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7 Best Train Rides Leaving From Los Angeles

There is nothing like riding the rails. Train rides are enjoyable experiences for everyone, no matter what age they are. With the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles traffic, you may not realize there are many day trips and vacations you can access by train while getting to experience the Southern California scenery like never before.  

Trains are a great option to leave the stress and worry behind for a while, whether you make a date out of it, go as a family, or treat yourself to some alone time. Here are the seven best train trips from Los Angeles!

1. Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a great trip for anyone wanting to enjoy a train ride and explore the city. 

It’s around a three-hour ride from LA, making it a great option for anyone who wants a quick getaway. There are many things to do, including visiting the harbor, zoo, coastal park, maritime museum, and wineries. There are also several tour options.

Hike along the Cold Spring Tavern to experience a piece of history while enjoying nature. Ride along the beach on the Cabrillo Bike Path or enjoy the sand and greenery at Shoreline Park. The Museum of Natural History has various artifacts and specimens from several fields of science, from paleontology to astronomy. 

You can choose between Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner or Coast Starlight Trains to get there. Both have daily routes from LA to Santa Barbara that allow you to enjoy a day and night in the city before returning home the next morning. 

This is a great option for anyone who wants to try out a train trip, as the Starlight can get you to Santa Barbara in under two hours. 

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2. San Diego

There’s so much to do in San Diego, and it is just a train ride away. 

You can ride a Pacific Surfliner train from Los Angeles, which provides an inexpensive option to enjoy the harbor, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, the USS Midway Museum, and the shops at Seaport Village. The city is also known for concerts and festivals you can plan your trip around. 

Your train experience doesn’t end when you arrive in San Diego. You can view the county through the COASTER commuter rail line. Take the ferry to Coronado Island or visit SeaWorld to view Mission Bay’s watersports activities. 

Expand your knowledge by visiting the hands-on exhibits during an Old Town San Diego tour. Walk along Point Lorna to get great views of the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay. 

The commute is around four hours one way, allowing you to relax and enjoy the views before exploring the city. 

Photo By – Times of San Diego

3. San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo is a charming town you can easily access via the Pacific Surfliner, making it an ideal Los Angeles train ride.

Enjoy the beautiful scenery on the five-hour journey before dinner at Tacos de Acapulco or the Big Sky Cafe, which provides world-famous farm-to-table cuisine. 

You can take a car along the scenic coastline via Route 1 before enjoying old-school entertainment at the Sunset Drive-In movie theater. 

Something you won’t find anywhere else is Bubblegum Alley. This unique walkway takes chewing gum litter and turns it into art pieces you can admire even if you get a little grossed out. 

You can walk around the quaint town and indulge in a glass of wine before hitting the open trails to walk or bike. 

Photo By – Winetraveler

4. Travel Town Railroad/Griffith Park & Southern Railroad

The Travel Town Railroad is one of two miniature railroads in Griffith Park. This tiny train takes riders around the perimeter of the Travel Town Museum twice and is a fun activity for families. 

The 45-year tradition provides an enjoyable ride through scenery before allowing you to explore dozens of historic train cars. 

The Griffith Park & Southern Railroad is a similar locomotive at the museum that takes riders along a one-mile route through a forest in an old western town. The museum also hosts a T-6 simulator for all ages to try. 

Both trains operate through a holiday light festival each year, allowing you to ride the rails and get into the holiday spirit. 

You can access this train ride without leaving LA, as the museum is located right outside Glendale.

Photo By – Discover Los Angeles

5. Grover Beach

The best train trips in Los Angeles offer something for everyone. Grover Beach is an excellent community for families, with a great beach, nature preserve, and ATV rentals for riding the dunes. Head over to the Locked Inn escape room for some indoor entertainment. If you’re looking for a thrill, Skydive Prisma Beach is an opportunity to freefall with amazing views. 

Grover Beach is a stone’s throw away from San Luis Obispo, and you can access it via an Amtrak train that makes daily stops in the area from LA. 

Check out the Monarch Butterfly Grove to see these winged beauties from late October through February. Afterward, visit the Monarch Grove Winery for a toast. 

Be sure to stop by Doc Burstein’s Ice Cream Lab, where you can enjoy traditional and unique flavors. You can also learn about the ice cream-making process through its creamery tour. 

The trip is around four hours one way, and you should plan to stay at least one night, as the return train to Los Angeles departs around 7:15 AM.

Photo By – California Beaches

6. Paso Robles

Wine lovers should consider taking a relaxing train ride to Paso Robles. The city is home to over 200 wineries and offers shuttles and tours, making it a great destination for couples. 

When the sun goes down, you can enjoy a romantic walk through the Field of Light at Sensorio, a breathtaking outdoor art experience.

There are several museums throughout the area where you can learn about its rich history. Paso Robles is also home to various farms that offer tours and workshops, allowing you to embrace local agriculture. 

Margarita Adventures offers many outdoor activities, including horseback riding, zip lining, wildlife excursions, and kayaking tours. To enjoy the local vineyards and other sites, consider renting a car and seeing the sights along Route 46 East. 

If you enjoy time on the green, visit the Hunter Ranch Golf Course to play a relaxing round. 

You can take the 6 ½ hour trip from LA via the Coast Starlight train, and you should plan to stay at least one night as there is no same-day return trip.

Photo By – Travel Lens

7. Bay Area

If you want to indulge in the state’s landscape, you can enjoy a 12-hour ride north on the Coast Starlight to the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Once you travel from LA to Oakland, you can visit the Oakland Zoo, Children’s Fairyland, and the Chabot Space & Science Center. You can catch the ferry from Oakland to San Francisco, which offers almost limitless activities. 

You can visit and observe various art forms throughout the city. Head to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art or the Exploratorium for interactive exhibits. See sights like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, or take a photography tour to capture amazing images to remember. 

You can also stroll through the botanical gardens or ride cable cars through the city. Visit Twin Peaks to get an excellent view of the entire city.

Photo By – Visit California

For more staycation and trip ideas, check out our travel page to find your next destination!