Put together a travel itinerary for a One week trip to Attractions along Coast Starlight Amtrak, including:
According to past riders of the Coast Starlight Amtrak, the top advice to enjoy the train journey to the fullest is to keep an open mind, unplug and take in the beautiful views.
The stops along the trip each have their unique appeal. Paso Robles is bursting a the brims with quirky wineries, San Luis Obispo offers a unique chance to unwind in a natural spa, Santa Barbara is home to one-of-a-kind gardens and Oxnard is full of excellent restaurants serving fare from Korea to Brazil.
AMTRAK TRAIN RIDE
The most repeated tip in reviews of the Coast Starlight trip from past travelers is to keep an open mind, and relax. The train is sometimes late, it is very slow and the trip can get rocky — but that is part of the charm of traveling by train, most riders note.
"This is a train. It makes noises, it's tight and it jiggles. It takes hours to get where you're going. To make it fun, you have to think you are riding a train and not an airplane or a cruise ship," writes Charita K.
"Take the train at least once in your life, you'll most likely be glad you did. It's a slower pace of travel, with no standing in line for however long it is to be body scanned just to get somewhere else and your luggage is lost. The Coast Starlight is a cool way to travel as long as you are prepared for it and what that journey brings," adds Ray F.
Space is tight all throughout the train. First class' cabins are still very small, but some riders note they're worth it for privacy. However, passengers in coach said their seats reclined really far back and were comfortable.
It is advised to make reservations for dinner in the dining car - but keep an open mind as you may have to share your table, which may lead to meeting other travelers. "We also planned to have dinner in the Dining car. You have to make reservations and if you are two or three, keep in mind that they may add a person or two to your table as they did with us. We were seated with a very nice man that was traveling alone so he was very happy to have a conversation with us as were we," writes Charita K.
Some past riders have noted that bathrooms are small but clean, and showers have soap and towels. If you need more space, user Val G. notes that bathrooms in the cafe car are more spacious.
But above all, past riders advise to take the chance to relax and enjoy "doing nothing" during the train ride. Cell reception is spotty and WiFi signal is weak, so this may be the perfect time to unplug for a bit and enjoy the view.
"I enjoyed doing nothing but gazing out the window. Sceneries kept changing, through some natures, industrial area, residential area, farming area... although I missed the coast area as train was 3 hours late and by the time we passed the coast area, it was dark and couldn't see anything, I really enjoyed the views throughout. Most of all, bad cell signal and weak wifi, I didn't work at all. Not doing anything was very nice especially after having busy months at work," writes Yuko H.
WHAT TO SEE & DO: situated in the north of San Luis Obispo County, Paso Robles is one of the hearts of California's wine country — which makes a wine tasting a key experience to have (and Lonely Planet's top recommendation of what to do while in town).
There are plenty wineries and cellars to choose from, but for an interesting and unique experience, check out Sculpterra. This winery is surrounded by a quirky sculpture garden, adding an arty component to the tasting, which itself is different from others in the area: profits go to fund the owner's humanitarian efforts abroad.
Another great winery to check out, particularly if wine is not your drink of choice, is Re: Find. This distillery uses winery leftovers to make spirits, and you can taste vodkas, gins and whiskeys alongside wines.
Beyond wineries, Paso Robles also has an interesting attraction in Studios on the Park, an open-air exhibit center next to the main square where up to 15 local artists at any given time work and display their pieces.
WHERE TO STAY: Hotel Cheval is the top ranking hotel on TripAdvisor, and comes very recommended for couples. "We found this little gem about 6 years ago and having been coming once a year. What can we say ..... from the moment we checked in we felt right at home," writes user TexasGlowworm on TripAdvisor.
"The hotel is charming — from the living room style check in, to the patio with fireplaces and sitting nooks, to the library for a place to wind down, to the Pony Club and finally the rooms," adds Iha726.
WHERE TO EAT: Zagat's top recommendation for Paso Robles is Artisan, a creative fare restaurant by brothers Chris and Michael Kobayashi. Brunch comes especially recommended.
If you're more into fish and spicy food, don't miss Fish Gaucho, also recommended by Zagat, which takes inspiration from the West Coast and Baja Peninsula.
SAN LUIS OBISPO
WHAT TO SEE & DO: a buzzing college town, San Luis Obispo may not have much in the way of landmarks — but this may actually be a blessing in disguise, as you get to enjoy your day without feeling like you're missing out on any must-dos.
Just like the rest of the county, San Luis Obispo is brimming with wineries — but, unlike other towns around, it is also a popular town for breweries. Central Coast Brewing comes recommended by Thrillist, which notes that they have different beers on rotation, from "fresh, hoppy IPAs and bourbon barrel-aged smoked ales to crisp German-style lagers."
If you are in the mood for relaxing, Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa will welcome you with open arms and a wealth of hot tubs to soak and unwind. They get busy, so make sure to make a reservation online beforehand.
WHERE TO STAY: The Madonna Inn is the most recommended quirky hotel, and would make for an unforgettable stay. Its 100 rooms are all themed and on the kitschy side, and features an infinity pool, beach access, a steakhouse and cocktail lounge. It is on the higher-end side.
WHERE TO EAT: for a charming and intimate dinner, Novo is a great spot, with its imaginative and affordable menu and a wonderful patio overlooking the creek.
Koberl at Blue is another good option downtown, focusing on locally sourced ingredients blended into a creative American fare in a converted space in a historic building.
WHAT TO SEE & DO: Santa Barbara offers several unusual attractions that are open year-round, thanks the sunny and warm weather of the area.
One of them is Lotusland, a botanic garden just outside of town that includes a butterfly garden, exotic plants, a cactus garden and a topiary in the former estate of opera singer Madame Ganna Walska. Reservations in advance are required.
Once the home of a prominent immigrant family, Franceschi Park is now a house in decay and an unkempt garden with a good amount of charm and history, and spectacular views over the bay. Local legends say the house does not rest easy, which can turn the visit into a spooky trip.
WHERE TO STAY: The Simpson Inn comes recommended on Trip Advisor as a unique experience, with several rooms with differentiated ambiances and decor.
For a more affordable stay, the Harbor House Inn, right on the beach, is a great option at a lower price tag. Past guests noted the convenient location, as well as the individual and tasteful decor and great hosts.
WHERE TO EAT: La Super-Rica Taqueria boasts the medal of being Julia Child's favorite restaurant in America, and it is highly recommended if you are into Mexican food and don't mind waiting in line. It is very popular, but for a good reason.
For something different, try Sama Sama. This Indonesian-fusion restaurant is a little on the pricey side, but it is well worth it — particularly if you've had enough tacos this far into the trip.
WHAT TO SEE & DO: Oxnard is a town that lives on the water, making it the perfect spot to cram in some beach time. Silver Strand Beach and Mandalay are two of the best spots to soak in some sun.
If you'd rather experience the water in a more energetic way, consider a day of kayaking with Blue Ocean, where you will be able to experience the beaches from a different perspective.
If you are in the mood for a more cultural visit, the Carnegie Art Museum is one of the best in the area, showcasing local artists' work. If you're into cars, the Murphy Auto Museum and the Mullin Automotive Museum are worth checking out.
WHERE TO STAY: Oxnard seems to be less into boutique hotels, with its main offer being Courtyard by Marriott and Embassy Suites by Hilton.
If you would like a more unique experience, neighboring Camarillo's Bella Capri Inn, a boutique hotel downtown with 25 rooms each sport a different decor and ambiance.
WHERE TO EAT: Oxnard has a pleasantly surprising array of restaurants, representing a varied international cuisine.
Sura is the place to go not just in Oxnard, but in the whole of Ventura County, for authentic Korean fare. The menu is large and diverse, ensuring there will be something for everyone.
For a unique experience, check out Moqueca. This local institution is a highly popular spot, but for good reason — it serves great Brazilian food, focusing on Capixaba fare from southeast Brazil. The caipirinhas alone will make the experience worth it.
To wrap up, the best way to enjoy the Coast Starlight Amtrak trip is to sit back and enjoy the journey. Each of the stops along the way offers their own unique experience — from wine tastings to spooky houses, quirky hotels and restaurants specializing in international cuisines, from Mexican to Korean.