Amtrak Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to San Francisco

Jason Daniel Shaw

Amtrak Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to San Francisco

Coast Starlight – Amtrak

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight is a train adventure that runs the west coast of the United States, from Los Angeles to Seattle.  While train travel has lost a lot of its popularity due to the reduction in cost and increased convenience of air travel, it can still be a lot of fun to experience.  The Coast Starlight is one of the most scenic routes that Amtrak offers.  We decided to make the trip from Los Angeles to Oakland (San Francisco) over the Thanksgiving weekend aboard the Coast Starlight.

Beach Train Trip Amtrak Coast Starlight

Union Station – Los Angeles, CA

Union Station in Los Angeles is like stepping into the past with its beautiful architecture dating back to the 1930s.  It is a great place to take photographs, even if you aren’t taking a trip.  We arrived a little early to do just that – and to make sure that we got a good seat.  We weren’t sure how busy the train would be but had heard that the Thanksgiving holiday was the busiest time of year for train travel.  The station itself was pretty busy but not the crazy crowds that we were expecting.  This may have been in part to us traveling on Thanksgiving Day.  After making a quick stop at Starbucks and getting our seat assignments, we made our way to the tracks.

Coach Class Car – Amtrak Coast Starlight

Since we already had our seat assignments (picked up in the main terminal), once the train arrived on track 10, we were able to be among the first to board the train.  We found our seats on the upper deck, dropped our bags and made our way to Lounge Car to claim some seats with giant panoramic windows.  The coach class seats are great, though.  They are as big, if not bigger than, a first class seat on an airline and have two seats on each side of the train with an aisle down the middle.  We had requested and been assigned seats on the upper deck and on the left side (west views) of the train. That way, we were sure to see the beaches as they passed by our window.  However, for the entirety of the daylight hours, we spent our time in the Lounge Car.

Lounge Car – Amtrak Coast Starlight

We made sure to get to the Lounge Car as soon as we could so that we could claim the best seats on the left side of the train.  Soon after, the rest of the lounge car filled up.  This was our camp for more of the trip.  We settled in, did some reading, work on the laptop, ate some snacks and enjoyed the scenery as the world scrolled by the windows.  The Lounge Car is special because of the giant panoramic windows that cover the entire walls and even wrap onto the ceiling.  If only airplanes adopted the same concept…

Dining Car – Amtrak Coast Starlight

We opted to eat snacks and grab something from the snack bar in the Lounge Car during lunch.  However, since we were traveling on Thanksgiving, we decided to splurge and have our Thanksgiving dinner in the dining car.  As the dining staff made their rounds around the cars, we made our reservations for 6:15PM.  The Dining Car is similar to the Lounge Car but the booths that line either side are filled family-style.  If you are a party of two, you are seated with one or two others.  This is a great way to meet some of your fellow train riders.  It is also a great way to have a nice, private, romantic dinner with another couple that you have never met.  The food is average, the portions a little small and price a little too big.  But, it was worth it for the experience.

California Coast – Amtrak Coast Starlight

The views that go by the window are some of the best that you can find on a train anywhere in the world.  During our leg, we made our way through the San Fernando Valley and out to the coast around Oxnard and Ventura.  We then headed up the coast, cruising along the beaches of Santa Barbara before getting to some remote beaches on the central coast near Lompoc.  Just north of here we turned inland again, through the farmland of the central valley.  We were lucky to get a beautiful sunset as we approached northern California.  Our final stop was Oakland (Jack London Square Station) where we were able to catch the BART into San Francisco.  It was a great new way to travel to San Francisco.  This has sparked our desire to travel from Los Angeles to Seattle aboard the Coast Starlight so maybe that will be our next train trip.  If you have never taken a train trip, I would recommend it and I would highly recommend the Coast Starlight.  Let me know here or over on Instagram if you have a favorite train route.

Stay tuned for the rest of our trip, including, a rainy visit to San Francisco, our first trip to Napa Valley (in the fall), hiking Alamere Falls at sunset and exploring Marin County.

Coast Starlight Views

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