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Centralia, WA

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#1 CHamilton



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Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:34 PM

Take train to Centralia for a day steeped in history

If all you’ve done is drive through the part of Centralia visible from the freeway, you’re in for a surprise. But you don’t get there by car.

No, there’s a part of Centralia that’s about 100 years earlier than Nike or Wendy’s, where you inhale wood varnish rather than plastic, where history’s waiting to be discovered in paint, brick and a town full of antique shops. It’s downtown Centralia, and the very best way to get there is on a living piece of history – the train.

It’s not often you can catch a West Coast train and end up 50 feet from the center of town, but you can in Centralia. Just more than an hour from Tacoma and 15 minutes from Olympia, it often is quicker than a car and far more relaxing. Riders also get free WiFi, comfy seats, a stunning view around the Tacoma Narrows and through south Thurston County and no traffic bottlenecks coming home. The bonus is the sensation of stepping back in time as you chug through the countryside and step out into the high-ceilinged, wrought-iron gated, tile-pillared atmosphere of the Centralia Union Depot station.

And all you need to do after that is amble the short block from Railroad Avenue to Tower Street to hit the part of Centralia that’ll take you back in time for a day.

Find out more: Trains leave Tacoma daily at 8:13 a.m., 10:31 a.m. and 12:08 p.m.; Olympia 40 minutes later. They return at 1:46 p.m., 4:21 p.m. and 5:57 p.m. Fares start at $22. 800-USA-RAIL, amtrak.com

Centralia’s not a big town or a glamorous one, but keep your eyes open to piece together a fascinating history. Founded in 1875 by George Washington, son of a black slave, the town started out as a rail trade hub and grew rapidly. Most of the buildings along central Tower Avenue date from the early 1900s and embody a stately, restrained presence above the storefronts. There’s the ornate stucco swag and clock at 327 Tower Ave. and the embellished stucco texture on the 1909 Hoss building at No. 118. The 1909 Zimmer building at No. 203 has Italianate brickwork with horizontal blockwork gables, while the old Elks building (one block over at 201 Pearl St., now an antique mall) sports red brick and olive Art Deco trim.

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#2 fairviewroad



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Posted 09 January 2013 - 12:51 PM

Centralia is a great overnight destination, too. The Olympic Club hotel referenced in the article is a literal stone's throw from the Amtrak station,
and offers affordable, comfortable (albeit somewhat rustic) lodging.

Not sure I'd agree that the train is "often quicker" than a car. That may be true if the car and the train left at the exact same time, but once you factor
in the time it takes to get to the station, park (or be dropped off), the time savings is easily eaten up. Generally going to be much quicker to simply
drive to Centralia, not to mention the fact that you can leave and return whenever you want to, instead of relying on the limited schedule offered
by Amtrak. But yeah, the train is much more fun and is a great way to visit this unexpected gem of a downtown along the I-5 corridor.

We've also done the day trip thing to Kelso...not as nice as Centralia but the Amtrak station is centrally located and there's enough stuff to do/see/eat
to occupy a few hours.

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