SkyCTTCBy Merle Rosenstein

Why cram into a car when you can ride the rails in comfort on Amtrak California’s Pacific Surfliner? Panoramic windows on modern bi-level cars showcase the towering cliffs, windswept beaches, and picturesque towns along the Pacific coast. Take the train from Los Angeles to San Diego to reach romantic beaches, world-class theme parks, historic landmarks and a host of casinos, golf courses, wineries and spas.

Children two to fifteen are half price when accompanied by an adult paying the regular fare. The California Rail Pass allows for up to seven days of travel in California over a 21-day period for $159 (adults) and $80 (children 2-15), and multi-ride tickets are available for many short-distance routes. Connections to the airport and sightseeing packages are also available. The Pacific Surfliner offers 12 daily round-trip services between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Here’s where you stop along the way:
• Ventura: Dubbed “The land of endless summers” by early Spanish settlers, Ventura is the place to discover the Real California. Just an hour north of Los Angeles (The Pacific Surfliner route actually starts in San Luis Obispo), the city boasts abundant arts and cultural activities, lush farmlands and ocean beaches. Channel Islands National Park lies just off shore, the Los Padres National Forest is found in Ventura’s foothills and two of California’s longest flowing open rivers help to form the city’s boundaries.

• Anaheim: Home to the original Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park where favourite cartoon characters come to life. At nearby Knott’s Berry Farm, the new WindSeeker ride lifts passengers to the top of a 91-metre tower for a wild three-minute spin. Younger kids can hang out with the Peanuts gang at Camp Snoopy.

For underwater animal fun, head to the Aquarium of the Pacific with over 12,500 animals including sharks, lorikeets and sea otters. The Discovery Science Center boasts more than 120 hands-on exhibits such as a giant pin wall, bed of nails, virtual volleyball and a rock climbing wall. Kids can also shoot goals against a virtual goalie in the Science of Hockey, become a Green Superhero in Eco Challenge and go on a scavenger hunt in Dino Quest. At Flightdeck Air Combat, fighter jet simulations allow kids to climb into the cockpit and pretend to be pilots.

• San Juan Capistrano: In 1775, the Mission San Juan Capistrano became the seventh of 21 missions in Alta California. The Spanish hoped to expand control over the territory with the missions and to spread Christianity to the Native peoples of California. The Mission San Juan Capistrano is world-famous for the swallows that return every spring, before the main flock arrives. The birds arrive on St. Joseph’s Day and build nests in the ruins of the old stone church. On the Day of San Juan, October 23, they fly back to Argentina for the winter.

• San Clemente: For a taste of Orange County’s laid back beach lifestyle, get off the train in San Clemente. This quiet waterfront town attracts outdoor enthusiasts with challenging hiking trails and parks for families. The beach is the main attraction here. San Clemente State Beach stretches from steep sandstone bluffs to the azure ocean. Surfing and boogie board enthusiasts find superior swells in San Onofre, Trestles and Dohney. There’s also plenty of room to set up a picnic and relax. Just north of the Beach, San Clemente Pier has sidewalk cafes, a local market and great views of the coast.

• Oceanside: On San Diego’s North Shore Oceanside also exudes a relaxed beach community vibe. With a wide array of beaches from calm and chill to action-packed and energy-filled, there’s a spot in the sun for everyone. Oceanside also has a variety of adult-only attractions such as wineries, casinos, golfing and boutique and mall shopping.

LEGOLAND in Carlsbad caters to kids two through 12, with more than 60 family rides, hands-on attractions and shows. You won’t know what to do first.

At SEA LIFE Carlsbad kids can discover over 4,000 inhabitants of the ocean including sharks, rays, seahorses and octopus, touch crabs and sea stars, and walk through the 11-metre ocean tunnel. Feeding demonstrations and an interactive quiz trail provide added learning opportunities.

• Solana Beach: The rugged cliffs at Solana Beach, 32 kilometres north of San Diego, overlook the breathtaking seashore below. Main spots for surfing include Seaside, with an outer reef called Table Tops, Tide Beach with the best sand and tide pools, Fletcher Cove, Seascape Surf Beach and Del Mar Shores. The Belly Up Tavern was voted “San Diego’s Best Live Music Venue” and has been featured in Rolling Stone Magazine.

More information on the Pacific Surfliner can be found at
www.amtrakcalifornia.com/index.cfm/routes/pacific-surfliner/

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