If you know anything about Los Angeles, you know that it’s an extremely car-centric city. The sprawling landscape doesn’t exactly make for walk-friendly adventures. However, if you find yourself in Los Angeles without a car and still want to go exploring for a day or two, consider a train trip!
There are cities all around California that are great spots to escape to by railroad. Oftentimes, your route also affords you a front-row view of the state’s beautiful scenery. If you’re looking for a classic California excursion, consider booking a ticket to these destinations perfect for taking a train from Los Angeles.
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2 hrs 25 mins
Santa Barbara is known to be a beautiful weekend vacation spot for LA locals. The quaint, beachy city has an air of relaxation that’s hard to pass up. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner or Coast Starlight train routes both run through Santa Barbara, which means there are plenty of trips available to fit with your schedule. Stearns Wharf is a scenic spot to visit on the water or check out the Santa Barbara Zoo if you’re feeling wild.
San Luis Obispo
A visit to SLO (usually referred to out loud as “slow”) will be worth a weekend trip if you’re a fan of picturesque scenery. The trip up on the Pacific Surfliner or Coast Starlight trains will be a feast for your eyes as you ride along California’s never-ending coastline. The breathtaking view of the ocean is an experience on its own, but the modest city offers plenty of activities like wineries, shopping, the quirky Madonna Inn, and a fun bar scene. (You also can’t forget Bubblegum Alley which is equal parts impressive and disgusting, IMO.)
San Diego is well worth the trip for anyone looking to explore Southern California. With San Diego County being the biggest county in the state, there are a ton of possible experiences you can have like baseball games at Petco Park or delicious eats in Little Italy. It also has a bustling nightlife scene with the Gaslamp Quarter, Pacific Beach, and Ocean Beach neighborhoods offering an array of bars and nightclubs. San Diego is also known as a hub for craft beer making it an ideal brewery hop locale.
Ventura is an easy destination to reach on a train from Los Angeles since it’s a part of the Metrolink system. For less than $2 you can get to the East Ventura Station to enjoy this quaint, oceanside city. Mission Basilica San Buenaventura is a draw for those looking to take in some California history, but Ventura’s real draw is their wineries and breweries. You can find tap rooms throughout the city to taste test some regional favorites.
9 hrs 30 mins
The Coast Starlight can take you on a train trip to this fun, California city less than an hour south of San Francisco. You can catch a concert or hockey game at the SAP Center, or visit the Municipal Rose Garden for a dose of nature. They’ve also got a vibrant brewery and bar scene great for those who like to mix and mingle in a casual environment.
While Pomona sits just outside of Los Angeles, it’s still a worthy destination to visit by train thanks to the numerous big events that occur there throughout the year. The Los Angeles County Fair happens at the Pomona Fairplex, attracting millions of people across Southern California. The Fairplex also hosts car shows, music festivals, and conventions throughout the year. The Fox Theater and Glass House are also notable concert venues that showcase a variety of live music acts. And the best part–you can get there in under an hour on the Metrolink.
6 hrs 30 mins
Hop on a train from Los Angeles to Paso Robles–an ideal wine country haven for someone looking to pop a view corks. Get your ticket for the Coast Starlight trip to take advantage of the 200+ wineries in the region. Make the most of the adventure by booking a wine tour, or embrace the scenery with activities like the immersive Field of Light art installation at Sensorio.
San Francisco and Los Angeles may be California’s most popular cities, but Sacramento’s title as the state capital makes it a great place for a historical visit. Explore Old Sacramento to learn about the Gold Rush or visit the California State Railroad Museum to really stay on theme with the trip. There are a ton of family-friendly museums, markets, and parks to visit, as well as the Sacramento Zoo. There are lots of ways to get there, but if you’re not in a hurry, the Coast Starlight is ideal as you’ll get ocean views and won’t have to stress about transfers.
2 hrs 45 mins
This iconic city is known for its 1960s architecture and sprawling, desert locale. But for Los Angeles locals, it’s the ideal weekend getaway. Consider taking the Amtrak Texas Eagle train from Los Angeles to Palm Springs to experience lots of shopping, drag brunches, and of course, plenty of sunshine. Book a hotel like The Saguaro or the Ace Hotel Palm Springs for plenty of onsite happenings. They also have a vibrant LGBTQ+ bar scene for those looking to dance the night away.
Of course we can’t leave San Francisco out of this list. The travel time will be worth it thanks to the Amtrak Coast Starlight’s impeccable views of California. You’ll get off in Oakland where you can explore local galleries and restaurants, or head straight into SF with a short rideshare drive. A clam chowder bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf will surely be calling your name along with taking a few snaps by the Golden Gate Bridge. Make sure to leave time for a quintessential picnic at Dolores Park, or go for a stroll through Golden Gate Park and visit the Conservatory of Flowers.