The train is the key to easy weekend getaways in Seattle and Portland
The next day, after checking out of your hotel, head back toAlaskan Way and hop on the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar, whose Australian-madetrolleys date to 1928. Ride one back to King Street Station, oneblock from the end of the line. If you leave your bags at thedepot’s parcel check, you can head out unencumbered to explore theadjacent International District.
Thanks to the Amtrak Cascades train line, Portlanders canexperience Seattle, and Seattleites can explore Portland ―all without a car. On the 3 1/2-hour trip between the two cities,you can drink in views while sipping a cocktail and relaxing orsnuggling with your sweetie. Forget traffic jams, bad weather, andhotel parking fees.
We’ve mapped out great weekends in Portland and Seattle,focusing on attractions that can be reached on foot or via publictransportation.
Railway weekend #1: Seattle
Market stalls, French cafes, and the International District lendan exotic flavor to a Seattle getaway.
The Amtrak train from Portland drops you at Seattle’s King Street Station, on the south side of downtown.
Two blocks east, at Fifth Avenue South and South Jackson Street,you’ll find International District Station, the southernmost stopfor the subwaylike downtown bus tunnel. Free Metro Transit buses run between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. onweekdays and between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays, taking you tothree stations that are convenient to downtown hotels: UniversityStreet, Westlake, and Convention Center. You can also get a taxi tomost downtown hotels for about $5.
TOURING THE TOWN
The next morning, head to Pike Place Market. Start with acrumpet slathered with butter and jam at the Crumpet Shop (1503 First Ave.; 206/682-1598), then browse the market. Atlunch, soak up the French atmosphere at Le Pichet (1933 First; 206/256-1499). Alternatively, grab a sandwichof membrillo (quince paste) and manchego cheese while you shop fora paella pan at the Spanish Table (1427 Western Ave.; 206/682-2827).
Spend the afternoon on the waterfront and check out the Life on the Edge tidepool exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium ($9.75; Pier 59, 1483 Alaskan Way; 206/386-4300). If thefish make you crave fresh seafood, head to Elliott’s Oyster House (Pier 56, 1201 Alaskan; 206/623-4340) for oysters on thehalf shell–the ultimate romantic meal. Then sail off into thesunset aboard a ferry from Pier 52 to Bainbridge Island. For $5.10 round trip, you’ll get a30-minute cruise and a great view of the city skyline.
Here, at House of Hong (409 Eighth Ave. S.; 206/622-7997), savor dim sum. Later,relax over organic oolong as you peruse old photos of theInternational District at Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee (605 1/2 S. Main St.; 206/515-4000). You can stock up onChinese and Japanese teas at the Ten Ren Tea Co. (506 S. King St.; 206/749-9855).
Before running to catch your return train, stop at Uwajimaya (600 Fifth Ave. S.; 206/624-6248), a sprawlingAsian supermarket. At the food court, you can sample the cuisinesof half a dozen Asian countries. Order your food to go and you canenjoy it on the ride home.
Railway weekend #2: Portland
Explore to your heart’s desire aboard the Portland Streetcar,seeking out the city’s discrete charms.
The “Go by Train” sign commands attention atop Portland’s Union Station, and this railway depot makes a good case forits directive. Wilf’s Restaurant & Piano Bar (closed Sun; 800 N.W. Sixth Ave.; 503/223-0070), a timelessfine-dining establishment, anchors one corner of the restored 1895Italianate building.
Across the way, at the corner of Northwest Fifth Avenue andNorthwest Irving Street, you can hop on a free TriMet bus for the dozen blocks into downtown, where you’llfind numerous hotels. Or you can take a taxi for about $5.
TOURING THE TOWN
Portland can be readily enjoyed on foot, even on a wet winterweekend. When your feet tire or the rain becomes too much, boardthe Portland Streetcar, which meanders past the Portland Art Museum, through the Pearl District, and out tothe Nob Hill neighborhood. Much of the route is within FarelessSquare, a zone (essentially downtown) where public transit is free;outside this area, you’ll pay only $1.25. Onboard, be sure to graba copy of the “Guide to Portland Streetcar & Restaurants.”
If you’re an animal lover, check out artist William Wegman’s Portland Dog Bowl sculpture, which is located in the North Park Blocks between Northwest Davis and NorthwestEverett Streets.
You haven’t been to Portland until you’ve gotten lost in thestacks at Powell’s City of Books (1005 W. Burnside St.; 503/228-4651). This huge bookstoreanchors the southern edge of the Pearl District, home tocutting-edge art galleries, shops, and romantic restaurants.
On gray winter days, there’s no place in the Pearl Districtsunnier than Torrefazione Italia (1140 N.W. Everett; 503/224-9896), a cafe serving itsespressos in hand-painted Italian cups. The spicy fare at Pho Van Bistro (closed Sun; 1012 N.W. Glisan St.; 503/248-2172), an upscaleVietnamese restaurant, also goes a long way toward taking the chilloff.
On your second morning, don’t miss Bijou (132 S.W. Third Ave.; 503/222-3187), a cafe where the eggsare free-range and the coffee is organic. Leave your bags at yourhotel, then do a bit more exploring before heading for the train.At the Portland Art Museum (closed Mon; $10; 1219 S.W. Park Ave.; 503/226-2811), checkout the Paris to Portland exhibit to see what a big impressionFrench impressionists have made on Portland art collectors. Whenit’s time to catch the train, just hop a northbound bus onSouthwest Sixth Avenue at Main Street.
The following hotels and inns areclose to public transit:
In the winter, Seattle hotels often offer half-price room rates(full rates are listed here); contact the Seattle Super Saver (www.seattlesupersaver.comor 800/535-7071) for details.
The Edgewater. Seattle’s only waterfront hotel can bereached from King Street Station on the Waterfront Streetcar. From $149. Pier 67, 2411 Alaskan Way; www.edgewaterhotel.comor (800) 624-0670.
Inn at the Market. The inn is set in the heart of Pike PlaceMarket. From $160. 86 Pine St.; www.innatthemarket.com or(800)446-4484.
Mayflower Park Hotel. This historic hotel is attached toWestlake Center, which houses the downtown monorail station and hasa bus tunnel stop. From $119. 405 Olive Way; www.mayflowerpark.com or(800) 426-5100.
Embassy Suites Portland Downtown. This historic hotel offersa free shuttle from the train station. TriMet buses stop within ablock of the hotel. From $139. 319 S.W. Pine St.; www.embassyportland.comor (800) 362-2779.
Fifth Avenue Suites Hotel. Located on the downtown bus mall,this 60-room hotel is just a short hop from Union Station. From $109. 506 S.W. Washington St.; www.5thavenuesuites.comor (888) 207-2201.
Inn @ Northrup Station. This new all-suites hotel is locatedon the Portland Streetcar route within a few blocks of several goodrestaurants. Catch the streetcar six blocks from Union Station atthe corner of N.W. Glisan St. and N.W. 10th Ave. From $99. 2025 N.W. Northrup St.; www.northrupstation.comor (800) 224-1180.