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Amtrak's Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle
Photograph: Courtesy AmtrakAmtrak's Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle

Amtrak's discounted California Rail Pass lets you travel throughout the state for just $159 this summer

Summer just got better.

Erika Mailman
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Erika Mailman
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Hankering to see California this summer? Whether you're planning a trip to the West Coast or just planning an epic staycation, Amtrak’s discounted California Rail Pass is a great deal to see the most of the Golden State. 

The pass retails for $159 ($79.50 for kids) and allows travel on any seven days within a consecutive 21-day period. That means you can board in Seattle and stop off in Portland for a bike tour between multiple microbreweries, journey to Sacramento for a tour of the state capitol, head to Oakland for a Burmese-California fusion meal at Teni East Kitchen, stop off in Santa Barbara for the gorgeous public gardens at Lotusland, and conclude in Los Angeles for a starlit drink at French rooftop bar Perch LA before starting your journey home — when you’ll stop at a whole other slate of great cities.

The trains involved in the California Rail Pass are the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and Dunsmuir, the Capitol Corridor between Auburn and San Jose, the San Joaquins (San Francisco Bay Area / Sacramento/Bakersfield / Southern California) and the Pacific Surfliner (San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara/Los Angeles/San Diego), as well as the connecting bus services associated with the corridor trains. The rail pass does not apply, unfortunately, to the California Zephyr, the Sunset Limited, the Southwest Chief or the Texas Eagle, even though those lines all penetrate into California. Additionally, if you travel outside of California on the Coast Starlight, you must pay a separate fare for that out-of-state leg.

A few small-print items apply: you must use the pass within one year of purchase, you can’t take more than four one-way journeys on a given route segment (in other words, you can’t just go back and forth to the same place over and over—but you could do it twice!), and the discounted child must be age 2-12 and accompanied by a full-fare paying adult. You can’t purchase the pass online and must call Amtrak’s 800 number or work with a travel agent. See all details here.

And if California’s not your bag, check out the other discounts Amtrak is offering. For instance, kids ride for $5 in North Carolina right now (one way when accompanied by full fare-paying adult) for travel through August 31.

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