In Fort Bragg, 170 mi/274 km north of San Francisco, you can ride the historic California Western Railroad, better known as the Skunk Train, so called because when the train ran in the 1800s, it produced a distinctive-smelling smoke that heralded its approach—fortunately, the smell is no longer a problem. Old-fashioned steam engines (as well as diesel and electric ones) pull the trains through some breathtaking mountain scenery, including redwood forests. http://www.skunktrain.com.
Once a booming lumber town, Fort Bragg offers several attractions, particularly in and around its lively downtown business district. There's the North Coast Brewing Company, a pioneering brewpub, and the excellent Grey Whale Inn, which is housed in an old community hospital. Take a drive down to the marinas to watch the fishing boats go in and out with their daily catch and to watch the sun go down while enjoying a cocktail.
Just south of town you'll find the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (http://www.gardenbythesea.org). Just north of town is MacKerricher State Park. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=436.
Several giant redwood parks are within a one-hour drive north and south of Fort Bragg. http://www.fortbragg.com.
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