Northbound: Take the summer Adventure Train

A summer adventure out of North County could be cheaper than you think.

Last weekend, I finally had some time to take a day trip I’ve always wanted to make — San Clemente.

A small coastal town in south Orange County, San Clemente is home to three fantastic craft breweries (Artifex, Left Coast and Pizza Port), and accessible by rail. I’ve been meaning to take the train up from Carlsbad for some beer tasting with a friend, but it’s about $30 for a round trip Amtrak ticket on weekdays.

Not that great of a deal, considering I could drive up and spend less in gas. Weekends, however, are far more inexpensive.

Metrolink, a Southern California commuter rail agency, offers a $10 weekend pass across its network, which stretches from Oceanside (Oceanside Transit Center) to downtown Los Angeles (Union Station). Passengers can take as many stops as they’d like, all using the same ticket; trains leaving Oceanside leave as early as 8:15 a.m. and as late as 5:36 p.m.

I previously attempted to take the Metrolink this winter for a trip to LA, but missed my train due to a long line to purchase tickets at a ticket kiosk.

Little did I know I could have downloaded the Metrolink phone app for free, and made my purchase quickly and easily.

Upon boarding my train, I was surprised at the number of people I saw — particularly families with young children, departing for a short trip up north. I guess the word’s gotten out about this great weekend deal.

From Oceanside, it’s only a 20-minute ride to the San Clemente Pier station, which saddles the coast. Departing the train, I was immediately enthralled by the number of happy beach goers, enjoying the great weather and summertime fun. Everyone seemed to be swimming, surfing, and playing beach games.

It reminded me of an old trip I took to northern coastal Spain, to a small resort village near the French border.

I could have stayed in that moment forever. It was a perfect day.

We took my friend’s car to visit the breweries (she drove from LA), but Pizza Port — San Clemente is walkable from the train station, about a 15-minute walk. For craft beer enthusiasts, I recommend the Jon Solo IPA at Pizza Port, the Trigger Finger West Coast IPA at Artifex, and the Nuclear Chi Chis Grapefruit Session IPA at Left Coast.

Next time, I think I’ll take the Metrolink up to San Juan Capistrano — the train station is a block away from Mission San Juan Capistrano, which I’ve always wanted to visit, and some other interesting sites as well.

For a $10 roundtrip, it’s a great deal for North County residents, no matter where you go. For your next summer adventure, avoid the traffic, paid parking, and travel hassles, and take the Metrolink there!

Vince Vasquez is an economist based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.

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