A Rail and Road Trip to the East Bay: Save Gas & Fill Up on Fun

by Carmel L. Mooney

Looking for something fun and creative to do with your family? Take the Capitol Corridor Train from Sacramento to Berkeley and Emeryville for a quickie–overnight getaway of fun, that is.

For less than the cost of a tank of gas for most vehicles, a trip on the Capitol Corridor offers fun and relaxation, a sure recipe for relaxation. We loved the no traffic, no stress, and direct route through the countryside, and over bridges to the bay area. On the train, we enjoyed watching the wildlife and scenery and just unwinding reading books, playing cards, and my hubby even took a snooze.

They even have themed trains from time to time, so check the schedule. A couple of years ago my middle daughter and I took the Knitting Train and knitted a dozen chemo caps for charity on the way to the Stitches West Expo.

Once you arrive refreshed and unhurried, Berkeley has its fill of eclectic shops, fun cafes, and points of interest. We always enjoy unusual shops like the East Bay Vivarium where Berkeley’s world-famous reptile store has a display of some of the world’s most fascinating reptiles, snakes, turtles, tortoises, and poisonous spiders, sure to excite. It’s like going to a reptile zoo for free!

Sho Chiku Bai is another free fun place where families can visit a real Sake factory with a tasting room and museum, and learn about the interesting history and production of sakes, fruit wines, and other Japanese beverages. Both of these stops are within a few blocks of the train station, so exploring on foot is a piece of cake. The kids can learn while mom and dad taste the wares.

Carmel Mooney and daughter on knitting train

Tilden Park is a famous attraction in Berkeley with an antique carousel as well as beautiful hiking and nature trails. It’s a must-see. The Oakland Zoo is only minutes away and accessible by public transportation. One of the best zoos in Northern California, it is well worth a visit. We never miss it. Jack London Square with shops, eateries, and its beautiful harbor is another great place to stroll on a sunny day and is accessible with public transportation as well. Just be sure to take the exact change and look up timetables on the Internet or at your hotel because city bus schedules can be confusing.

The Four Points in Emeryville is the perfect place to stay for our home base while exploring the bay. The Capitol Corridor will let you off just a block away at the Emeryville station. This proves to be both convenient and safe. The Five Points offers nicely appointed rooms and the food at the restaurant, on the premises, is terrific with homemade pizzas, huge gourmet salads, and succulent burgers. A pleasant bar in the lounge adds to the appeal after a long day on foot and the pool is clean and inviting also. The hospitality staff is very friendly and helpful. During our stay, we were more than pleased with every aspect of the service. We even opted to take a taxi at night to dinner and a taxi to most nearby areas is only around $5 and worth the convenience and safety.

For an unforgettable dining experience try Trader Vic’s, where the original Mai Tai was invented generations ago. This place is the epitome of fun in a relaxed elegant dining establishment overlooking the bay. With incomparable appetizers, interactive food where little diners cook skewers of delightful bites at their table (complete with authentic Trader Vic’s table sauces), succulent steaks, fish, and chicken dishes, this is the most fun culinary experience in the area. Unique features like their Chinese wood-fired ovens create juicy and delectable entrees.

Even though Trader Vic’s has an absolutely fascinating history and a large part in history with their world-famous cocktails, non-drinkers will love the non-alcoholic specialties like the No Tai Mai Tai, The Coral Reef, and the Queen Charlotte Fruit Punch. Each drink is a true work of art and beautifully presented just like the food. Our kids loved them.

There’s plenty to explore and experience in the East Bay, so hop on the train and enjoy an affordable, gas-saving getaway.

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Carmel L. Mooney is the editor of Road Trips for Couples

Lake Merritt in the east bay Oakland California