Train Trip to Sacramento from the Bay Area


I like the train to Sacramento idea.  Poking around Old Town and hanging at the pool will be fun for them.  And going by train rather than car would be nice.   But you might want to reconsider the Train Museum.  It is actually quite interesting, but I think some teens would dismiss it as a little kid thing.  Many of them will have gone there during their Thomas / Chuggington years and will associate it with that. It will be packed with preschoolers making their pilgrimage, along with elderly train buffs.  What if you substituted that part with an Escape Room?   Sacramento is full of them, and that would be really fun for smart teens. Also, maybe one of “haunted house” tours — it might be fun in a kitschy, silly way.   If it’s not too hot out, I agree that bike rentals are a great idea.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

April 2015

RE: Short Amtrak Getaway with 3-year-old

Sacramento! We did this very trip last year with our 3.5 year old son. It took about 2 hours to train from Oakland/Jack London station to Sacramento. The Sacramento train station is right in old town Sacramento so you will not need to rent a car. We stayed at the Embassy Suites - buffet breakfast, pool, and affordable. Staying there meant we could walk around Old Town, visit the amazing train museum and just be tourists. It was a really enjoyable overnight for us, and we might just do it again. So nice to go someplace without a car. hobo mom

I don't know much since I haven't done it myself. But I've hoped to...there's a cool railroad museum in Sacramento that is within walking distance from the amtrak station there. Seems like a pretty perfect day trip: take the train to a train museum. Have fun! faye

Take the train to the train museum in Old Sacramento. The perfect trip! Anon

It might not be best for summer, but how about Old Town Sacramento? Amtrak has a station right there. Bonus for the train-crazy are the California State Train Museum, and the Sacramento Southern Railroad historic excursion trains.

We didn't do this with our kids, but the grandparents went off for a non-driving weekend there and had a good time. Chris

Take Amtrak from Emeryville to Sacramento. From the Sacramento station you can walk to the great train museum and also Old Town Sacramento. We used to make a long day trip of it (first train up/last train back). There are probably hotels in Old Sac where you could spend the night too. Our then train-crazy boys loved it and so did we. Train mom

A great train experience is to take Amtrak from Oakland to Sacramento. The old town is home to one of the best train museums in the country. They have locomotives from early steam engines to more modern engines. It is an awe inspiring experience for grownup train lovers too. The old town is a historic preservation/recreation of Sacramento in the 1800s gold rush era. Lots of touristy shops but the old saloon is beautiful and the hardware store is really interesting. Downtown also is home to the state capital and has a pretty park with nice old trees. Very walkable. Also look into the Skunk train which runs from Willits to Fort Bragg. You would have to drive as it is not on the Amtrak line but could be a future train adventure. Train lovin mom

If your son enjoys trains, it's just a short hop to Old Sacramento and the fantastic Railroad museum. Amtrak drops you literally right there. The area is pretty tourist-focused, but fun. If you take Amtrak's Capitol Corridor train, there is a 2-4-1 coupon in the Chinook coupon book (if you don't have that, probably someone on BPN has one free for you). Yeah the train!

Sacramento seems ideal for this. The Amtrak station is located right next to the Old Sacramento historic district and the California State Railroad Museum. The Capitol is there, which has a museum. There are lots of hotels in easy walking distance. It isn't far to the Sacramento Zoo and Fairytale Town, Sutter's Fort and there seem to be a lot of parks in the area. Carrie

You can take Amtrak from Emeryville to Sacramento, where there's a railroad museum and a fun old town, as well as the Capitol, etc. The train station is right downtown.

If you want to ride a little farther, you can get off in Truckee. Again, the station is right in the middle of town.

Have fun! We love the train! Alison

Nov 2006

RE:  Where to take Amtrak for 2-year-old birthday party

I don't know how many kids you're planning to invite to your 2 year old's birthday party. But if it is just one friend or a few family members, you should consider taking Amtrak to Sacramento. There is a stop in Old Town Sac that is right across from the Train Museum. It is a surprisingly fun museum for the whole family. There are big train cars of every variety housed in a big warehouse-type space. You can go into many of them. I took my kids a few years back when they were 3 and 7, and they had a fabulous time. We did not take Amtrak, but I know others who have and enjoyed it. It's worth checking out

We've done this several times and it is so EASY! Take Amtrak to the train museum in Old Sacramento. When you get off the train in Old Sacramento, you only need to walk about 50 yards and you are at the train museum. The ride is NOT too long (about 2 hours) for the two-year olds b/c there's a lot to see along the way, the novelty of being on Amtrak keeps 'em going for a while and many will sleep on the way home! The train museum is FANTASTIC! ngp [at] (ngp)

Take the Amtrak from Emervytille station to Sacramento. At the end of the line, walk a few blocks to the Sacramento train museum. The steam train ride through the redwoods at Roaring Camp in Santa Cruz is very scenic, but the cars are open-air, so it's probably not something you want to do with a 2 y.o. in December. Definitely check it out in the spring or summer CC

It's more than an hour away (closer to 2) but the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento is a great place to visit by train. The museum is about a two-block walk from the station. It has great exhibits (lots of old engines and rail cars) that kids can look at, walk through and, in some case,climb on, and there's a nearby restaurant (the Silver Palace) in a historic rail station with a cheap and kid-friendly menu. There are also plenty of nicer restaurants on the river and in Old Sacramento. And it can be fun to watch the boats go by and the drawbridges go up and down.

If Sacramento is too far, and it's a nice day, there's a nice park at the Martinez Marina, a short walk from the station. There's also a hot dog place near the station, and several restaurants downtown, but many are closed on weekends. Mike

Take the kids to the Train Museum in Sacramento! It's the perfect day trip for a train-crazy two-year-old, like mine was. You leave from Emeryville @ 8 a.m., have a beautful, scenic ride that's the perfect length - about 2.5 hours - long enough to enjoy exploring the dining and observation cars, and short enough to get off before boredom sets in.

Then the train museum is only a short, one-block walk from the station. You'll have time to explore it and get lunch at one of the many kid-friendly places along the historic Sacramento River Walk before catching the train home, which leaves around 2 p.m. You arrive in Emeryville @ 4 p.m., before anyone is so worn out they melt down.

I think having a birthday party on the train is a great idea. Wish I'd thought of it when my little engineer was two! Trainster Mom

If the kids are really into trains, then taking Amtrak to Sacramento to the train museum (right next to the station) is a great daytrip. It's about two hours each way, which for our two year old seemed short with so many things to see from the train. We also did this for our three year old's birthday with just one friend (three kids, including older brother) and it was ideal... a bigger group of younger kids might be harder. If the weather is iffy having a huge indoor train museum as your destination could be helpful.

If a shorter ride is more appealing I'd shoot for Davis because the downtown is so walkable and there's a big park maybe not too far where they have the farmers market, but I don't know anything about Suison, etc - Charis

Nov 2003

Re: Winter birthday party for outdoorsy 5-year-old
While my idea won't work with 10 kids you might consider for another year. Two of my sons have winter birthdays so I have been in your shoes. A couple of years ago for the 6th birthday of one of them, all of us (family only) took the train from Emeryville to Sacramento. Once then, we walked the block and a half to the train museum. It was a great trip for all us and the train was so fun and easy - take your own snacks though. He wants to do it again this year! If you consider it, check with Amtrak as they often have specials, kids free, etc. Have fun! Birthday mom

November 1999

We are taking a train trip to Sacramento over Thanksgiving weekend to visit the Train Museum. Can anyone recommend good kid-friendly places for lunch and dinner, as well as a nice park for buring off some energy? All would need to be within walking distance of the museum. Thanks

We did this a few years ago, so my memory is somewhat foggy, but the museum borders on something -- I think it's the river -- and all along the river is a long strip of park to run in. Part of it is a boardwalk. Are you taking the train (Amtrak) there? If you are, it's a short walk from the station to the museum, also useful for burning off steam. Also, the museum is full of lots of trains to go through, which can wear one out. (Particularly adults, I suppose.) You can walk around old town. You can take a horse-drawn buggy around old town. There are little sandwich/ice cream shops in old-town, too. Don't know where you'd eat dinner. If you're feeling very energetic, you can walk to the capital which has a very lovely park all around it. Seems to me we did all those things. We took the train there, ran around all day and took the train back. It was very fun -- the train ride itself is a lot of fun and very scenic. It feels like a big adventure.

The Train Museum is in Sacramento Old Town which has lots of fun stores and restaurants. Also, there's a pedestrian walkway under Hiway 5 to the Downtown Mall, which is pretty for a mall, and has shops and restaurants. Just walk around and you'll find what you need. A nearby park is Discovery Park, which sits on the junction of the Sacramento and American Rivers. Walk over to the Sacramento River from the Museum (there are paddle wheel riverboats there), as you face the river turn right, and there's a walk/bike path to the Park, not a long walk which includes a bridge across the American River to the park. Or, go to the park in front of the Museum, which is a few blocks south of Old Town, across the Capitol Mall. Have fun!

Regarding the Sacramento Trip... the train ride to and from Sacramento is usually over too is really fun.The train museum is a great destination and Old Town Sacramento has many restaurants which can suffice for lunch. There is plenty of running room outside along the river promenade in Old Town. It has more train cars and some boats to look at. The Sacramento Discovery Museum is right next door and worth a visit. Also worth visiting (perhaps on another trip) are Sutter's Fort and the capitol building (open weekdays only). Sutter's Fort can be reached by taking a local bus and the capital can be reached by bus or by walking, especially if your kids are a little older. Sutter's Fort is really interesting for the kids

We went to the Rail Fair at the train museum with two 3 year olds and a 6 year old this summer. We found that it was enjoyable to spend some time at one of the patio areas overlooking the river just watching boats. There are several very casual restaurants/ice cream parlors right there. We stopped at one which had hot dogs and ice cream.

The Train Museum is great for kids! My two year loved it and she burned plenty of energy in the museum itself. Within walking distance is Old Sac. No parks exactly but lots of walking and running ops. We usually eat dinner at Fat City. There are lots of fast lunch places on every block. The best park in Sacramento is McKinley Park on G St near 34th. It's huge and has a wonderful play structure and a large pond, too

The area called Old Sacramento is very close to the Train Museum and has family-friendly places to eat and attractions. Plenty of room for kids to run around in, as well as more trains to look at. It's also right on the river and a good place to take in the view and tell your kids about the history of Sacramento as a deep water port and shipping area (Sacto Valley River drainage-->Delta (agriculture, levies)-->SF Bay-->Pacific Ocean

Also try the Crocker Art Gallery, located south of Old Town at 211 O St. Wonderful Victorian mansion with good permanent and rotating exhibits. is Crocker webpage, is the Sacto webpage, is the parks map. And Capitol Park is a wonderful place to run around, see century old trees, etc.

July 1996

More on train rides: Recently we took our 2 year old son to Sacramento via the Amtrak train. He rode free, we paid $17.50 each, RT. We boarded at the Berkeley stop at the end of University. My son loves trains and was delighted to be on the trains that we hear go by all the time. He ran non-stop up and down the bi-level cars. While we didn't get to rest, it was a comfortable trip. You can get train schedules (but not fares) on the web or

With some friends who met us at the train station, we first strolled around old town Sacramento. It's similar to a beachside boardwalk - the shops contain much useless, but fun (for some) stuff. There is an old steam train which goes down the river about 3 miles. That ride takes about 40 minutes. Costs $5 for adults, little kids are free. The big draw was the train musuem, which is very close to the Amtrak station. I think it costs about $6 for adults; again, the little kids are free. There are lots of exhibits for all different ages. The kids had a great time running around.

If you like shopping, there is a relatively new mall with all the stores one could want nearby. There's a walkway under the freeway with murals and piped in music. There are also huge parking garages there.

It was definitely an exciting trip for my son. I thought he would nap on the way home, but he too charged and continued to run around the cars. Now he constantly talks about going to Sacramento.