Here’s how to see Northern California while keeping your carbon footprint minimal

A bike group make its way down a road in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta a few years ago near Clarksburg.
A bike group make its way down a road in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta a few years ago near Clarksburg.

Need to get away? Here are weekly tips on places to visit outside the Sacramento area.

For the environmentally concerned among us, traveling can pose a tricky challenge.

An amazing trip can transform a life and expand our worldview, which is why millions of us across the globe get in planes, boats or cars each day to visit some place we’ve never been to before. At the same time, the carbon that same trip produces can add to climate change effects that threaten many of the unforgettable beaches, mountains and forests we flock to, not to mention the cities and towns where we live.

Is the answer then to stay put? Human wanderlust would most likely win out, environmental concerns aside. The good news is that options abound for more environmentally sustainable travel, especially within California, and especially for those not in a rush to get to their destinations.

One popular option is Amtrak and its routes up and down California and across the country. According to Amtrak, its trains are 12 percent more efficient energy-wise than airline travel and 33 percent more efficient than car travel.

One of the loveliest West Coast routes is the Coast Starlight, which runs from Los Angeles to Seattle via Sacramento, once a day heading north and once going south. The trip itself is a big part of the draw, with the glass-topped Sightseer Lounge Car offering passengers an awesome view of Mount Shasta, the Cascade Range and the Pacific Ocean. The trip from Sacramento to Seattle takes about 20 hours.

Another line, the San Joaquins, connects Sacramento with Bakersfield through Central Valley cities, passing by the state capital twice a day going each way.

Heading into the Bay Area on the Capitol Corridor can actually save passengers a few minutes during rush hour, with the ride from Sacramento to Oakland taking less than two hours. The train also stops at some of the busiest tourist destinations in the Bay Area, such as the Fourth Street shopping district in Berkeley, Jack London Square in Oakland, the Oakland Coliseum and downtown San Jose. San Francisco-bound passengers can switch to BART at the Richmond station.

Once in San Francisco, the Orchard Garden (466 Bush St., 844-332-5240) near Union Square is the first hotel in the state built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council. Run by a Singapore-based company, the Orchard Garden also offers a modern Asian feel in the heart of the city.

Closer to Sacramento, travelers can see the Delta by bike either on their own or as part of an organized tour such as one offered by the Valley Spokesmen Bicycle Club. With its relatively flat topography, the Central Valley is an ideal spot in general for bike tourism, whether it’s up to Winters and beyond, into Napa Valley wine country or along the American River Parkway.

Finally, for international travel, those with a lot of time to spare can try crossing the ocean on a container ship. Passengers needs to book months in advance and the trip can take weeks to reach points in Asia, Australia or Europe, but it’s an opportunity to see the world in a one-of-a-kind way on board a working cargo ship. More information is available at

As a Bay Area couple who did just that from the U.S. to Japan wrote, “It was a surprisingly fun trip: The people were nice, the accommodations were comfortable, and the views were beautiful. We have a new appreciation for how incredibly massive the Pacific Ocean is, crossing it mile by mile at ground level.”

Jazz by the bay

What: Jazz Bash by the Bay brings together classic jazz, ragtime, swing and blues. Hear the Ellis Island Boys from Santa Ana and the High Sierra Jazz Band.

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, March 3; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 4; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, March 5

Where: The Portola Hotel and Spa, 2 Portola Plaza, Monterey

Cost: $45 to $60 day pass; $105 all-event access


Mardi Gras

What: San Diego’s nationally recognized Mardi Gras celebration features an over-the-top parade, live music, beads, dancers and the Voodoo VIP lounge.

When: 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday, Feb. 28

Where: Historic Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego

Cost: $40 general admission; $95 VIP lounge. This is a 21 and older event.


Spring art show

What: Sip something sweet from Ironstone Vineyards and peruse fabulous local art at the Spring Obsession Art Show.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 4, and Sunday, May 10

Where: Ironstone Vineyards, 1894 6 Mile Road, Murphys

Cost: $25


Jessica Hice