Amtrak Coast Starlight from San Jose to Seattle

Gianna and Brian Holle riding the Coast Starlight to Seattle

For a non-RV adventure, we decided to take the Amtrak Coast Starlight from San Jose to Seattle to visit family in Washington State. We’ve always wanted to take an epic train trip and this was the perfect opportunity.

Train 14 San Jose to Seattle

Train 14 departs at 8:23 PM and arrives in Seattle 8:12 PM which means we will spend nearly 24 hour on the train. We arrived at the San Jose Dridon Station two hours before departure and were lucky to find a parking spot in the free lot south of the terminal.

It was a short walk to the terminal so we spent some time checking out the place.

Gianna and Brian Holle at the San Jose Amtrak StationGianna and Brian Holle at the San Jose Amtrak Station

Train 14 arrived on time so we boarded, dropped off our bags in the room, and headed to the dining car for some dinner.

Gianna and Brian Holle eating dinner on the Coast Starlight

The dining car has community seating so we ate dinner with two total strangers. This is where we met Cindy and Ron from Santa Barbara and we hit it off. They were heading to Portland so we hung out together for the trip north.

The Roomette

After dinner we headed to our Roomette in the sleeper car. It’s a great private room with two comfortable seats, and two beds. It was the perfect place to enjoy a 24 hour train trip!

Brian Holle in the roomette on the Coast StarlightGianna Holle in the roomette on the Coast Starlight

Later that evening, we headed to bed. Gianna got the top bunk and she installed the strap that’s supposed to keep her from falling out of bed.

Gianna Holle in her bunk the roomette on the Coast Starlight

Breakfast Time

The next morning we met Cindy and Ron in the dining car for breakfast and shared stories about how badly we all slept.

Gianna and Brian Holle at breakfast on the Coast Starlight

Gianna, Cindy, and Ron

Exploring the Train

After breakfast, Gianna and I walked the length of the train to get an idea of the layout. The train is configured in this order: Engine, baggage car, sleeper cars, parlor car, dining car, Sightseer Lounge car, and the many passenger cars. The sleeper cars and parlor cars are reserved for first class passengers only and the dining car is where all passengers can meet and mingle.

The Pacific Parlour Car

One of the perks of being in first class is the parlor car. Since this car is only for first class passengers, and most of them are relaxing in their rooms, this mostly empty space is a great place to hang out. It has a movie theater downstairs, a bar/restaurant upstairs, and lots of comfy chairs to relax in.

Gianna and Brian Holle visit the Parlour Car on the Coast StarlightGianna and Brian Holle visit the movie theater on the Coast Starlight

Hanging out in the Roomette

I can’t say enough good things about the roomette (except for the poor sleep). The small rooms are super private and they are a great place to watch the scenery. We kept the door open most of the time and the curtains drawn. This gave us total privacy but we could still hear all of the train and people noises.

Gianna Holle in the roomette on the Coast StarlightBrian Holle in the roomette on the Coast Starlight

The best part of the trip was between Chemult and Eugene northbound where the train crosses the snowy Cascade Mountains in the daytime.

Smoke Stops

Some of the stops were longer than others, presumably to let people take a smoke break. We took advantage of these stops to get out and stretch our legs.

Ron, Cindy, Gianna, and Brian Holle next to the Coast Starlight

Ron, Cindy, Gianna, and Brian posing

Portland

In Portland we said good bye to Cindy and Ron. Surprisingly, they will be taking the same train as us back to San Jose so we will meet them again in 4 days.

Gianna and Brian Holle in Portland on the Coast Starlight

Seattle

We made it to the beautiful King Street Station in Seattle around 9pm. The station underwent restoration a couple of years ago and it was gorgeous.

Brian Holle in King Street Station in Seattle

We needed to get to the Seattle-Tacoma airport to rent a car so we took the Transit Link Light Rail. The light rail station is only one block away from the Amtrak station and took just 36 minutes to get to SEATAC airport!

Gianna Holle takes the Transit Link Light RailBrian Holle's rental car in Seattle

Thanksgiving

Hanging out with family at Thanksgiving. Nothing could be better!

Train 11 Seattle to San Jose

Now we get to do the whole trip in reverse.

Gianna Holle takes the Transit Link Light Rail

Transit Link Light Rail at SEATAC

 

Brian Holle walks to the King Street Station in Seattle

One block walk from the light rail station to the King Street station

 

Gianna and Brian Holle visit the King Street Station in Seattle

The beautiful King Street Station again

Superliner Bedroom

Heading south we decided to splurge by getting a Superliner bedroom. It comfortably seats 2 (4 people can easily fit), it has a bigger bottom bed, and a private bathroom and shower. The walk down the hallway in the bedroom area is tight because the rooms take up almost the entire width of the train.

Gianna Holle walking down the hallway on the Coast Starlight

The bedroom doors are on the left

Gianna Holle in the Superliner Bedroom on the Coast Starlight

Gianna in the comfy bedroom

Between Seattle and Portland, we had lunch in the dining car and met a nice mother and daughter traveling for Thanksgiving.

Lunch on the Coast Starlight

Puget Sound

Since it was light out and we were on the right side of the train, we enjoyed hours of beautiful views of the Puget Sound.

Gianna Holle looking out the window from her Superliner Bedroom on the Coast StarlightBrian Holle looking out the window from her Superliner Bedroom on the Coast Starlight

Coffee Run!

Later that evening we talked with our car attendant and he told us that the Sacramento ‘smoke break’ stop will be 35 minutes and we had enough time to walk down the street to the Starbucks.  We picked up some fresh coffee and some cocoa for Cindy and Ron.

Gianna Holle in Sacramento on the Coast StarlightGianna Holle in Sacramento getting coffee near the Coast Starlight

All Done

We arrived in San Jose around 9am due to some freight traffic on the line. The trip exceeded our expectations. Would we do it again? Yes!  The trip is very slow when compared to air travel so when we have lots of time to get from Point A to Point B, this is the most relaxing way to travel!

Things we learned

  • Just like with plane, booking your travel early can save you lots of money on your room reservations. One couple we met paid half as much as we did because they booked their trip 2 months in advance.
  • When parking in the free lot in San Jose, make sure to get a parking pass from the station attendant so you won’t be ticketed or towed.
  • You need to make reservations for each meal seating. In the sleeping cars, the attendant will come to your room and take your lunch and dinner reservations. No reservations are needed for breakfast.
  • You can make lunch and dinner reservations in the Parlor car. The meal selection is limited but it’s a more personal dining experience because it doesn’t have community seating.
  • There are many perks in the sleeper cars: Wi-Fi, all meals are provided, bottomless coffee, free bottled water, and showers.
  • Make sure to bring an electrical extension cord, ear plugs, and lots of snacks. Bring shower shoes if you want to take a shower.
  • The sleeper cars have roomettes on the top and bottom levels. The top level is where people walk between trains so it can be a bit nosier. The bottom level is much more private but there’s more noise from the train’s wheels on the lower level.
  • Be aware that the rooms cannot be locked. We left valuable items in our room when we went out for our meals and there was no problem with security or theft.
  • Day and Night / Left or Right? – Due to the train departure times, it was dark during the time when the train travels up the Sacramento River valley. Chris, our attendant, told us a secret about how to get a room with the best views. Just reserve an odd numbered room on the even numbered train and vice versa.

Coast Starlight November Day and Night

Dates Traveled

  • November 20, 2016 – San Jose to Seattle
  • November 25, 2016 – Seattle to San Jose

2 Comments

  1. Leo

    Thanks for sharing Brian.

    Reply
  2. Lynne

    Thanks, we are thinking bout trying this trip and really enjoyed your blog and pics from inside the trains !!

    Reply

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