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BY JENNY HICE
Sip and savor Cali’s coolest wine trains.
California’s wine country is home to beautiful scenery, countless bottles of vino, and endless ways to wine and dine. There’s just so much to see, sip, and savor — from rolling hills and giant redwoods to sprawling vineyards and spectacular wineries. And let’s not forget the charming towns with whimsical shops and world-class restaurants. The Golden State is a fan favorite for finding good vibes and making magical memories. But with so many top spots and tours to consider, it can be hard to choose the best way to wander.
So why not try a new track (pun intended!) and have some good, old-fashioned fun? Hop aboard a California wine train or trolley for an anything-but-ordinary sightseeing and wine-sipping experience.
Discover Napa on the rails.
Sniff, swirl, sip, smile, repeat. Oh yes, boarding the Napa Valley Wine Train feels like a first-class way to be wined and dined without any worries. The full journey covers 36 miles round trip, takes about three hours, and runs from downtown Napa to St. Helena. But the experience is yours to customize. You’ll have your pick of multiple itineraries — from short, relaxed tastings with spectacular views to full-day outings filled with heavenly vino and historical sights.
Take the train, and you can also expect to enjoy exceptional service, gourmet food, and local wines — all from the comfort of a beautifully refurbished, century-old railcar. It’s like a restaurant on rails that truly has something for everyone. And the best part: There are more than 30 wineries just waiting for you to visit along the way. Some of the stops include: Castello Di Amorosa, Grgich Hills Estate, Louis Martini, and Silver Oak.
Fun fact about the track: It was once part of the Southern Pacific Railroad and dates back to 1864. Now it’s privately owned and runs a collection of luxurious, fully restored Pullman cars.
Family-based side note: This California wine train is fun for the whole family, so there’s no need to leave the kiddos behind (unless you want to!). A few of the train cars are delightfully casual and serve kid-friendly cuisine, so you can all relax and enjoy the ride together.
Whether you’re looking for a lovely lunchtime outing or a full day-cation, the Napa Valley Wine Train lets you safely sip your way through Napa with a smile on your face.
Oh my golly, raise a glass to the wine trolley — the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley, to be exact. Hopping aboard feels like stepping back in time. A hand-built replica of a California Street cable car takes you on a six-hour tour through Sonoma, so you can see the sights while you sip and swirl between vineyards.
The trolley’s vintage, open-air design makes it easy to soak up the scenery (and the history) in a relaxed, unique way — all while ensuring you don’t miss a thing. Each tour includes a friendly guide, a visit to three charming wineries, a catered lunch with vineyard views, and small stops at local landmarks. While the specific wineries visited vary by season and special events, some local partners include: Beringer, B.R. Cohn, Clos Pegase, Raymond Vineyards, and Monticello Vineyards, just to name a few.
Get ready to grab a seat and take a special trip you’ll remember forever, because the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley shines a light on the area’s best vintners, estates, and wine caves. It’s one of the coolest California wine train experiences you’ll find.
Vino vibes in the seaside paradise of Santa Barbara are superb. With so many wonderful tasting rooms and working wineries sprinkled throughout downtown, there’s something to suit everyone’s wine style. And the area’s vineyards are nestled just over the mountain range, in the famous Santa Ynez and Santa Maria valleys. Now consider this: You can totally take a train to go see it all.
Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner travels up the California coast several times a day, with departures from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. One short ride filled with stunning views is all it takes to drop you right in the middle of the action. Start your day with brunch in the Funk Zone. Spend time shopping in local boutiques. Visit a tasting room or two. Then snack on some charcuterie before strolling the waterfront. Close your day with a few more wine tastings and enjoy a delicious dinner before taking the train back to Los Angeles.
Reds and whites and San Diego city lights. Not all wineries have to be rooted in rural areas. Many are pouring into urban settings, too, and you can discover some of the area’s best on the San Diego Winery Train Tour. It’s a cool way to explore SoCal — riding the rails for a day filled with VIP wine tastings, guided tours, and breathtaking coastal views.
You’ll start to relax the moment you step on the train. The leisurely journey takes you to a variety of wineries, where you can sip and sample up to 15 different wines. You might taste an award-winning cabernet or discover the perfect California red. You’ll savor the flavor of every moment, especially during the light Italian lunch provided by an out-of-this-world-delicious bistro. You'll also hop off the train along the way to explore historic villages. The whole San Diego Winery Train Tour is a local gem you’re sure to love.