Amtrak to Santa Barbara

California Dreamin'

Amtrak along the Pacific Ocean

Amtrak along the Pacific Ocean

Amtrak photo courtesy of Alex Mayes.

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Boarding Amtrak’s Coast Starlight at 6:30 a.m. for an 11.5 hour trip to Santa Barbara, I continue to repeat the mantra: “It’s not the destination, but the journey.”

Eleven hours may seem like a grueling amount of time to be on board a locomotive, especially when you can drive to Santa Barbara in roughly six, but with a dozen train rides under my belt, including a three-day voyage from Sacramento to New York, I like to think I’m somewhat of an Amtrak aficionado. Something about the chug-a-chug rhythm of the train swaying along the tracks and passing through our country’s back roads is cathartic, and not dealing with irrational drivers, outrageous gas prices, or stripping down for airport security provides a breath of fresh air, too.

If your wallet allows, I advise you book a room in the sleeping car (especially for lengthy or overnight trips). The complimentary meals in the dining car, fresh linen and towel service, and access to the Pacific Parlour Car – featuring Internet access via AmtrakConnect, daily wine and cheese tasting, plus a specialty coffee bar and onboard theater – is well worth the extra coinage.  

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