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Denver, Glenwood Springs or Sacramento? (No Car)

Denver, Glenwood Springs or Sacramento? (No Car)

Old Sep 3rd, 2011, 07:29 AM
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Denver, Glenwood Springs or Sacramento? (No Car)

OK, so a friend of mine has expressed a desire to do the California Zephyr train sleeper car with me next year in the summer (June perhaps). I took this train back in 2006, an amazing experience that I still treasure to this day. I’m excited that my friend proposed this, because he is often reluctant to leave his comfort zone and has never been *west of Toronto & Miami* (!) in North America (we’re in Montreal). So, in my mind this trip would be mostly about *his* discovery: seeing Chicago for the first time, the magnificent otherworldly-for-an-Easterner landscapes of the West from the train window, as well as the great city of San Francisco. I know for my friend, he’s most interested in spending a bit of time in Chicago, but seems most tantalized about spending time in San Francisco. Which was very much the focus of what I did back in 2006, taking the train all the way from Chicago-SF non-stop; I’m excited to do this again, to share the experience with my friend.

However, quite possibly selfishly, I feel like I too would like to see somewhere I’ve never been before. I thought the simplest thing would be to pick a stop on the California Zephyr route and the three stops that came to mind were Denver, Glenwood Springs and Sacramento, which seemed the most feasible options considering that *neither of us drive* (but will take city buses, trains, taxis happily). Sacramento could even be possible as a day trip from San Francisco, taking the Cal-Train I thought.

While my friend tends to enjoy city activities most, he did enjoy Prince Edward Island and les Iles de la Madeleine because of the terrific cycling in a beautiful setting. For this reason, I thought Glenwood Springs might be a fun idea, staying at one of the historic hotels near the train station and taking our bikes on the trails (hiking possible?) in that uniquely *WESTERN* beautiful red rock setting of Glenwood Canyon. Of all the stops I remember from 2006, that one seemed very appealing for an outdoorsy vacation.

Denver and Sacramento seemed possibilities since my friend likes cities and these are two I’ve been curious about, but I think would be unlikely to make a special trip just to see them. So, in a way this would be a unique opportunity. I wonder though that they might be too “generic” North American cities; for people who have been, did you feel that these cities have a unique character or something singularly appealing (could be architecture, a stellar museum/attraction/visual, even some intangible vibe?) that make them in your mind somewhere you’re glad to have seen for that uniqueness? If the consensus is that they’re characterless, I think I’d be likely to propose to my friend the natural-setting, cycling idea of Glenwood Springs.

Naturally, part of this decision will be whether we want to split up the trip (making Colorado a logical option) or to do the train-ride non-stop (pushing Sacramento up the list). Assuming these two options are equivalent however, let me know your thoughts on these possibilities.

Thanks for reading, Daniel
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Old Sep 3rd, 2011, 07:37 AM
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Sacramento has the American River Bike Trail which is a little over 30 miles long, not counting paths off of it, so it's a great place to ride a bike. And the railroad museum is excellent. Other than that - while it's a nice place to live, it's not a particularly exciting place to visit.

And Sacramento usually is pretty warm to hot in June (depending on how late in June you'll be traveling). I don't have any experience with the other two places but, personally, I'd rather spend June in Colorado.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2011, 08:09 AM
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Definitely Denver. Glenwood Springs is pleasant too just on a much smaller scale.

For Denver just a few ideas...Denver Art Museum designed by Daniel Libeskind, walk the 16th Street Mall, Coors Field,the Denver Museum of Nature and Science often has excellent exhibitions, Denver Zoo is one of the best. There are 850 miles of off-street bike paths including the Cherry Creek trail which runs from Downtown area, excellent restaurants, LoDo has the largest concentration of Victorian and turn-of-the-century buildings in the nation, Union Station, Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Denver Performing Arts Complex with ten different venues offerning ballet, theater, concerts etc.

And, there's more.

www.visitdenver.com
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Old Sep 3rd, 2011, 09:01 AM
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1) Denver

2) Glenwood Springs ... not a lot to do there though (stayed there one night when we couldn't get a room in Aspen)

3) Sacramento ... probably too warm in June, otherwise it's OK if not exactly exciting

Could switch 2 & 3 and I wouldn't argue but I think Denver is a better combo of nice weather and fun things to do in June.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2011, 10:08 AM
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Glenwood Springs has a real cool cave tour. You take a gondola up to the mountain. Besides the cave you get panoramoric views of the area and Colo River.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2011, 12:56 PM
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Ditto Denver.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2011, 01:59 PM
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I'd rank them as 1) Glenwood Springs
2) Sacramento
3) Denver

Glenwood Springs would be the best scenery.

Sacramento is not 'exciting'--but the railroad museum is the best in the world. The newly expanded Crocker art museum (oldest west of the Mississippi) is very good. Old Sacramento is the Gold Rush era river front.

I like Denver - but for a Colorado layover, I just think Glenwood Springs would be more 'different'/memorable.

Mostly depends on whether you decide to break the journey in CO or not.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2011, 02:07 PM
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The trip between SF & Sacramento would be aboard the Capitol Corridor (AMTRAK) not Cal Train. Cal Train runs between San Jose & SF.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2011, 03:25 PM
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How many days from start to finish? I have traveled by Amtrak many times. Depending on the length of the trip, a USA Rail Pass
can save money if you can stand riding in coach.
The sleepers triple the cost of the trip. http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/Conten.../1237405732514
I have spent 2 nights in Glenwood Springs and like the town.
The Hotel Denver and the Hotel Colorado are within easy walking distance of the Amtrak station. The largest hot-spring fed swimming pool in the US is right there beside I-70 and the Colorado River.
Add the capitol grounds, the Leland Stanford Mansion and the old CA Governor's Mansion to the things to see in Sacramento.
My favorite HI Hostel is the second oldest mansion in the city at the corner of 10th & H across from City Hall.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2011, 03:35 PM
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Unless something changes -- you can forget about the Governor's Mansion and Stanford Mansion. They are scheduled for closure next year.
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Old Sep 3rd, 2011, 04:30 PM
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Denver is wonderful, Daniel. Very walkable and biking is great. i can hardly wait for your trip report!
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Old Sep 4th, 2011, 05:29 AM
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Thank you all for the feedback and Suzie for reminding me that the Capital Corridor runs that route, not CalTrain.

It looks as I feared; all have merits with no clear-cut answer. Good thing I didn't throw another train stop I'm curious about, Salt Lake City, into the mix. Denver sounds like people have enjoyed their visits there, Glenwood Springs has the scenically uniquely Western aspect going for it and Sacramento might be an idea if we decide we want to do the train ride in one fell swoop.

For Sacramento, I've heard the Capitol is lovely. Tomfuller, you mention the grounds, is the interior equally worth a look see?

janisj-- Your argument is cogent to me and actually falls well with my line of thinking; while I'm not decided yet I must say I'm leaning toward Glenwood Springs as, like you, I feel it would be the most different experience particularly for my friend who's never experienced a US West landscape (Denver as I remember is in the plains with mountains in the distance, sans red-rock). Plus, we'll be doing city-type things either end and all above seem pretty positive about Glenwood Springs. Also, since it's not going to be a long stop (24 maybe 48 hours), Denver's having more to do won't come into play particularly. (My only thought was, if it's raining, Denver might be a better choice with more indoorsy things to do.)

Thanks again all! Daniel
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Old Sep 4th, 2011, 06:34 AM
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I've been inside several state capitol buildings. The floor of the rotunda says Eureka. One of the best capitol buildings I've seen was the tour I got in Denver. The view from near the top of the rotunda of the mountains was great.
I hiked up to the cemetery at the top of the hill in Glenwood Springs for the view and to see the memorial stone of Doc Holliday. He was buried there but not under the stone.
The westbound CA Zephyr leaves Chicago @ 2PM and arrives in Denver a bit after 7AM. It arrives in GSC about 2PM (25 hr.)
The main reason I chose Glenwood for a stop was that it was about halfway from Chicago to Sacramento.
If you were planning to return by train, look at taking the Coast Starlight to Portland and the Empire Builder back to Chicago. My favorite stop on that route is Whitefish, MT.
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Old Sep 4th, 2011, 06:57 AM
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I forgot to mention the capitol. The interior is really cool - they still have some of the offices and rooms from the 1800s. And the docents there are very helpful - they know a ton about the history and are eager to tell you about it. Definitely a fun place to visit in Sacramento.
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Old Sep 4th, 2011, 09:51 AM
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I would choose Glenwood Springs, for a more unique location than the other cities. Bike riding and hiking there would be beautiful.

I love Denver, so that would be my second choice. Sacramento? meh.
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Old Sep 4th, 2011, 10:42 AM
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I used to work across the street from the Capitol in Sacramento. The bldg is definitely worth a visit. There are docent lead tours but you can also wander on your own. The grounds cover 10 city blocks (2 blocks wide and 5 blocks long) w/ a very good rose garden, a well done/moving and not at all typical Viet Nam war memorial, other gardens and memorials and hundreds of identified trees.

The Capitol/park, Crocker, and Railroad museum would be doable in one full day since they are all in the same general part of town and not far from the Amtrak station.

IMO the decision mainly depends on if you want to break the journey or not.
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Old Sep 4th, 2011, 06:13 PM
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Shanti, tomfuller, janisj, Bill_H, historytraveler, cmcfong,mrt, lindagj, PeaceOut, Suzie,

Thanks so much everyone for taking the time to answer my queries. Your words will be passed along to my friend also and will influence and be part of what informs our decision-making process.

Best wishes to you all, Daniel
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Old Sep 5th, 2011, 10:29 AM
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I would use the Sacramento stop to continue on Amtrak bus to South Lake Tahoe. From there you can go back to San Francisco through Sacramento.

Or, from San Francisco to Yosemite. June may be too hot to appreciate Sacramento without the air conditioning of a car.
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Old Sep 5th, 2011, 02:56 PM
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You can bike the whole length of the Glenwood Canyon - about 15 miles or so. With the exception of the beginning part you are at river level and bike path is well done. You could stop and do a short hike to Hanging Lake. That is a whole days activity. You need to pack a lunch and take a bottle of wine. There is also limited public transit up Roaring Fork valley to Aspen - another days activity. And, of course, train ride from Denver to Glenwood is outstanding. Some of the prettiest parts of the state.
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Old Sep 6th, 2011, 04:38 AM
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All of Sacramento's sights can be readily reached on foot if you're staying downtown. There's about one very full day or two leisurely day's worth of stuff to see. The train station is very convenient to downtown here, as is the Greyhound terminal.

The state capitol is good. The Crocker Museum doesn't have any major pieces, but is a solid second-tier house-style art museum -- I actually liked the building itself as much as the art. Sutter's Fort is enjoyable to visit, as is the small nearby Native American artifact museum. And Old Sacramento is fun to stroll -- plus the railroad museum there is excellent.
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