Weekend Picks: Fairmont Gingerbread House and Holiday Markets Galore

November 24, 2015

San Jose Harvest Festival: 11/27-11/29, San Jose

Get a head start on your holiday shopping while supporting independent craftspeople and artists at the San Jose Harvest Festival. Taking place at the San Jose Convention Center on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the event will feature unique gifts, live music, holiday performers, and more. You can purchase tickets online or at the door, and one ticket is good for all three days of the event. To get there, take the Capitol Corridor to the San Jose station, which is less than a mile from the Convention Center. For public transit options, check out Google Maps.

Crocker Holiday Artisan Market: 11/27-29, Sacramento

Modern art aficionados will enjoy perusing the Crocker Holiday Artisan Market, where exhibitors will find unique, high-quality pieces and gifts including glass works, painting, jewelry, ceramics, woodworking, fiber arts, metallurgy, and more. Jointly hosted by the Sacramento Creative Arts League and the Crocker Art Museum, this free event will take place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Scottish Rite Center, located at 615 H Street in Sacramento. To get there, take the train to the Sacramento station, and you’ll be a couple of blocks from the venue.

Fairmont Gingerbread Open House: 11/28, San Francisco

On Saturday, make your way to The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco from 11am to 3pm for the kick-off of the annual Gingerbread Open House, a holiday celebration highlighted by the opening of a giant gingerbread house. Constructed from thousands of home-baked ginger bricks and over a ton of icing, the gingerbread house will stand more than 22 feet high and 23 feet wide and feature beautiful candy embellishments. Taking place against the backdrop of the Fairmont’s exquisite holiday decorations, the family-friendly festivities will also include holiday music, complimentary holiday refreshments, appearances from Santa Claus and other holiday characters, a pet-friendly Gingerbread Doghouse, and more. To get to The Fairmont, take the train to the Richmond or Oakland Coliseum station, where you can connect to BART. Take BART to the Montgomery station, which is a few blocks from the holiday fun.

Etsy Holiday Emporium: 11/28-11/29, San Francisco

Come out to Pier 35 on Saturday and Sunday and be prepared to shop ‘til you drop at the Etsy Holiday Emporium. From 11am to 5pm, you’ll have the opportunity to shop locally and support 180+ local artisans and food vendors while enjoying holiday music. With over 200,000 square feet of shopping space and a diverse array of offerings, this event is sure to have something to suit everyone’s fancy. To get there, take the Capitol Corridor to the Pier 39 stop, which is a short walk to Pier 35.

Cruise The San Francisco Bay and Experience Living History Aboard the USS Potomac

November 23, 2015


World War II veteran, Don Güt, and his companions from the Elk Grove Widow & Widowers Social Club snagged the premier spot aboard Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential yacht, the USS Potomac, for the annual November 11 Veteran’s Day cruise on the San Francisco Bay. The group started out their day from the Sacramento Amtrak station and rode the Capitol Corridor to Jack London Square, where the Potomac has been docked and open to visitors since 1995.

Don Güt and his companions enjoy premier seating in the “fantail” section of the former presidential yacht.

Mr. Güt, a former torpedo man in the Navy, was one of about two dozen veterans who took to the water on the pleasant, cloudless Wednesday for the 2-1/2 hour cruise hosted by the Potomac Association. The non-profit organization operates the yacht as an active memorial to FDR and the momentous times through which he led our nation.


The Veteran’s Day Cruise is just one of many special events and sightseeing cruises available between May and November on the Potomac, which was originally built in 1934 as the Coast Guard cutter Electra. Visitors can also participate in docent-led dockside tours year-round on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays between 11am and 3pm, or charter the boat, dockside or on the bay, for private events.

The Perfect Way to Experience the San Francisco Bay
A cruise on the Potomac is one of the most pleasant ways to enjoy the San Francisco Bay. As the Potomac pulled out of the Oakland Estuary, blaring what is apparently the loudest horn on the Bay, many of the 119 passengers congregated on the top deck to get a good look at the Port of Oakland’s space-age cranes and the stacks of colorful shipping containers.


After passing under the Bay Bridge, the Potomac continued into the heart of the Bay. We sailed past Treasure Island and Pier 39, and alongside the WWII-built SS Jeremiah O’Brien docked at Pier 45 in San Francisco. Returning to Jack London Square, we were able to navigate within close proximity to the aircraft carrier USS Hornet docked at Alameda Point.

View of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco from the Potomac.
View of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco from the Potomac.

Tina Bachemin of Oakland joined the Veteran’s Day cruise last minute with a friend, but never knew the Potomac existed before that day. “It’s amazing that a place with such deep history is available so close to us, “ she commented as the 165-foot yacht glided under the Bay Bridge expanse. “The cruise has been very relaxing and educational; it’s a living history really.”

The Potomac makes it way from the Oakland estuary into the San Francisco Bay.
The Potomac makes it way from the Oakland estuary into the San Francisco Bay.

From Coast Guard Cutter to Presidential Yacht
It was in 1936 that the Potomac was converted from the Coast Guard cutter to the presidential yacht, allowing FDR to get away from the formalities of the White House, and, according to a docent, the White House chef whose meals didn’t exactly appeal to the 32nd president.

FDR was himself an excellent sailor and a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy. His deep love of the sea and naval tradition are reflected throughout the beautifully restored ship. With rooms carefully refurbished to depict their original décor as much as possible – including FDR’s small, modest stateroom, the wood-paneled wheelhouse, and the radio room from which the president addressed the American people during a fireside chat in 1941 – the Potomac is as much museum as leisure sailing vessel.

FDR's narrow and modestly-decorated stateroom.
FDR’s narrow and modestly-decorated stateroom.

A paraplegic since the age of 39, FDR’s greatest fear was being caught in a fire and unable to escape, so he chose the Potomac for its steel versus wood construction. A hand-operated elevator was installed inside a false stack on the ship so the president could use ropes and pulleys to move the elevator up and down between the saloon and upper boat deck.

Aboard the Potomac, FDR met with administration officials, cabinet members, foreign dignitaries, advisers, friends, and family as he worked through the problems of the Great Depression and the brewing international conflict. During a visit to the U.S. by England’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth – the first to the U.S. by a reigning British monarch – the royal couple joined FDR and Eleanor for a cruise down the Potomac River to Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon. Other royal visitors on the Potomac included Crown Prince Olaf and Crown Princess Martha of Norway, Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Ingrid of Denmark, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and Crown Prince Gustav of Sweden.

The guest room where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed on their visit.

Purchased by the “King of Rock n’ Roll”
When the U.S. entered WWII, FDR stopped using the Potomac regularly due to the increased pressures of leading the nation and growing concerns for his security. After FDR’s death in April 1945, the boat was decommissioned, and her story entered a far less romantic chapter.

Briefly returned to the Coast Guard, the Potomac spent about 10 years in Maryland before becoming a private ferry between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Later, when she was about to be junked, rock star Elvis Presley gave her another lease on life by buying and donating the boat to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

The Potomac’s later adventures included an attempt to turn her into a floating disco and being seized by the DEA for drug running in 1980. In a sorry state of neglect, she was impounded at Treasure Island in San Francisco and sank there a year later before being raised and sold at auction to the Port of Oakland, the only bidder, for a mere $15,000. Spearheaded by the Port, the Potomac was preserved and restored in a 14-year, $5 million cooperative effort by FDR’s son, organized labor, maritime corporations, and volunteers.

To this day, the Potomac is managed and maintained by a small staff and almost a hundred dedicated volunteers like Mike Torrey, a former stockbroker who works every Monday on the yacht, using his woodcrafting talent to restore the railings on the main deck and the paneling on the wheelhouse. Mr. Torrey was also volunteering on the day of the cruise, entertaining questions and sharing stories about the Potomac.

The wood-paneled wheelhouse on the Potomac features more original material than any other room on the boat.
The wood-paneled wheelhouse on the Potomac features more original material than any other room on the boat.

Easy to Reach from the Capitol Corridor
Docked in Jack London Square near the Port of Oakland, the Potomac is a short and scenic stroll from the Amtrak station where the Capitol Corridor stops. Jack London Square boasts a wide variety of excellent waterside restaurants (and a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream), so visitors can turn their visit to the “Floating White House” into a full day excursion that begins and ends with a relaxing train ride.

More info:
USS Potomac tours & cruises: www.usspotomac.org

Capitol Corridor routes & schedules: www.capitolcorridor.org

Weekend Picks: Holiday Ice Fun, San Francisco Tree Lighting, and Thanksgiving Farmers Market

November 18, 2015

Downtown Sacramento Holiday Ice Rink: 11/6/15 – 1/18/16, Sacramento

Grab your hats and gloves and make your way to downtown Sacramento for some frosty fun at the Holiday Ice Rink. The outdoor rink has been a holiday staple in Sacramento for more than 20 years, and thanks to its central location at the corner of 7th and K Streets, it’s the perfect stop before or after a day of holiday shopping or exploring downtown. The rink is open from 2pm to 8pm Monday through Thursday; 10 am to 10pm on Friday and Saturday; and 10am to 8pm on Sunday through January 18, 2016. Skates, lockers, gloves, and socks are available for rental. To get there, take the train to the Sacramento station, which is less than half a mile from the Ice Rink.

Tree Lighting Celebration at Pier 39: 11/21-11/22, San Francisco

Bring the whole family out to Pier 39 for the annual Tree Lighting Celebration, where you’ll enjoy holiday sing-alongs, interactive exhibits, appearances by Disney characters, and more courtesy of the Disneyland resort crew. Both days of the event will reach their apex as a beautifully decorated Christmas tree is lit in the Entrance Plaza at 6pm. On Saturday, take the Capitol Corridor to the Pier 39 stop, and you’ll be steps from the holiday fun. On Sunday, the Pier 39 stop will be closed due to the Urbanathalon, but you can get to downtown San Francisco by connecting to Bart at the Richmond and Oakland Coliseum stations. For public transit connections, check out Google Maps.

Jingle Fest: 11/21-11/22, Santa Clara

Head to the Santa Clara Convention Center for the third annual Jingle Fest, a free holiday craft fair that will feature artisan crafts including handmade jewelry, body care products, clothing, Christmas decorations, fine art, hand-crafted cards and albums, handbags, recycled textiles, chocolates, stationary, and more. Exhibitors looking to hone their own creative abilities will also have the opportunity to take part in a free crafting workshop. One of the largest craft fairs in the Bay Area, Jingle Fest will take place from 10am to 4pm on both Saturday and Sunday at the Santa Clara Convention Center. To get there, take the Capitol Corridor to the Santa Clara/Great America station, which is about half a mile from the Convention Center.

CUESA Thanksgiving Farmers Market: 11/22, San Francisco

Stock up on all the best fall produce for your Thanksgiving feast at the Thanksgiving Market put on by the CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) Mission Rock Farmers Market. In addition to the regularly featured 25 local farms, food crafters, and restaurants, the special Thanksgiving Market will include a smoked turkey cooking demo, a lacto fermented relish demo, a book signing and discussion of “Honoring Food Traditions and Establishing New Ones,” a work by local authors, and other educational activities. The market will be open from 10am to 2pm on Sunday, and is located across from AT&T Park at the corner of 3rd St. and Terry Francois Blvd. Take the train-bus connection to the SF Caltrain Depot station, and you’ll be just a couple of blocks from the venue.




Weekend Picks: Jack London Square Market, French Films, Bacon, and Beer

November 11, 2015


Whether you’re seeking unique crafts, foreign culture, or an opportunity to indulge this weekend, the Capitol Corridor is your way to a good time. More Weekend Picks: Jack London Square Market, French Films, Bacon, and Beer

Thanksgiving Travel Tips 2015

November 6, 2015


Here at Capitol Corridor, Thanksgiving is our busiest travel period, especially the Wednesday before and Sunday after. To ensure that your travel over Thanksgiving – and during the entire holiday season – is as comfortable and stress-free as possible, please keep the following holiday travel tips in mind: More Thanksgiving Travel Tips 2015