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It’s Not Just for Commuting 
A Daytrip Full of Great Food, Fantasy & Fun
Awaits Ladera Ranch Families at MetroLink
by Anne Mack 
      My stepmother works in Orange and commutes on the MetroLink, boarding the train at the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station on Forbes Road off Crown Valley just past the 5. 
      She parks for free and buys her tickets from the vending machine, which accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard, Novus Discover, and American Express, and ATM cards. 
      With gasoline over $2.60 per gallon, the cost of riding the MetroLink is competitive with commuting by car. But she also finds the ride very relaxing, saves wear and tear on her car, and helps to save the environment by conserving precious fuel and cutting back on sending hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. 
      Using the rails for commuting is how most people view the MetroLink, but it’s much more than that, which is a perfect segue into the purpose of this article. 
      If you are anything like my husband Tom and me, much anticipated Friday night brings with it the recurring question . . . what are we going to do this weekend with the kids? 
      Recently my husband and two children and I were eating dinner at a restaurant in San Juan Capistrano when we heard the whistle of the MetroLink train speeding through town. 
      Our 3-year-old son, Peter immediately became fascinated with trains and wanted to talk about them all the time (Peter is shown in the top photo gazing out the train compartment window while his father and I look on). 
      So we visited the MetroLink website and discovered it offers discounted weekend fairs and a variety of options for weekend train day trips to many Southern California attractions such as Museum Row on the Miracle Mile including the La Brea Tar Pits, California Science Center, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal City Walk and other fun attractions. 
      At first we thought we’d just take a ride up the track and back. Instead, we turned it into a family daytrip to Los Angeles that sounded like so much fun the entire family including my father and stepmother, and sister and her family joined in. 
      We boarded the 9:24 am train one Saturday for the hour ride to LA and Peter and his cousin Skylar Dehesa enjoyed watching the sites out the window especially from the passenger area upstairs. 
      We arrived at Union Station and, instead of transferring to our next train, we walked through the grand station to take in the old-world landmark, which features a mix of Spanish Revival and California Mission architecture, colorful wall and floor tiles, travertine marble, decorative murals and beautifully painted ceilings. 
      We headed a few blocks to another Los Angeles landmark -- Philippe’s, home of the original French dip sandwich, and enjoyed the beef French dip, pickled eggs, and pecan pie. 
      A quick walk back to Union Station and our MetroLink tickets gave us access to the Los Angeles Metro Rail subway to ride anywhere we wanted to go. We took a quick stop to some famous LA sites including the Hollywood sign, Grahman’s Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood and Highland complex.
      Next, our MetroLink tickets allowed us to take the Dash bus over to Exposition Park to visit the California Science Center where admission to the permanent exhibition galleries is free. If you’re with children under 7, you’ll want to stop by the Discovery Rooms in Creative World, World of Life and the Air and Space Gallery for hands-on learning exhibits. 
      The exhibit entitled: Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination, is appearing at the California Science Center now through April 29, and is sure to capture the enthusiasm of visitors young and old. The Science Center is open daily 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Visit the center website, californiasciencecenter.org, for more details and to confirm times. 
      After an action-packed day we went back to Union Station to catch our train back to Orange County. We made it to the train with a few minutes to spare and we settled in to our seats for the ride home, arriving at our station in the early evening, relaxed and satisfied from the day’s adventures. 
      As we made our way to the car, I asked Peter how he liked the day. He said he had a lot of fun at the Science Center, but his favorite part was riding on the train . . . and the chocolate milkshake we got at Hollywood and Highland. 
      We got everyone buckled into the car and by the time we hit Crown Valley, the kids were asleep. For more info on dozens of daytrip excursions, visit metrolinktrains.com. Links to other resources: CaliforniaScienceCenter.org, and Philippes.com
      (Anne Mack is Director of Communications for the Art Institute of California, Orange County, and an editorial advisor to this publication. She and her family and the others mentioned in this article all live in Ladera Ranch.)