist was a member of the renowned 'Grimethorpe Colliery Band', the real life brass band which recorded the soundtrack for the movie 'Brassed Off'.

We were also involved performing a live concert and 'mini-lecture' to promote this film's opening when it came to the Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC.

OK - I promise to return to topic..... at least in this thread..... from this point forward.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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George Harris
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Kacy:

I see that you say you are taking the sleeper. There are numerous advantages, however, don't let some of those here convince you that coach is unworkable for 2 to 3 days. Look up information on the Superliner coaches and get some idea of the space between seats. There should be plenty of space to sack out your kids on the floor and the seats recline way back so you should be able to sleep fairly well yourself. I did the train coast to coast at the age of 28 with one night in sleeper and enjoyed it immensely. I have also done some overnights in coach much more recently than that, including a couple after passing 40 and lived to tell of it.

Yes, the clientelle in coach can, shall we say, be somewhat odd and unusual at times. However, you can meet some very interesting and helpful people also.

San Francisco is a good city to get around in on public transport. Search San Francisco Muni and you will find all sorts of information on bus routes, schedules, light rail, etc. However, be warned that there are multiple public transit agencies in the San Francisco Bay area, each with their own service territories, routes, web sites, and such. There is also BART, which is the heavy rail, think "Underground" type system which has lines into several of these jurisdictions, and again, its own web site.

I am at this time living in San Francisco. Email me if you would like. If you can't get through or don't get an answer in what seems a reasonable time ask for it in here.

Your 5 year old will remember a lot more than most people would think. Some of the things will be sufficiently unique that the 3 year old will also remember them.

I have some maps and other railroad related infor that I could email you if you are interested.

In Washington, aside from the national monuments, the Smithisonian is well worth time. For me, Air and Space, and the Science and Technology. There is a full size steam engine in one. The DC area is well service with public transit, but best stay in the touristy areas. Some parts you should not enter if you wish to leave alive.

The CZ route ahs some awesome mountain crossings in the daytime.

Prepare to also be surprised by the sheer size of American freight trains. You can be sitting on the upper level in the Superliners and still be looking up at the top of the containers and other high cars. Trains upwards of a mile long are the norm.

The ride quality of the track will probably be somewhat more exciting that you would be used to in Europe. Don't let anybody get you concerned about safety, however. Comfort is well inside safety.

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Henry Kisor
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I am very glad you came along to this forum, Kacy. Of late we had fallen into some fairly heated political wrangling, this being an election year, and on one occasion the moderator had to step in and cool us off with a verbal fire hose. Now that someone has asked us for our railroad-oriented advice, we are back in our friendly and comfortable groove talking about trains. Thank you.
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notelvis
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I'm thinking I should plan my own visit to Glenwood Springs now!

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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TwinStarRocket
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In regards to very young children on long train trips, both of my kids (twins) were just fine on the train at that age. We did some short local excursion trips first. In their early stages of language development color was often how they differentiated stuff. When I mentioned a trip they would ask with great excitement "Are we taking the Black Train (steam excursion) or the Blue Train (Amtrak)?" We still sometimes call them by these names they made up.

Thirty years later they still think of train trips as highlights of their childhood. When my daughter became a working adult without enough vacation to take the train to Arizona and back with me, I suggested she fly one or both ways and I would pay. She FIRMLY responded "If you are taking the train, I am taking the train!" and took the time off without pay.

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KacyB
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Thankyou all for your lovely comments.

TwinStarRocket - that is lovely, and actually quite where we are now. The Green trains are the slow ones are the green trains that take us to London. The Red ones (though he calls these Pendolinos now) are the fast ones. The blue ones are the sleepers in the UK (we only have two!!) and the white ones are the EUrostars that take us to Europe. I do feel they will remember a lot (enough to make it worthwhile) but I think they will (like your daughter) appreciate something a lot more... spending TIME together, being a family, enjoying the journey... not just racing to get to the 'destination'. These are all amazing things about train journeys :-)(and I would be first to admit that, pre-Harry, I never saw that!!)

Henry - I am glad I helped a little (if utterly unintetionally!) I'm afraid I know nothing of US politics (other than you just had an election and I know which one looks better on the front of a newspaper!) so shall not enter an opinion on the matter.

I have, however, contacted the people you recommended to me regarding organisation and they are on the case :-)

George - I am absolutely sure I wish to take sleepers. First I know the children sleep well (we've taken many sleepers here in the UK / Europe, in little beds) so I feel more confident about that.

Secondly, I feel more secure this way (though I have read that not all sleeper cabins have locks - is this correct?)

And thirdly (and perhaps most importantly... from the view of my sanity and the sanity of the other train users... there will be times when I need to remove my children from the general public!! I am not naive enough to believe we're going to spend 6 weeks, give or take, on the move without a single 'incident'!!! so best we ensure we have some privacy when required.) I will send you a private message now with my e-mail address. I would be very interested in information on the area.

Thanks again for all your help. It is much appreciated and, I must admit, I'm rather impressed that no one has said 'You're bloody stupid to even be considering this' :-)

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RRRICH
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Thanks, Gil and Henry -- I was thinking of the Hot Springs Lodge, the one which is visible from the GSC station. You have cleared up for me the fact that Hotel Colorado and the Hot Springs Lodge are NOT the same property -- that was what confused me.
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Vincent206
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The individual rooms in the sleepers do not have locks, but access to the sleepers is monitored by the train staff. Don't, however, be foolish and leave valuables unattended in your room.
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Henry Kisor
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Right, sleeper rooms cannot be locked from the outside, although they do have lockable inside latches.

Bring along a commodious belt pack for your valuables and wear it when you're in the lounge car or dining car. That's what my wife does. I take my camera bag with me, or sometimes just the camera and lens.

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KacyB
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Ah, thankyou.

That's actually similar to the Uk / Europe.

Here, you can lock them from the inside (which is really what I'm after) but if you lock them from the outside, you have to get a member of staff to let you in again. I'm not planning on taking valuables (other than the children!!) with me. But, I take your point that a belt pack or small back pack would be good for the more important items.

What's the WiFi like on the trains? I usually bring IPADS for the children (I find them much less hassle than toys, easier to transport and less messy than crayons!!) Obviously, the downloaded Apps will work but wondered if I could rely on internet access once the children as asleep?

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Gilbert B Norman
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Here comes the deal-breaker, Ms. Kayce; there ain't any.

The only way you will have any kind of internet connection is if you are able to access your carrier's towers lineside - and I always thought European devices and North American were not compatible - my Brother in Law who traveled overseas at least monthly (with JPMorgan) always had what he called his "Europhone". While your Amtrak train and the railroad over which it is operating have constant voice and data communication with their operations centers, nothing is said about same for the folk that pay the bills - the passengers.

In Northeastern US, Amtrak does offer Wi-Fi; however there are reports about suggesting more often than not it is quite inadequate. Only consolation: it's complimentary.

Of course I'm hardly the expert; somehow I live without any kind of portable electronic plaything beyond a Jitterbug cell phone (I'm writing from my desktop computer; Facebook and Twitter, what's that?), The twenty five nights that I will have been out of town during 2012, I just use hotel business centers, or simply do without.

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Geoff Mayo
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Kacy, beware that if you do get a data signal from the mobile phone operators, you'll get charged a fortune unless you arrange some sort of package in advance. There's no Wifi on-board long distance trains.

Free Wifi can be had in certain stores - McDonalds, Best Buy (electronics, like Comet, except not in administration as far as I know), Barnes & Noble (bookshop), Starbucks - maybe others.

For Mr. Norman's benefit, most modern phones around the world will work in the US and in Europe, and usually Japan too - at least for roaming purposes.

--------------------
Geoff M.

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Henry Kisor
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Kacy, if you have an iPad with Verizon 3G (as I do), you will be able to access Internet datalinks in many places along the route of the Zephyr, especially where the train route parallels Interstate highways. Waaaaay out in the boonies and in the canyons of Colorado, no.

This is, however, with a U.S.-marketed iPad. Doubt if it works with an UK-marketed device.

GBN is right: there's no WiFi on American long-distance trains, except on the Coast Starlight, and it's spotty. However, you can access free WiFi in Chicago Union Station and Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, and doubtless Portland and maybe Vancouver as well. Many coffee shops, libraries and restaurants offer free wireless.

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KacyB
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haha! That's me told!! Between London and Fort William (our longest train... and between pretty much two furthest points in the country), there is excellent Wifi coverage... I guess you just get used to it. I keep trying to remind myself that the UK is about 1/5 the size of Texas, so I'm not sure I've really got a handle on the scale of things.

I'll do a bit more research into IPADS. It might be that my UK ones work well enough for Apps (please tell me there is power on the trains!!!) or it might be worth considering a US one for the trip.

In a way, it'll be fun to be 'disconnected' - we are very much an internet connected family. I have a desk top and a lap top and both the children have internet connected IPADS. THat might be good for us to deal without it for a while :-)

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Gilbert B Norman
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Even if I seem to live life perfectly well without all these electronic playthings, I recognize and respect that the middle class expects that in addition to heat, light, and cooling, that there is also a wireless connection available to the internet. I can't help but note how important 24/7 access to the internet appears to be to some, as on so many inquiries from infrequent and first time Amtrak travelers the inquiry "is wi-fi available?" made. I have also seen inquiries and consternation on-board; I can't forget how aboard Auto Train during February 2011 how I was sitting at a table in the Lounge for the pre-departure wine tasting and this Mother and teen age daughter sit down on the opposite side. The girl was "at the wailing wall' when she learned that the wi-fi was only good at Lorton and not en-route; she hustles off to their room. The Mother tells me "thank goodness you said something; she has school assignments to prepare and she must have on-line in order to get them done".

To me it sounds as if they were "expecting' that wi-fi would be available.

I of course note that Amtrak is spending "heap big wampum" to add wi-fi to both Amfleet and Acela cars. It almost seems to me that Amtrak was slow to "wake up and smell the other guy's coffee brewing' and that if they don't get their own kettle on the fire, they will lose many a potential rider.

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KacyB
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I have one question... and I appreciate you might suggest I move my conversation to another place (which I'm happy to do) but here goes:

On the way, I'd like to get photos taken, buy little momentos etc., I'd like to post these home rather than carry them with me, but I know enough to know that your postal service isn't like ours (as in... you don't have little red boxes all over the place!) ...Is it quite easy to post stuff back to the UK? I'm really talking about photos (you know, the ones you buy at inflated prices of the kids doing mad stuff!) I'm only thinking flat packed photos and a few little items but would be much easier to post them rather than carry them all. I remember trying to post some postcards in SF and it being really difficult to try and find a post centre (We have post boxes on pretty much every second corner) and you just stick stamps on and send it.

APologies, this is vereing off trains... so I'd be best to move it, please shout.

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KacyB
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I love your post, though, GBN!!

I'm really hoping I'm not 'expecting' anything. I'll try and plan as much as possible and the rest.... well, the rest will take care of itself!!!!!!

Thankyou!! x

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by KacyB:
haha! That's me told!! Between London and Fort William (our longest train... and between pretty much two furthest points in the country), there is excellent Wifi coverage...

How about out to Mallaig?

Did that one 1979 through the Scottish Highlsnds and thinking of "Brigadoon"; had to be one of the most scenic train rides I ever took in this life.

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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by KacyB:
I have one question... and I appreciate you might suggest I move my conversation to another place (which I'm happy to do) but here goes:

On the way, I'd like to get photos taken, buy little momentos etc., I'd like to post these home rather than carry them with me, but I know enough to know that your postal service isn't like ours (as in... you don't have little red boxes all over the place!) ...Is it quite easy to post stuff back to the UK? I'm really talking about photos (you know, the ones you buy at inflated prices of the kids doing mad stuff!) I'm only thinking flat packed photos and a few little items but would be much easier to post them rather than carry them all. I remember trying to post some postcards in SF and it being really difficult to try and find a post centre (We have post boxes on pretty much every second corner) and you just stick stamps on and send it.

APologies, this is vereing off trains... so I'd be best to move it, please shout.

Find a US post office, grab a box, stuff it with whatever you like, go to the counter, send it off. They do flat rate boxes like one I sent to my sister for about $60; cheaper ones too, especially if you're only going to send documents (photos).

One reason for not needing post boxes all over the place is that you can leave your mail in your mailbox for the mailman (postman) to collect as (s)he delivers your mail. Great idea, though obviously wouldn't work in the UK as they tend to be letterboxes in front doors rather than mailboxes on the street.

--------------------
Geoff M.

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sojourner
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I'm just back on line and will jump in here:

I stayed 2 nights in Glenwood Springs a few years ago without a car, and it was fine. The only thing is, I didn't get to take the public bus to Aspen, as I'd planned. I stayed at the Hotel Denver. It is right upstairs from the train station (if you go way down the platform there is also ramp access without stairs) and the staff will even help you up and down with your luggage, should you so desire. I had BREAKFAST, however, at the Hotel Colorado across the river--it was delicious, with some really special options. Other meals probably fine too, though pricier. You could walk across the river but the Hotel Denver also has a shuttle bus that will take you over. The hot springs (also across the river) were very nice to visit, and if you don't have your own bathing suits you can rent one very cheap. I also took the local public bus around town (free) just out to see a mountain view. And I remember a nice inexpensive Mexican restaurant down the street from the Denver (along the rr track), name had the Spanish word for rooster or hen or checkn in it, but my memory is going a bit.

The other place on the Zephyr route that I'd recommend for an interesting stopover would be Salt Lake City, though I've heard it can be brutally hot in August--I was there in early June and it was lovely weather then. As with Glenwood Springs, I think you'd only need to stay 2 nights, though arrival and departure times to SLC are nowhere near as convenient as Glenwood Springs. (If you go to both, you can go coach between them, sleepers not needed, just be sure to get into the observation car as soon as you board in Glenwood Springs--that goes for even if you do not stop in SLC.) SLC is a very interesting city, hotels not too expensive, and I found getting a taxi to one at night was no problem (though ALWAYS do have on hand phone numbers of taxi services in places to which you are arriving at odd hours, just in case). I stayed at a Hampton Inn that was a bit more of a walk to the tourist area than some other hotels, but still walkable. The streets are very very wide and have a bizarre numbering system, e.g., 100 Street is called 1st Street, and there is a N 100 Street and a S 100 Street, something like that, all centered around the Mormon HQ (similar to the way Washington DC has the street numbers in either direction centered around the Capitol.) The Mormon sites are interesting (though someone will try to convert you!); you won't be allowed in the temple but would visit the sort-of campus/minipark around it and, if possible, the Tabernacle and hear the famous choir rehearse there, I think it's Thursdays and early Sunday morning, before the show, but that could have expanded. You can also tour Brigham Young's Beehive House and walk along the wide street from there east--I think it's South St? passing all the mansions, non-Mormon churches etc (SLC is only about half Mormon, as opposed to the rest of the state). The state capitol building is well worth a visit and has a good tour; there is another park area just below it, and a few historical houses nearby. On the south (non-Mormon) side of town is a somewhat interesting modern library and a Nepali/Indian restaurant called Himalaya that I liked. Be sure to take a local bus tour out to see the Great Salt Lake, fascinating place; the tour will probably also include the copper mine.

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Jerome Nicholson
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It's good to see you're back, Sojourner. [Smile]
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MargaretSPfan
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KacyB: I wish you very well with your upcoming trip with your children. How well will your 3-year-old girl be able to amuse herself without Wifi? You may want to consider packing some of her favorite games and toys -- just don't bring anything irreplaceable. Very long train trips can sometimes be quite boring, even to adults. You also need to factor in the inevitable delays -- any given long-distance Amtrak train can run several hours late -- or more.

I would recommend that you spend some time in the Sightseer lounge car, where you can meet other passengers, and your children might even meet other children approximately their ages. That is what I like best about riding long-distance trains: the chance to meet interesting new people, most of whom are very nice. Sightseer Lounges also have huge windows that wrap up into the ceiling -- a really good way to see the beautiful scenery you will sometimes pass through.

Another small point: if you are in a sleeper, all your meals are included in your ticket price. This is a really nice thing.

As you may know, trains are quite limited in the amount of water they can carry on board, so showers are on a timer. (I think -- it has been a long time since I rode overnight on Amtrak.) You will definitely appreciate the endless supply of hot water in the hotels you will be staying in.

Your children will enjoy the sights and activities in the various cities you stay in. I am on the side of those who think they will remember very little of the trip.

I traveled extensively overseas when I was between the ages of 7 and 14, yet I remember very little of those trips -- just fragments here and there. What all that traveling did for me, however, was to give me a great and deep love of traveling. It took me many years before I could go past San Francisco International Airport without immediately wanting to get on a plane -- any plane! -- and go somewhere -- anywhere!

To sum up: I am very glad you have planned to stay a few days in various suitable cities, and that you are going to book sleeper space on the trains. That is most considerate of you -- for those times when your children are tired and/or out of sorts and need a quiet place to de-stress and relax in. Just please be realistic about what a trip this long asks of children as young as yours.

Good luck, and have a super-great trip!

Remember, as "chrisg" likes to say, "Every trip is an adventure!"

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Mike Smith
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Kacy, there is power in each sleeper room. It is 120 volt and 60 cycle, which is different than Europe, so you will need a converter. A power strip will be helpful because there is only one plug in the room.

Ipads can be targets for thieves, so keep an eye out, but the rail customers are a captive audience, except at station stops.

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Henry Kisor
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Kacy, I presume you download children's games, books and movies to your iPad. They are godsends to this grandpa who helps take care of a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old.

A portable DVD player and a clutch of children's movies on disc might also be a good idea. My sons and their wives use them on long auto trips and they keep the children occupied.

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mgt
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You should get your Amtrak reservations as soon as possible. Sleepers frequently sell out in the summer. Like others above I would opt for a Bedroom or the Family Room; there are only five Bedrooms and one Family Room per coach on the double-decker Superliners which run on all the overnight legs you have mentioned. It is probably more fun for we Brits to travel on the top deck! The Family Room is on the lower floor, but does have two windows. A Roomette would be very cramped.
We have booked all our Amtrak trips through TRAILFINDERS who have branches throughout the UK. They are familiar with the Amtrak systems and are efficient. In theory you could probably book on-line and retrieve your tickets from an Amtrak machine in New York, but I prefer to deal with real persons and have the backing of a reputable travel firm behind me. Trailfinders issue you with a voucher which you then exchange for "real tickets" at an Amtrak agency/station. As your first leg is from New York you will probably do this at Penn Station in New York. Allow plenty of time for this as there are sometimes lengthy queues and make sure you have your passport at hand. Amtrak have started e-ticketing this year but our reservations from New York to New Orleans for 2013 have been dealt with in the usual way by Trailfinders so far. You will also have the advantage in Washington and Chicago of the exclusive first class lounges for Sleeper passengers, and, if you travel Acela first class, there is also a lounge in Penn Station. There is no checked baggage service on Acela but most Redcaps, the porters, are helpful and will get you to the correct platform on time. On the other long-distance trains the checked baggage system has always worked well for us, both when travelling straight through and also when breaking the journey. It relieves you of all the hassle of luggage and allows you to fully enjoy the experience.
You are wise to leave two to three days gaps between stages; Amtrak trains are frequently subject to delays and same-day connections should be avoided. The same applies to planes; ensure that you have a couple of days buffer before your flight and first departure.
The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry is well worth a visit, there is a superb model railway at the top of the building and downstairs the original streamlined Burlington Zephyr is on display; it provides simulated trips with commentary!
Emeryville, the station for San Francisco is connected to the main city by bus.
I presume you are flying to the UK from Toronto. I would not recommend the Maple Leaf to New York, with the two hour plus delay at Niagara for immigration clearance.
I am sure, with sll the though and planning which has already gone into your trip you will have a wonderful time.

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sojourner
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MGT, with the new e-ticketing, I think you can book pretty easily and retrieve the e-ticket from the computer, but I could be wrong about what goes on when booking from the UK.

I would advise getting a bedroom on the 2nd floor rather than the family room, personally. Downstairs has poor views and a more fuel-y smell. The bedrooms have their own toilet and shower. But they are pricey! Of course, I have known some folks who slept 3 in a roomette, with children, but that involves sharing a small bunk bed, which can be very difficult. When I travel with a friend, we get TWO roomettes, but with children the age of yours, that is not an option. I will post separately on some things to do in NYC, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, Jasper, and Toronto when I have a chance. Keep in mind, though, that stopping off the Canadian will be tricky because it does not run every day.

Also, I see some folks have mentioned a stop in Sacramento. May I say I definitely prefer San Francisco LOTS over Sacramento! Also, Sacramento can be very hot in summer. However, for a rail fan like your son, the California train museum in Sacramento may be a treat. I suppose what you might do is take the Zephyr as far as Sacramento and do an overnight there, then catch a Capitol Corridors down to San Francisco after lunch the next day. Keep in mind that the Zephyr is often quite late, so don't plan on doing much when you get in--and perhaps you will be pleasantly surprised. Then the next morning you can see the rail museum before heading to SF. On the other hand, your kids will probably like the cable cars in San Francisco, and there is a museum for that there!

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KacyB
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Mgt - Henry has already advised me on timings and has helpfully suggested people who can organise not only the trains but also the hotels etc., so they are on the case. There is chance that I've already left it too late, but here's hoping I haven't!!

The plan is to fly into NY but out of TOronto. That is, obviously, not set in stone, but I couldn't find a suitable way to travel from NY to Niagara (or atleast one I felt happy with). It seems more sensible that way.

I'm planning one or two clear days between cities, so will (hopefully) have atleast one full day in each place. I'm hoping, once I get some details on train availability, we can decide exactly what the plan is.

SF is not negotiable, as it's where I had my honeymoon. Really, really looking forward to taking the children to Alcatraz, Cliff House and on the trams (and the Cathedral, which I remember being amazing!) but also (I think) a jelly bean factory and the forest... and my dad told me about somewhere just across the bridge (I forget the name) but it's supposed to be a lovely village...

I think NY is pretty sorted - standard tourist stuff, plus the zoo at central park.
Washington... the white house and capitol hill
Chicago - I will check out the suggestions given here. The science museum should tick quite a few boxes and, I think, would be good to have the children understand the journey they are about to take.
GWS - I think we will just chill out and maybe visit the springs. Just enjoy midwest (Is that the right area!?) of America.
Portland... Not sure, but I just want to go there.
Vancouver - the aquarium and the cable car
Jasper - Once again, just chill and take in the atmosphere
Toronto - CN tower and trip to NIagara

So that's where we are.

Thanks for the notes re. power. I will have an adaptor. 90% of the stuff the children do on lap tops is downloaded (great tip about the film though - thanks, Henry!) so wifi won't bother me a jot. The internet connection is more for me, really, so won't bother the kids in terms of apps.

Thanks also for the tip re. 'pinchable' items. I will look into a bag which is not overly large but will fit all our 'neccesities' in safely. I'm planning to take either 1 back pack or 2 'fly-safe' pullalong bags. I'm erring more to the side of two bags as (i) my son will happily pull one for me and (ii) I think they would be more accessible (nothing worse than having the one thing you need at the bottom of a loaded backpack!) and (iii) I guess easier to store. Also, if we take 2 pullalong bags, I can have a 'day' pack for all the stuff we don't want to leave lying around.

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KacyB
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Sorry, just to add: I do NOT want to check luggage. Harry is not good at waiting in line and not good at waiting for luggage after a plane journey.

So, whatever we take... will come with us on the flight. We will have 3 lots of hand luggage allowed, so that's what we'll deal with.

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cubzo
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Sausalito might bee that village across the bridge. Youn take a ferry there.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Ms. Kacy, first let it be noted that I have flown overseas with everything needed for a ten day journey under the Coach seat storage area. It can be done; simply keep in mind my first rule of travel "If you can't CARRY it, don't bring it".

Now that Salt Lake City is in "play" as a possible stop off, allow it to be noted I wholly concur with every positive thought Ms. Sojourner sets forth - and I lived there for about a year (I was in service stationed at Hill AFB).

The biggest problem with considering SLC as a stop off is the inconvenient hours through which the Zephyr passes both East and West. That it does so is simply one of the "trade offs" that must be made when there is only "one a day". If SLC were to be served at people hours, then Denver, a larger traffic source, would be served at an odd hour, and the worst would be that all the connections at Chicago would be affected.

I most recently visited there during 2010, and if I had the endurance and the desire to travel that so many here have, I'd go again in a heartbeat. However, owing to the "convenient" Zephyr schedule, I'd either fly or drive.

I stayed at this Marriott, which was fine for me with its easy auto access and its proximity to the Abravanel Performing Arts Center that is home to the Utah Symphony - a world class ensemble (with small children, obviously of no concern).

Not that I am any kind of "shopaholic' or "mall rat", I would like to see the City Creek "mixed use" development first hand. I understand the architecture is magnificent and is hardly an eyesore landed in the center of a mid-sized city.

The LDS church? They stand for so much that is so good - work hard, play hard, and pray hard - that what , one could say, a persecuted sect built from nothing is truly commendable. After all, we came fairly close to electing one of their own as our President.

A drink? you can get one anywhere - including at Marriott (LDS influenced chainwide - just look in a bedstand's drawer). Smoking, how many public places can you do that nowadays (I understand "they're cracking down" on the foul fog in Europe) anywhere.

Ethnic cuisines, I defer to Ms. Sojourner on that stuff. Bacon and eggs for Breakfast and a good steak for Dinner is "my kind of grub" in this life - the dozen or so around here who know me face to face will certainly agree.

But even though you will not likely consider SLC, I enjoy the opportunity to get in a plug for one of my favorite regions in the USA.

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sojourner
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Glenwood Springs is a scenic little Rocky Mountain town--it is NOT the Midwest. Chicago is the Midwest--once you leave, quite flat, as the Midwest mostly is. Denver is at the very end of the Midwest; then you start to climb. Note that Glenwood Springs is not super different from Jasper in some ways (the mountains in Alberta there are the extension of the same Rockies, pretty much), which is one reason I mentioned Salt Lake City as a possible alternative Zephyr stop. But they are both nice in different ways, and Glenwood Springs will be much cooler.

In New York City, I recommend walk on the High Line on a weekday morning. It's lovely and not far from Penn Station (go down the south side of W30th to just past 10th Av); there is some construction right there but you will find the elevator up. Many people go on it, so be sure to go before 10AM, weekday if at all possible. Walk all the way down to the end (it's just over a mile), then back up to Chelsea Piers, where there are some fun things for kids (possibly even boat rides). In addition to the plantings, interesting viewing spots, seats, architecture along the way, there are more distant views from including the Empire State at one point (on the left heading down) and even, further down, the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

Some other neat places in Midtown are Grand Central Station (runs from E 42nd to E 45th St, best approached from Park Av South or Vanderbilt Av down the main staircase), which used to have free (with donation) tours from the clock at 12:30 Wednesdays; also a nice market downstairs and eating, though very crowded weekdays. And, nearby, the main branch of the NY Public Library (5th Av & W 42nd), which is a fantasitc building to tour and also has free neat exhibits inside. If you walk up to the library on E41st St from Park Av S or Madison Av to 5th Av, you can see embedded in the sidewalk neat quotes of famous authors--"library walk." East of here at 1st Av and E42nd is the United Nations.

SuperStorm Sandy damage was very heavy downtown, especially on the East side (including South St Seport Museum very badly hit, though hopefully will be back on track by summer). From Battery Park, which is nice, there are ferries (statue itself has very long waits, and you need to book ahead to go inside) to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; don't know what storm damage did to all this). But there are boat rides from other places too, including I think maybe Chelsea Piers. Manhattan by boat is a very nice thing to do, esp on a warmish day.

In Central Park, be sure to see the Alice in Wonderland clock outside the zoo, and the feeding of the seals (I think 2PM and another, maybe 3?3:15? you can check the website for the times). Heading up (about 15-20 blocks; you can walk on Fifth Ave too) is the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the price they ask is steep but you can pay what you like, read the fine print!), the Egyptian hall (with pyramid etc) and the armory are among the things there likely to appeal to kids, and rooftop sculpture (though can be crowded). Walking through to the West Side of Central Park is the famous Museum of Natural History (Central Park West and W79th St) with Planetarium, but it's rather pricey and you can see the same sort of stuff (dinosaur bones etc) for free at the one in DC. In fact, I would recommend the various Washington DC Smithsonian museums over Chicago's for that reason.

In Washington DC, as noted, most things are free. The Capitol (and its visitors center) is very much worth a tour but the White House is actually a bit dull, with long lines and speedy runthroughs (unless things have changed; I was last there when Clinton was president). Regarding the Capitol, lines are long, get there early in the morning--but Americans can write their Congressperson in advance to get into the Capitol early on a shorter line--you might inquire at the American Embassy for something comparable. Union Station itself is splendid. In the National Portrait Gallery you can see all the American presidents etc etc. Nearby, your kids might like a visit to the Spy Museum, though that one has a charge; one can go there after closings of other things, though. Chinatown has inexpensive places to eat, such as Eat First. Also not far from here, I found the FBI tour dull, esp as it's an ugly building, but boys usually like it.

In Chicago you want to go down to Millennium Park and see "the Bean" (real name, Cloud Gate), Gehry stage, and walk across the BP Bridge to the Lake (Lake Michigan), walking along down at least to around Jackson, where you would go back into Grant Park (runs along the lake) to see the Franklin Fountain. [Also, forgot to mention opposite Millennium Park across Michigan Av is the Chicago Cultural Center, former library, famous Tiffany ceiling etc (scenes from the film Untouchables filmed here).] Continuing down along the lake you can go all the way to the Field Museum, even the Aquarium (long walk but nice in summer)--but IMO if you've seen one Aquarium you've seen them all), planetarium etc. The science museum may be fun but it's more out of the way, you need to take public transit. Instead you might consider another place kids like, well on the other side of Millennium Park, Navy Pier, which you can access by water taxi, as from the canal by Union Station. And be sure to see the old Main Hall at Union Station itself.

San Francisco has the overcrowded Fisherman's Wharf, though walking along the bay all the way up to the Marina district (toward the Golden Gate Bridge) is lovely, as is the Palace des Arts (sp?) Yuou can take the boat tour to Alcatraz and perhaps a bus tour to Muir Woods; I believe they come back with a stop in Sausalito, where you can stay and come back by ferry. Get up very early to take a cable car (check when they start, take the first one) or they get super busy.

Portland is a small city, I don't know that it would appeal that much to kids but it does have a lovely train station and good light rail system you can run around on. Walk along the river (Willamette), down to Pioneer Square, along that street with the museums, have lunch in Pings in the small Chinatown (trendy good restaurant), and most of all try to get to the International Rose Testing Gardens (I think you can take the light rail there), which are lovely, with good views of the city. There is also the big bookstore, Powells.

Vancouver has a nice market, magnificent harbor, terrific park designed by same fellow as did Central Park in NYC (I'm blanking on name--Stanley Park--with zoo etc I'm sure), Kitsilano (sp?) Beach, trolleys (similar in Toronto).

I think my posts above crossed with yours so you might not have seen my "edit."

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DeeCT
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Kacy

While in San Francisco you might want to make a stop at Pier 39. While it has lots of touristy shops, it also has street musicians, puppet shows and best of all the sea lions to watch and "talk" to. Great view of Alcatraz at the end of the pier.

Google "Pier 39" for info.

Dee

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KacyB
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Sausolito... that's the one... My dad said to go there. Thankyou.

Thankyou for all your advice. I am keeping a record of all the ideas of what (and what not!) to do.

I haven't actually told my mum yet, but Imogen told her that she's super excited that she is taking the biggest train in the world (The Zephyr). THe kids are really getting excited about the trip.

Does anyone know what IS the biggest train in the world?

Thankyou all for your advice. I promise I'm going to bug you until July next year (apologies hereby given!) You have all been so amazingly helpful and brilliantly positive about the whole trip :-)

Kacy. x

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Vincent206
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Portland doesn't offer much in the way of spectacular things to do, but it's a beautiful city with lots of really nice neighborhoods. It would be a great place to take a break from travel and long lines at tourist traps. Chill out for a day or two in Portland and you'll be ready for the rest of your trip. Be sure to take the light rail to Washington Park and spend the day at the Zoo and the Children's Museum. There is a miniature train that you can ride around the Zoo and the Children's Museum has a good reputation (I've never been through it). The park itself is worth a visit.

There's also an aerial tram that connects with the Portland Streetcar. Ride it roundtrip for the views.

In downtown you can walk around the Pearl District, spend some time in the parks (stop in Jamison Square) and browse through Powell's Books--always worth the visit.

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by KacyB:
Does anyone know what IS the biggest train in the world?

Ms. Karen, if your inquiry means what is the longest passenger train in the world, that goes to the Auto Train.

This is a train that is seventeen two level passenger cars and thirty some auto carriers. It operates from "near Washington" (Lorton VA) to "near Orlando" (Sanford FL) handling passengers and their autos. It is what the European roads call "Moto-Rail".

I seem to use it once most every year.

The service is quite well used, and there is no reason to give it away (2 psgrs and auto; figure US$1200 each way, subject to demand pricing).

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TwinStarRocket
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The Canadian has more cars than the Zephyr.
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