A few weeks ago, my friend Garrick and I planned a trip up to Sacramento. It was a quick visit, just a few hours mid-day for lunch with our pal, Jenna. (Garrick and Jenna are also travel bloggers and we all talk online, but they hadn’t met in person yet.)
As we car-loving Californians often do, my first instinct was to drive. When Garrick suggested we take Amtrak, I balked at the cost of a day trip ($75 round-trip from San Jose), but I changed my mind when I considered the equivalent cost of traffic, tolls, and parking on that long drive. Also, I was excited by the idea of taking the train. I’m a big public transportation fan (which inspired the name, “Ever In Transit“) and while I admit to more often than not giving in to the convenience of my car, I prefer transit.
So, I bought a ticket to ride.
About the Capital Corridor
The Capitol Corridor is one of eight Amtrak routes that cross the state of California. The Capitol Corridor connects the San Francisco Bay Area (via San Jose and Oakland) to the California State Capitol, Sacramento. The line draws a lot of urban commuters, traveling between the two cities for meetings.
The double-decker trains have comfortable seats, tables to work at, and electrical outlets so you can charge your devices. The trains have wifi so you can work on the route.
Each train has a Cafe Car, and while it’s not quite as romantic as this poster…
It’s a comfortable place to order a snack, a coffee, or a beer.
Still, the best part of the trip were the views.
What You’ll See
Shortly after departing Downtown San Jose’s Diridon Transit Station, the Capitol Corridor passes through the City of Santa Clara and Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers.
FACT: Levi’s Stadium will host the Super Bowl in 2016, so visiting football fans should know that they can take Amtrak to Levi’s Stadium.
Just past Santa Clara, the train passes the southwestern tip of the San Francisco Bay. This area, known as the Alviso Slough, is a protected wetland habitat and home to migratory birds and local aquatic wildlife.
FACT: This Amtrak train is the only way to see the few remnants of the San Francisco Bay Area’s only ghost town, Drawbridge, California.
The Alviso wetlands were formerly industrial salt marshes and there are still a few active salt plants and massive piles of evaporated sea salt. Again, you can only see these facilities by taking the train.
As you head farther north, you pass through the City of Oakland, and see colorful graffiti art and the Port of Oakland’s massive cranes.
Further north, you pass along the Richmond waterfront toward Benicia, and cut inland under the Carquinez Bridge, along the Carquinez Strait.
Just before Benicia, you’ll pass the old C & H (California & Hawaii) Sugar Company factory.
Just past the C&H factory, look to the left to get a quick glimpse of the main street in Port Costa, California. I’ve never been there, but Garrick has written that the quirky port town is worth a visit.
At Martinez, the train heads north into Solano County through Fairfield, Davis, and finally Sacramento. I stopped taking photos at that point, because Garrick and I got lost in conversation–as bloggers do, discussing Pinterest, our recent travels, and industry gossip. By the time we finally reached Sacramento, I hopped off the train without my backpack and laptop. Luckily, I got back on just in time to get it back.
We had a great day exploring Sacramento (photos to come), but our Amtrak adventure was the highlight of the day. I look forward to exploring California by rail again very soon.
Photos from the trip home and sunset over the San Francisco Bay.
Amtrak California Travel Tips:
- Book your ticket in advance, popular routes do sell out.
- Check the Amtrak / Capitol Corridor website for sales and discount codes. Buy a California Rail Pass and get almost unlimited travel through the state within 21 consecutive days.
- Be prepared for delays. The Amtrak rails and right-of-ways are shared with other transportation systems and trains are often delayed. Bring something to read, and remember–at least you aren’t sitting in traffic!