How to have an epic US west coast trip without a car


The Pacific Surfliner travels along the coastline in Del Mar, California. The Pacific Surfliner offers a unique vantage on the Southern California seascape connecting San Luis Obispo and San Diego through Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

The Pacific Surfliner sails along the coast in Del Mar, California. The Pacific Surfliner offers a unique view of the Southern California seascape, which connects San Luis Obispo and San Diego via Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. © Courtesy of Amtrak USA With officially designated scenic highways, big skies and wide open spaces, the

is easy to explore by car. But despite America’s obsession with automobiles, a visit here doesn’t have to be dictated by one. US west coast Sustainable travel is becoming a necessity rather than a beautiful thing. Whether you prefer not to drive for environmental or personal reasons or do not want to spend your vacation looking for a parking space,you may not realize that a wanderlust-worthy trip along the

Vancouver cityscape with mountains in the background

can reach many epic destinations car-free.

Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver is considered one of the greenest cities in North America and you don’t need a car to get around downtown. © Aolin Chen / Getty Images

Where to Stay in Vancouver Skwachàys Lodge Canada’s first indigenous art hotel,

, is a short walk or bus ride from Pacific Central train station. Rooms are stocked with eco-friendly toiletries, a gallery on the ground floor displays beautiful indigenous handicrafts, and stays support the Vancouver Native Housing Society’s social enterprise. To get between Vancouver and Seattle by train:The Amtrak Cascades train

People shopping at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington

hugs Puget Sound for most of the journey, and runs between Vancouver and Seattle twice a day. It is one of the most scenic routes on the west coast. The drive takes about 4.5 hours, and there’s WiFi, seat plugs, and a bistro car.

Seattle, Washington

Check out the Seattle foodie scene at Pike Place Market © cdrin / Shutterstock Seattle As entrepreneurial as it is eccentric, Pike Place Market is quite hip than it is the appeal of well-known corporate headquarters suggests. Make Gum Wall every year. Eat Seattle your first stop to get a taste of the city in all its glory. Quirky traditions come first, from the fish flying overhead to the 3,000 pounds of brightly colored goose bumps scraped off by the Space Needle.Fantastic chef-led tours are available that immerse yourself right in the heart - and stomach - of the market. The iconic is well worth a visit, even if you’ve thought about it before or want to write it off as too touristy: unveiled the world’s first and only rotating glass floor , 500 feet in the air, in 2018. Back on the ground floor is the Chihuly Garden & Glass Museum

, home of the artist’s most spectacular works of hand-blown glass.

Places to Stay in Seattle The State Hotel On the doorstep of Pike Place Market, King Street Station is in a prime location, making much of Seattle within easy walking distance, including the ferry dock and

, where Amtrak trains arrive.The building from 1904 was retrofitted with a bar on the roof with an unbeatable market view. How to get to Seattle and Portland by train: Four Amtrak Cascades run between Seattle and Portland in 3.5 hours. Amtrak’s daily Coast Starlight train,

Visitors stand on a bridge at Columbia River Gorge near Portland, Oregon

, begins its journey in Seattle and stops in Portland in approximately four hours.

Portland, Oregon

Portland A day trip from Portland to Columbia River Gorge is a must © rybarmarekk / Shutterstock Forest Park has long been the hipster hub of the PNW with endless spots for great coffee, craft beer and food truck grub, but what seems to be getting less press is how wonderfully wild huge parts of the city remain and how easy it is to explore without a car.Strolling the undergrowth at aptly named Columbia River Gorge feels more secluded than you’d expect on the outskirts of a town of nearly 650,000, and a day trip drooling over the falls at is an absolute must. Leave the logistics to Around Portland Tours

, which offers a walking and biking experience that is the best way to get an up-close look at this natural treasure.

Places to Stay in Portland KEX Across Burnside Bridge from Union Station in Portland is Iceland’s first US outpost , which opened in 2019. There are private and shared “Poshtel” rooms, a roof terrace and of course a Scandi-style sauna in the basement.

How to get between Portland and San Francisco by train: Hop on the Amtrak’s Coast Starlight and travel to California overnight. Book a sleeper car so that you arrive well rested. As a bonus, meals are included in the dining car. If you hook up buses to get to San Francisco from Emeryville and Oakland, you can take the BART, the Bay Area’s subway system.

View of Alcatraz down a steep street in San Francisco, California

San Francisco is a joy to explore on foot © NYC Russ / Shutterstock

San Francisco, California

Where to Stay in San Francisco

Hotel Emblem is in the heart of it all and just a short - and not too uphill - stroll from Powell Street BART station. It can also be reached by cable car.San Francisco’s quirkiness is infused into the core of the hotel through a beat-inspired bar; typewriters and in-room walls painted with quotes from Jack Kerouac.

How to get between San Francisco and Santa Barbara by train: From Emeryville or Oakland, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight continues south and arrives in Santa Barbara in about nine hours. The section between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara is probably the most scenic of the entire west coast trip, perfectly coordinated with the golden hour and the arrival at sunset. As you head south, take a seat on the right side of the observation cart and you will be taped to the window for hours.

View of Santa Barbara from Stearns Wharf

Santa Barbara has beautiful architecture and a perfect setting for postcards. © S.Borisov / Shutterstock

Santa Barbara, California

Picturesque Santa Barbara, filled with immaculately preserved Spanish colonial buildings, has a compact, pedestrian-friendly downtown area; and you can see the scene from the top of the mural-filled Moorish resurgence of 1929 . Santa Barbara County Courthouse. You don’t need wheels to get a taste of the wine country. Taste the best vino on Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail from more than 30 wineries set up in the city. The largest cluster is located in the Funk Zone, a central quarter of converted warehouses,that are adorned with street art and show the hippest side of Santa Barbara.

Places to Stay in Santa Barbara

The Waterman, a small Moxy branded hotel just a short walk from the Santa Barbara train station, couldn’t be better located. It has a happy social atmosphere with a communal kitchen, library, and games.

How to get between Santa Barbara and Oxnard by train: Both Amtrak’s Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner cover the route between Santa Barbara and Oxnard with a handful of departure times throughout the day. The travel time is just under an hour.

Coastline of Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park, California

You don’t need a car to visit the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Oxnard. © jtstewartphoto / Getty Images

Oxnard, California

They thoughtWould you have to skip California’s national parks because you’re on the train? Not so. Oxnard is the closest starting point to Channel Islands National Park, nicknamed California’s Galapagos for the 145 species of flora and fauna found here and nowhere else in the world. Even the drive to the national park becomes a wildlife spotting adventure, with dolphins frequently jumping through the boat’s trail and frequent sightings of orcas, gray and humpback whales, and the incredibly cute island fox dancing along the islands' trails. As you kayak into the huge Painted Cave - the largest sea cave in North America - you’ll get closer to the bark of sea lions and the layers of colorful lichens and algae that give the cave its name.

Where to Stay in Oxnard

How to Get Between Oxnard and Los Angeles by Train: Two hours south of downtown LA on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight or Pacific Surfliner services.

Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California

Experience the glamor of Los Angeles without getting stuck in traffic © Steve Proehl / Getty Images

Los Angeles, California

Where to stay in LA

Intercontinental Los Angeles Downtown is just a few subway stops from Union Station; and you will feel like stay under the stars when you’re shot into the 70th floor lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows and great views of the Hollywood sign.

How to get between Los Angeles and San Diego by train: All aboard for Amtrak’s southernmost station on the west coast.The Pacific Surfliner rolls along the coast several times a day to make the three-hour journey.

Balboa Park at twilight in San Diego, California

Enjoy the many museums and green spaces in San Diego’s Balboa Park © f11photo / Getty Images

San Diego, Calif.

suntanned and laid-back, San Diego is the perfect place to unwind at the end of your trip. Watch surfers make waves on one of the city’s 60 beaches, or relax in Balboa Park after filling your brains up at the many museums, or end your cross-country skiing adventure with an evening in the noisy Gaslamp Quarter or with a beer in one of the many breweries in the self-proclaimed craft beer capital of America.

Places to Stay in San Diego

Andaz San Diego is just a short walk from the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego, where Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner train ends. The hotel is in the middle of the Gaslamp Quarter and the rooftop bar will help you get your evening started.

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