To Portland by Train with a Teen
“Will there be wifi?” is a question any parent with a teen is familiar with. Happily, and to her delight, I was able to answer, “Yes, the train will have wifi.”
Train travel is relaxing while driving can be super-stressful. Given a choice between a six hour drive and an eight and a half hour train ride, it’s the train all the way. You can appreciate the scenery, read a book, eat a snack, play a game, or just have a conversation.
The train ride from Vancouver, British Columbia to Portland, Oregon is a pretty scenic one, indeed. The Amtrak Cascades leaves Vancouver first thing in the morning at 6:30am and arrives in Portland at 3:05pm. There’s a Bistro Car that offers a variety of food and beverages, the aforementioned wifi, clean bathrooms, comfy seats, and that scenic scenery.
You can’t book a particular seat beforehand, but as you board the train you can request which side of the train you would like to sit on. We requested, and received, ocean-side seats.
There’s a knack to walking in a moving train that I regretfully do not have. On my first of three trips to the Bistro Car I ended up halfway in the lap of a sleeping gentleman. I apologized profusely and he groggily laughed it off. The young man on the other side of the car laughed quite hard but eyed me warily the next two times in case I tipped the other way.
The girl slept the first couple of hours then woke to have a snack and quickly put her headphones on and opened her iPad Mini. The wifi was strong enough for her to watch YouTube videos and play her games. We used a splitter so we could both plug in headphones and watch a movie I had pre-loaded on my iPad.
We arrived in Portland and, although it was a short distance, we took a cab to our vacation rental due to luggage. Our condo was neat and clean and had a beautiful view.
What to do with a teen who would often rather bundle up with her iPad on the couch and only come up for air when there’s food on offer?
The Oregon Zoo
Portland has many things to tempt a recalcitrant teen. Our first full day in Portland we went to the Oregon Zoo. Portland’s transit is easy to navigate and we arrived with no problems. The zoo is a sprawling affair and we tramped through as much of it as we could. A highlight was the baby elephant and, of course, the lions. It was amazing how close we could get to the eagles.
We went to the first of three sushi outings that evening; the girl will go to great lengths to have sushi and she must have been on her best behaviour to have her wish granted thrice.
Our after dinner routine started that evening when we found a Netflix comedy we both fell in love with. Bingeing occurred.
Day two involved Powell’s Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore. This place was huge and took up several fun hours. Next on the itinerary was Voodoo Doughnuts, as any right-minded person needs to have on their Portland list.
So delicious, so decadent, and worth every penny.
We went to a fancy sushi place that evening where the girl inhaled 18 pieces of raw tuna and wanted more.
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
Much of our last full day in Portland was spent at the OMSI, The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. There were many things to see, interactive displays, a maze to run, and a movie to see in their huge-screen theatre. We were two of three people in the whole theatre.
What do you think we had for dinner? Yep, sushi. We returned to the place we went to the first time, Sushi Ichiban, and were remembered by our server, which was nice. This place was cute because the sushi went around the sushi bar on a train and you got to pick and choose what you wanted and were changed by the plate. I wouldn’t go for the decor, but the food and service were good.
We caught the train back home the next day, requested the ocean side again, and again received it. We enjoyed our stay in Portland and although we missed doing some things on our list, like biking along the river or going to the Saturday Market, we can save them for next time.