Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner heads down the coast. Photo courtesy of Amtrak
Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner heads down the coast. Photo courtesy of Amtrak

7 Best Train Ride Day Trips To Take from Los Angeles

One of the best parts about living in Los Angeles is getting out of Los Angeles. With an unending supply of beaches, mountains, deserts, and historic highways just a short distance away from the city, there’s always an excuse for a day trip. But what are the options if you’re looking to leave cars out of the equation and travel by train to your favorite SoCal destination? Here are a few of the best spots Angelenos can get to by rail and still be home by bedtime.

Splash Mountain: Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer courtesy of Disneyland

Anaheim/Disneyland
What family doesn't want to visit the most magical place on earth? Thanks to the Amtrak Surfliner, it’s a breeze and so cheap you’ll have plenty of cash left over for Mickey Mouse hats and hand-dipped bars at Clarabelle's Hand-Scooped Ice Cream. But what if Disneyland isn’t your thing? No problem. Anaheim is still bursting with fun ways to spend the day. How about an Angels game or some skateboarding at Vans skatepark? Or let your inner circus performer out with a SwingIt Trapeze lesson? Instagram-worthy food is also on hand at the Anaheim Packing House, which promises meals the whole family can enjoy. And here's the best part — because Anaheim's so close, you can still be home in time to watch a little Disney Channel before bed. 
Train: Amtrak 
Travel Time: 45 minutes each way

Oceanside
Looking for a little beach life away from the traffic and crowding of LA beaches? A fun, seaside town full of SoCal charm, Oceanside makes it easy for you to make a day of it here, whether you want to hit the beach or not. So take a stroll through the picturesque Harbor Village, or take in the California Surf Museum, rent a bike right on the beach or do a little whale watching. Whatever you choose, you’ll feel like you've died and gone to beach bum heaven. And, if you want to take in the view before departing, head over to Hello Betty for some food and drinks on the rooftop lounge.
Train: Amtrak
Travel Time: 2 plus hours each way
 


Breakwater Way Beach in Oceanside. Photo courtesy of Visit Oceanside

San Diego
Our celebrated neighbor to the south San Diego is an ideal quick trip by train. Even better, there are two different day trips to be had here. For a little urban adventure, hop off at the Sante Fe stop near Downtown and enjoy everything from Balboa Park to the USS Midway Museum, or Padres baseball to the San Diego Zoo. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, take the ferry over to Coronado Island, or just stay close to the train station and enjoy the Gaslamp Quarter with 16 blocks chock-full of restaurants, bars, and shopping. If you’re looking for a chiller trip, take the train to Solana Beach, and soak in the SoCal vibes with a day at the races of Del Mar, or some surfing and paddle-boarding at Del Mar Shores, Fletcher Cove, or Tide Beach. Either way, San Diego has something for everyone, plus the good weather to guarantee you won’t get rained out.
Train: Amtrak Pacific Surfliner
Travel Time: 3 hours each way

Palm Springs
Hitting up Palms Springs for the day is a bit of a commitment, but if you dig desert living it's worth the effort. Once you've made the 2 1/2 hour journey, you'll want to be strategic. Still, there are plenty of fun activities to choose from. Check out the local zoo, or explore the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert. If you want to take in the view, try riding The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Consider strolling around the city’s historic downtown, which is full of cute shops and good food. For your little dino lovers, a trip to the Cabazon Dinosaur Museum will surely make you their favorite parent for a while. If you’re looking to extend your quick trip a day or two, there are countless hotels with cool pools the whole family will love.
Train: Amtrak
Travel Time: 2 1/2 hours each way
 


Get out and hike the beautiful Indian Canyons in Palm Springs. Photo courtesy of VisitPalmSprings.com

San Juan Capistrano
Slip back in time with a visit to this historic town and its legendary Mission San Juan Capistrano. This 200-year-old Spanish monument gives the family a chance to learn about their home state in the most hands-on way possible. The quaint town also offers a popular petting zoo and a charming tea house that will convince you that you’ve surely time traveled. If you're looking for a little coastal fun, walk down to Dana Point Harbor, known as the "Whale Capital of the West," and enjoy a family-friendly meal at the Harbor Grill.
Train: Amtrak
Travel Time: An hour plus each way

Santa Barbara
Another classic Surfliner jaunt, the Santa Barbara train ride takes about 2 ½ hours from Union Station, so you’ll want to get an early start. Once you hop off, you’ll be mere steps away from Paseo Nuevo, the city’s historic downtown. Full of restaurants, bars, shops, and shows, this part of the city makes it easy to amble away the day wandering its sunny streets. For the more adventurous, check out Stearns Wharf for some epic seaside views, and stop by the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company for the freshest seafood above the water. Stop by La Super Rica for some of the best tacos California has to offer. If you’re looking to explore the local sights, book a sustainable wine tour, or even charter your own yacht. Not bad for a day’s work.
Train: Amtrak Pacific Surfliner
Travel Time: 2 1/2 hours each way
 

MOXI's Build it, Test it, Race it exhibit has space for kids to build and race their own vehicle creations. Photo courtesy of MOXI/Visit Santa Barbara

Ventura County
The name of the game here is water, so you’re going to want to head down to Ventura Harbor Village as soon as you get there. Maybe have a bite to eat at Brophy Bros. Restaurant & Clam Bar before topping things off with a Coastal Cone of ice cream. Then it’s time to get wet, whether you want to pilot a duffy boat, rent a paddle boat, take a gondola ride or enjoy a bit of maritime history with the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, which will widen the eyes of any miniature shop lovers out there. Few SoCal towns are better at turning the ocean into some serious family fun.
Train: Amtrak Pacific Surfliner
Travel Time: 1 1/2 hours each way

 


Disneyland
1313 Harbor Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92802

California Surf Museum
312 Pier View Way
Oceanside, CA 92054

Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert
71701 Gerald Ford Dr
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270

Petco Park
100 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

Mission San Juan Capistrano
26801 Ortega Hwy
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
230 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Coastal Cone
1583 Spinnaker Dr #104
Ventura, CA 93001