Long Weekend in Seattle by Train

Seattle King Street Station
I love the Amtrak Cascades line. It’s hands down the best way to travel from Vancouver to Seattle. You have beautiful views of the ocean, no border waits (you pre-clear customs in Vancouver), the seats are roomy, and there’s free wifi and power outlets.

Emily and I took the train down to visit friends in Seattle, try some vegetarian restaurants, and do some shopping. It was great seeing some of the Waterloo crew and hearing about the latest gossip at Microsoft, Amazon, and the Seattle startup world.

Seattle Freeway Broadway Separated Bike Lane Seattle Big Wheel
I like Seattle but it’s a lot harder to get around without a car. We used a combination of public transit, taxis, and walking and I was amazed by how bad traffic was all weekend long. The good news is there are new light rail lines and cycle tracks under construction.

Marina and Hotel Bellwether Yellow Leaves
On the way back to Vancouver, we spent a day in Bellingham. I was impressed to find the city is more then the malls along the interstate. There are two cute historic downtowns (Fairhaven and Bellingham) with some interesting shops, good restaurants, fancy hotels, and spas. We stayed at Hotel Bellwether on Sunday night, walked around during the day, spent the afternoon The Chrysalis Spa, and had dinner at β€ŽKeenan’s at the Pier.


  1. It’s an incredibly civilized way to travel Cascadia, provided that you snag one of the cheaper fares while they’re available. Prices rise steeply — I would say too steeply — on certain days or when saver seats have sold out. I wanted to book a morning train to Seattle on the Thursday before Easter — meaning April 2014 — but the base-fare tickets are either sold out or unavailable. I’ve had the same thing happen on other dates, sometimes very far in advance.

    I remember when Canadian customs kicked a fit about screening incoming Cascades trains, and began charging Amtrak thousands of dollars for every crossing. Amtrak threatened to cancel one of the two crossings in retaliation, and I wrote a letter to the PM office given the imminent loss of half our passenger rail service. I was shocked to receive a signed .pdf letter in reply, followed by a reversal of the CBP policy some days or weeks later. Evidently others had also protested the unfairness and poor sense of the fees levied on Amtrak, and they changed their tune. (Or at least that’s how I prefer to think it happened!)


  2. I remember when Amtrak was having trouble with the CBSA. I wrote a letter too. I’m glad its resolved now.

    Booking trips with Amtrak Guest Rewards points is really useful when prices rise unexpectedly. As far as I can tell, its only 1500 points for a Cascades ticket no matter what the price is.


    • Good for you to write a letter! It was the first time I had written the PM office, so perhaps I had luck to pick a cause that others also rallied to.

      I had a friend suggest Amtrak Guest Rewards, too, but doesn’t that mean I would need to use a US credit card to earn points?


      • No US credit card needed.
        You earn points every time you book a trip and you can buy points directly (which is sometimes cheaper than buying tickets). If you are going to sign up, wait until you have a trip planned in the next 90 days and have someone refer you (I’d be happy to). If you join on a referral you get 500 bonus points (and so does the person who referred you).

        For our trip to Seattle, we booked the Vancouver-Seattle portion on points and the return trip from Seattle-Bellingham-Vancouver with cash. We earned 800 reward points for the return trip (100 points per trip X 2 people X 2 legs X Double days bonus) – that’s half a free trip anywhere on the Cascades line. Using points is a really good deal when you’re travelling from Vancouver-Portland.


        • Thanks for the advice. Cascades is a deal at that redemption rate! I go to Bellingham a few times each summer, so I could probably add up points pretty quickly for travel further south. Had opted against the train to Portland thus far because it is both slower and more expensive than renting a car — but points would free us from the freeway. I’ll certainly take you up on the referral if I’m considering a trip.

          I might also try to snag an Amtrak MasterCard just for that 12,000-point signup bonus — and here I was thinking of closing my US bank account.


  3. Wow! I haven’t been to King Street Station in a few years now. I remember looking up through the dingy yellowed ugly suspended ceiling and you could see that it once was nice like this. I had heard that they were going to restore it. Very good job they did.


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