Here’s your daily travel guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State. Each of these essential California adventures has been tried and tested by a Travel section staffer or contributor.
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Why: These are the best Amtrak miles in California.
What: Yes, Amtrak can take you all the way from San Diego to Seattle on its Coast Starlight route. But it's between San Luis Obispo and San Diego that most of the coastline happens. The Pacific Surfliner route takes about nine hours if you stay aboard the whole way, but you might want to pick a shorter portion of the trip, focusing on, say, the rugged beaches of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, or the upscale shoreline in southern Orange and northern San Diego counties. (Near downtown L.A. you'll get a dose of heavy industry and a river encased in concrete.)
The stations are part of the thrill too. The mustard-hued Santa Barbara station along State Street is a handsome piece of Spanish Colonial architecture that was well-restored several years ago. L.A.'s Union Station is a marvelous collision of Spanish Colonial and Art Deco. Since 2014, Anaheim has sported a station that's all glinting metal and provocative curves. The San Juan Capistrano station is splendidly mission-adjacent. And one day, management of San Diego's Santa Fe station will realize it's time to spiff up the awkward, faded interior to match its grand old Mission Revival exterior.
Where: From Santa Fe Station, 1050 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, it's 124 miles northwest to downtown L.A.'s Union Station, 800 N. Alameda St. From there, it's 95 miles northwest to the San Barbara Amtrak Station, 209 State St., and 189 miles northwest to the San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station, 1011 Railroad Ave.
How much: A one-way adult fare from San Luis Obispo to San Diego on the Pacific Surfliner costs $61; business class, $92. Between Los Angeles and San Diego, $37; business class, $56.
Info: Amtrak Pacific Surfliner