View Full Version : SoCal by train?? Opinions, please!

09-07-2006, 08:25 PM
Alright guys, I need some input. We are doing 8 days in SoCal next month (!)
Flying into LAX, staying in Hollywood 2 nights, then going down to San Diego for 2 nights and then back up to Anaheim for 4 nights. We have reserved a car, but the thought of driving in and around L.A. really intimidates DH and I.

I looked at Amtrak.com and we can take a train from Union Station(which looks to be a short cab ride from our hotel in Hollywood, down to San Diego. Then when we are done in San Diego, we can take the train to Anaheim. SO, this plan would rely on a few taxi rides, namely from LAX to the Renassaince Hotel and then in San Diego we would need to take a cab from the train station to our hotel. And lastly, from Anaheim to LAX to fly home. And a few cab rides in between to get to certain sights we want to see, but not major trips.

The way I figured the cost of car rental, gas and parking fees versus the cost of the train tix and cab rides, we are going to come out pretty much the same either way. I know we may be a little limited as far as exploration, but I think the fact that we won't have to deal with the notorious traffic will be worth it.
SO, anyone ever toured SoCal in a similar fashion? Any locals have any tips, advice? Any cautionary tales? I want to hear anything you guys have to say.
Please help!!!

09-07-2006, 09:00 PM
Don't know what cabs out here charge, but it's a long ride from LAX to Hollywood and from LAX to Anaheim. A one-way from LA to San Diego will run about $25 per person. It would seem to me that renting a car for a week, even though you may have to deal with traffic, might be cheaper in the long run, especially if you check for good deals.

09-07-2006, 09:19 PM
:wave: My DH and I went to San Diego and Anaheim (Disneyland) last year about the same time period you're going. We flew into San Diego and stayed in San Diego , took Amtrak up to Anaheim, and then returned to San Diego via Amtrak (we did not go to LA, but I know that was only a few stops from the Anaheim stop, so it would be the same train). This was one of our favorite trips, in large part because of the train. We did not rent a car at all during our trip and we did not feel we missed out on anything except the Wild Animal Park in San Diego.

I don't know where you're staying in San Diego, but our hotel was downtown and it was only a $5.00 cab ride from the hotel to the train station. Actually, on the return trip, we actually walked (with our luggage) back to the hotel from the train station (about 10-15 minutes). In San Diego, we took public transportation everywhere (again, our hotel was downtown). We bought a 3-day tripper pass ($12.00 pp last year). We were able to get to the Zoo/Balboa Park (one bus ride; app. 10-15 minutes), Sea World (trolley line, then one bus; total travel time app. one hour), and Old Town (trolley line). The only attraction we would have liked to have seen was the Wild Animal Park, but that was not really do-able with public transportation (it would have taken a couple hours to get there!!). Although I had budgeted money for taxis, we didn't need any except to/from airport with luggage and one-way to train station. For us, the public transportation was really great! For Coronado Island and some other sites, we purchased a one-day "Old Town Trolley Pass", which was expensive (about $40 pp), but it allows several on/off stops throughout the day at various locations throughout the San Diego area :thumbsup2

After three days in San Diego, we took our first ever Amtrak ride up to Anaheim. Recommendation: If at all possible, try to take a train scheduled for late afternoon/early evening. We hadn't planned this purposefully, but it was so beautiful to take the train all the way up the coast with the sun setting over the Pacific!! :thumbsup2 We had decided to pay the extra $11 to sit in business class and the car was totally empty. It was really a great experience!! I think it took 2-3 hours to get up to Anaheim, but we had such a great time that the train ride was an event in and of itself.

Be forewarned: We arrived at the train station in Anaheim in the evening and that was a tiny bit alarming. I had assumed there would be lots of taxis outside the train station, but it is really just a huge (and empty and not very well-lit) parking lot which is not around any public areas. We had to call for a taxi and had no problems at all (taxi took about 20 minutes to come), but I just wouldn't be walking around outside. Maybe this is a really safe area, but we just weren't expecting it to be so lacking in people, so we felt a little bit on guard.

All the hotels in Anaheim are only a very short distance from the train station, although our taxi ride cost $20-25 one way to the Sheraton Anaheim(sorry, I don't know where in the Anaheim the Sheraton was - a few blocks from Disneyland). Again, we did not rent a car in Anaheim, but we also did nothing except go to Disneyland/DCA/Downtown Disney, so I don't know anything about the public transportation there (we walked from the hotel)

After Anaheim, we again returned to San Diego via Amtrak (train station not-so-scary in the daylight). The only thing I might mention about Amtrak: While we had the whole business-class car to ourselves on the way to Anaheim (in the late day/evening), it was very full on the return trip to San Diego (early afternoon weekday). Again, we had business class seats, but DH and I could not find seats together until several stops from Anaheim. I saw in the regular (non-business class) cars that the seats were packed!

Again, this was one of our favorite trips ever and we thought the train was fun and the sunset was beautiful! We didn't stress out too much that we couldn't sit together on the train from Anaheim, but if you have a family, that might be of concern :confused3 We really didn't miss having a car (and probably enjoyed our trip more not having to think about parking, navigating, etc.). Again, I have no idea about LA.

Have a great time. If you have any questions you think I can answer, just let me know!! :wave2:

09-07-2006, 09:38 PM
Thank you so much mtrak for the incredibly detailed post. This is exactly the kind of information I am looking for. I was most concerned with how we would get around in San Diego, but it sounds like it may not be as difficult as I thought. If you don't mind me asking, which hotel did you stay at in San Diego? It sounds like it was in a great location!
Our plans for San Diego include Seaworld one day and then another day for general sightseeing. The hotel we have booked now is in Old Town, but this is the only hotel we haven't paid for on our trip, so I could easily switch hotels if needed.

09-07-2006, 09:55 PM
We stayed at the Westin Horton Plaza :woohoo: in San Diego (which we had gotten for $100 on priceline.com), which was about one block from the bus line and the trolley line. I think I remember that there were lots of different hotels downtown.

However, if I remember correctly (please don't depend totally on my memory :rolleyes: ), you might not be in too much trouble if you stay in Old Town, as long as you're within walking distance of the trolley line. If you're planning on Sea World one day, I'm pretty sure that we had to take the trolley line to the Old Town stop anyway and then switch to a bus to Sea World. If you stay in Old Town (depending on where in Old Town), you'd only have to grab the bus to Sea World, cutting off 15-20 minutes of the journey. Also, if you're planning your second day for general sightseeing, it would only be one trolley ride to get into downtown from Old Town. From downtown, you would take the bus to the Zoo/Balboa Park, or you'd be in walking distance to the waterfront (i.e. Maritime Museum). OR, that "Old Town Trolley" I wrote about in the previous post might be perfect for your second day, albeit pricey. I know that one of the pick-ups/stops is in Old Town itself, so you could grab it in the morning and then spend the day at a few of the places it stops (i.e. Coronado Island, San Diego Zoo, Maritime Museum). In reality, this "Old Town Trolley" (not to be confused with the regular public transportation trolley) ends its run at about 4 p.m. - 5 p.m., so even if you catch it in the morning, you would probably only have time to see 2-3 sites at most in a one-day period.

You may have checked already. but the San Diego public transportation system has a pretty good website (you can enter your starting and final destinations and it will tell you the buses/trolley to take), which is how I discovered that it would be possible to visit San Diego without a car!

Again, don't rely totally on my memory, but this trip was so much fun for us that the details have tended to stay fresh in my mind, so just ask if you have any more questions... :wave:

Another Voice
09-08-2006, 11:24 PM
If I can add a few things (I regualry commute on the Surfliner to Hollywood and to San Diego).

If you’re staying at the Hollywood Renaissance hotel there is a Metro Station right next door at the Hollywood and Highland complex. The Red Line will take you right to Union Station; there’s no need for a taxi at all. The Metro stop connects directly to the under track tunnels that lead to all the other trains. There aren’t a lot of signs so be sure to ask someone for the right track. Sometimes there is a “Pacific Surfliner” sign at the tracks, but it’s not a sure thing.

If you have any extra time, the station waiting area itself has been restored and looks great. It’s been featured in a lot of period movies. Olvera Street – the original pueblo were Los Angeles started, is right across the street.

The Amtrak ‘Pacific Surfliner’ goes from Los Angeles down to San Diego (many trains actual start up north in Santa Barbara). If you’re interested in just going from LA to Anaheim, Metrolink offers a cheaper and more frequent “commuter” service (personally I like Amtrak and business class).

The trip from L.A. to Anaheim is not the most scenic (okay, the phrase “urban blight” comes to mind), but once the train passes Irvine and San Juan Capistrano it’s one of the best routes in the country. The rails are right on the coast and the beach. When I take the route early in the morning I can usually see pods of dolphins out in the waves – almost like they're elbowing for room with the local surfers.

The Santa Fe Station in San Diego is right in the middle of downtown. It serves as the hub for the city’s light rail network. It is very close by (walking distance without baggage) to the harbor, Sea Cliff Village, Horton Plaza, the Gas Lamp District and all the hotel serving those areas and the convention center. It’s also only a few miles away from Old Town. Some trains make a stop at the Old Town station, but I don’t remember seeing any hotels there. The main station is also just two blocks away from the ferry to Coronado Island.

The station in Anaheim is in the parking lot of Anaheim Stadium. Besides Disneyland it also used as a park-n-ride facility for the commuter trains. There is usually a cab or two waiting, but as the mtrak17 wrote, they are always available for call.

There are several cheaper ways from Anaheim back to LAX than a taxi – large busses stop by most of the large hotels on a scheduled basis; cheaper shared ride “shuttle vans” are also available from any location.

09-09-2006, 02:03 AM
I have taken the Amtrak train (Surfliner) between L.A. and San Diego many times, and Another Voice offer good advice.


09-09-2006, 10:16 AM
The station in Anaheim is in the parking lot of Anaheim Stadium. Besides Disneyland it also used as a park-n-ride facility for the commuter trains. There is usually a cab or two waiting, but as the mtrak17 wrote, they are always available for call.

Ohhh...that's what it was....As I said, it was dark outside. We walked outside and couldn't figure out why this little train station was in the middle of a massive parking lot! :teeth:

We so enjoyed riding the train during the sunset...I can't imagine how great it would be to see dolphins in the morning, as you do! I feel like that train route is almost a secret to those of us not living in California and who are visiting as tourists (so many people rent cars and would therefore miss the beauty of it...). As I mentioned, we were looking at the train as a means of transportation and it was therefore a wonderful surprise for us! :goodvibes

09-09-2006, 01:50 PM
WOW, thanks for all the advice to everyone on this thread! I'm going to print it out to use as a reference. I didn't know Olvera St was across from Union Station, we will definately make plans to check it out. I visited Olvera St on my first and only California trip 20 years ago, so it will be very nice to go back with my own kids. (DD12 will be the same age I was when I went)
Another Voice, thank you so much for all the great tips.
Mtrak17, you really have me looking forward to this train ride. When you said the train was an event in itself, that's exactly what I was hoping for! Neither DH nor the DD's have ever been on a real train (unless you count the train at Magic Kingdom! LOL) so it has really given us something more to look forward to.
Thanks for the tip about taking the Metro to Union Station. We are planning on taking it to Universal, but didn't know how weird we would look carting our luggage on the subway!
Again, thank you all for all your very valuable information, I knew I could count on the DisBoards for friendly, constructive advice :thumbsup2