The scenic three-hour, 20-minute ride between Seattle and Leavenworth on the Amtrak offers enchanting scenery and incredible views. Seat children next to the window to look for wildlife among the fir-layered mountainsides and rambling rivers. You’ll also pass through the second-longest tunnel in the U.S., the Cascade Tunnel, while traversing 4000-foot peaks. You won’t deal with closed mountain passes or the twisting highways — just sit back and relax in the giant seats. The only disappointment: the train’s schedule makes it impossible to go on a daytrip (it leaves Seattle in the evening, and returns in the early morning).
13 Tips for Taking the Amtrak Train to Leavenworth
- Book your ticket through Amtrak.com and note that kids go half-price, which makes for a sweet (and less-expensive ride). Adult tickets range from $23-40+ each way, depending upon traffic volume. Also, check the “Smart Fares” section of the Amtrak site to find more deals.
- The Amtrak train departs from three stations en route to Leavenworth: Seattle King Street, Edmonds and Everett. Those living in North Seattle may want to board in Edmonds, Snohomish County residents may want to board in Everett, and South Seattle at King Street.
- Parking is limited at King Street, Edmonds and Everett stations. Bring cash for any olden-days pay lots (though most take credit cards), and arrive at least a half-hour in advance to scope out your parking choices. Better yet, ask a friend to drop you off at the station.
- Weather and freight train backups can delay Amtrak trains. Our train from Edmonds to Leavenworth was delayed by an hour and 15 minutes; our return train from Leavenworth to Edmonds was delayed by three hours and 30 minutes. Sign up for alerts through the Amtrak.com site, and check the site for real-time schedule changes. If you’ll be arriving late at night (10:30 p.m. for us), you might think about how to set the kids up to sleep for an hour or two.
- Meals are served aboard the train – but for lunch and dinner, only for those with reservations. Sign up as soon as you board the train headed toward Leavenworth, but realize that some seatings may sell out, and you may not make reservations when booking your ticket. Bring extra food if you think you might be hungry.
- That said, our dinner was an unpleasant combination of mediocre and expensive; seemingly microwaved vegetable mix and rice, although the meat was okay. Maybe it was an off night (although others told us they had the same experience). The children’s menu was fine, although mostly comprised of cheese and white bread. Bring your own meal, or ask your waitress what she would recommend. Snacks are also served, but those prices aren’t much better. You may also be seated with strangers, if you’re a party of three. Here’s a link to the Empire Builder / Leavenworth train menu Eastbound (dinner, toward Leavenworth) and Westbound (breakfast, toward Seattle). The service was very good and homey, though. I’m pretty sure my waitress even called me “hon.”
- Entertainment is limited, and there aren’t movies (as on the Cascades trains) but there are 120-volt plugs next to two-seat configurations. Bring a laptop, card games, books and quiet activity books.
- Amtrak passenger seats offer generous proportions, with reclining seat backs, extendable trays, footrests and seat pockets. So don’t worry about leg room – think about three times the size of an airplane seat setup. Seat reservations aren’t available, but the conductor, whenever possible, will try to keep groups together.
- Train shelters are heated, so you’ll be warm while waiting. Heat lamps even warm outdoor waits, in Leavenworth. Spend a few moments at the stations to look at historic documents and knickknacks.
- The Leavenworth Amtrak station (‘Icicle Station”) is located only about a mile outside town along a quiet road, but you must walk up a steep hill without a wide shoulder. I would not attempt to walk this route with kids, but instead take Leavenworth Shuttle and Taxi, which charges about $5 per passenger. Book your pickup in advance, and drop-off at the Leavenworth station. Our driver was courteous, prompt, and gave us frequent updates on the train delay. The driver does not have a carseat available for babies or younger children, so if that’s important to you, bring one with you.
- The Leavenworth Amtrak train leaves early in the morning – boarding is at 6 a.m. (unless late). Ask your hotel if they’re willing to pack a sack breakfast for you, to go – our hotel, the Bavarian Inn, was happy to do so. Request this upon check-in or when making a reservation.
- Amtrak rail employees seem both stressed and patient. Employees appear to be doing the best they can, despite demanding, upset passengers — some of whom stuffed paper towels into the toilets on our train, rendering the toilets inoperable. That wasn’t cool.
- No changing tables are available, so bring extra changing pads for baby. There are toilet receptacles for diapers in the bathroom,but you might want to double-bag any disaster-scented works.