Best Amtrak trips from San Antonio

New Orleans Canal streetcar

The long-distance Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited Amtrak trains stop in San Antonio and travel to Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arizona and California. There are options for day trips and overnight adventures, and whether you travel to a destination near or far, you can book private accommodations in the sleeper car or choose coach seating

To start planning your getaway, here are the best Amtrak trips from San Antonio that don’t require a train transfer or middle-of-the-night travel. Destinations west of San Antonio did not make this list because departure time is during the overnight hours.

San Marcos

If you’re looking for an easy day trip from San Antonio on Amtrak, San Marcos is it. The train ride is only 1.5 hours with a morning arrival and early evening return on Fridays, Sundays and Tuesdays. The San Marcos River flows near downtown and is one of the major attractions. You can tube, kayak or paddleboard down the river, and glass-bottom boat tours of Spring Lake are also available. Trails are next to the water if you’d rather stay on land, or check out the San Marcos Premium Outlets for shopping deals.

Austin

Austin skyline
Photo by Michael Barera

Austin is a beautiful city full of live music, outdoor activities and food. Travel time on the train is 3.5 hours, with departures from San Antonio on Fridays, Sundays and Tuesdays. You can return on the same day you arrive or plan to stay in the city at least two nights (trains do not run every day). A Friday to Sunday trip is a popular option for enjoying weekend nightlife and day trips to Hill Country. If you need a car, Enterprise is near the Amtrak station and pick-up service is available. Or check out one the many Austin tours on land (and water) to explore the area.

Houston

Trains travel from San Antonio to Houston early in the morning on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday. Trip time is almost five hours, and you’ll arrive near the Theater District and Sesquicentennial Park. In addition to many museums, you can visit top attractions including the Houston Zoo, Space Center and The Galleria. Or plan to attend an Astros baseball game or one of the many Houston events and festivals.

For the return trip, trains depart Houston on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Based on this schedule, here are some of your Amtrak travel options (or book a flight for the return trip):

  • Leave San Antonio on Friday and return on Saturday or Monday
  • Leave on San Antonio on Sunday and return on Monday or Wednesday
  • Leave San Antonio on Tuesday and return on Wednesday or Saturday

Fort Worth

Fort Worth Stock Yards
Photo by Briaande/Wikimedia Commons

Seven hours away from San Antonio via train, Fort Worth is known for its cattle drives (pictured above), winter rodeo and barbecue restaurants. The Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Fort Worth Zoo and Sundance Square, which is full of shops and restaurants, are other great places to visit.

Trains to Fort Worth depart San Antonio on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday and return on these same days. However, due to the train schedule, you won’t be able to return on the day you arrive. Choose from one of these popular options or book a flight for the return trip:

  • Depart San Antonio on Friday and return on Sunday
  • Depart San Antonio on Sunday and return on Tuesday
  • Depart San Antonio on Tuesday and return on Friday or Sunday

Dallas

Dallas, Texas skyline
Photo by Robert Hensley

Dallas is another fun train trip from San Antonio. Travel time is about 8.5 hours and you’ll arrive in the afternoon near downtown, the Dealey Plaza Historic District and Reunion Tower, which has an observation deck. The city is full of museums, plus you can enjoy nature at the Dallas Arboretum and hang out at hip restaurants, shops and nightlife venues in Uptown.

Choose from one of these popular trip options or consider booking a flight for the return trip:

  • Depart San Antonio on Friday and return on Sunday
  • Depart San Antonio on Sunday and return on Tuesday
  • Depart San Antonio on Tuesday and return on Friday or Sunday

Lake Charles

L'Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles
Photo by Jburge123/Wikimedia Commons

Lake Charles, Louisiana is a fun adult getaway with casinos, good food and festivals. Consider staying at the Golden Nugget Hotel or L’Auberge Resort (pictured above) — both have lazy rivers that are great for a pool day. For more water fun, a lake of the same name is next to downtown, which you can enjoy from Millennium Park or with a boat or kayak rental.

Travel time to Lake Charles is about nine hours on the Sunset Limited route. Trains depart San Antonio on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday and arrive in the afternoon. For the return trip, choose a Wednesday, Saturday or Monday departure day. Consider one of these popular trip options:

  • Leave San Antonio on Friday and return on Saturday or Monday
  • Leave on San Antonio on Sunday and return on Monday or Wednesday
  • Leave San Antonio on Tuesday and return on Wednesday or Saturday

Lafayette

Known for its Cajun food and music, Lafayette, Louisiana is a family-friendly destination with many festivals and historic sites, including a 19th-century bayou village. Kids and adults will enjoy the swamp tours, but you may want to plan your trip in spring or fall for cooler temperatures. There’s also an ArtWalk. on the second Saturday of each month, which is a great way to explore the charming downtown area.

Trains depart San Antonio on Fridays, Sundays and Tuesdays and travel about 11 hours to reach the city. Travel options include:

  • Leave San Antonio on Friday and return on Saturday or Monday
  • Leave on San Antonio on Sunday and return on Monday or Wednesday
  • Leave San Antonio on Tuesday and return on Wednesday or Saturday

New Orleans

Bourbon Street in New Orleans
Photo by Marko Forsten

It’s a 15-hour train ride from San Antonio to New Orleans with an arrival after 9 p.m. The city is full of nightlife, amazing food and music. Plus, streetcars (pictured top of page) can take you to the Garden District, French Quarter, Jackson Square and old cemeteries. Other top sights to check out include the National World World II Museum, Audubon Zoo and the New Orleans Museum of Art. For more things to do, consider planning a trip around one of the many New Orleans festivals.

Here are some popular travel options based on the train schedule (or book a flight for the return trip):

  • Leave San Antonio on Friday and return on Saturday or Monday
  • Leave on San Antonio on Sunday and return on Monday or Wednesday
  • Leave San Antonio on Tuesday and return on Wednesday or Saturday

St. Louis

Busch Stadium in St. Louis
Photo by Alex Lewis

About 24.5 hours away from San Antonio on the Texas Eagle, St. Louis has big city amenities and unique landmarks. The Gateway Arch is the famous attraction, but there’s more to the city than that. Other things to check out include the City Museum, Missouri Botanical Garden, craft beer scene and the massive Forest Park, which is 1,300 acres and contains lakes, nature areas, museums and the St. Louis Zoo. For extra fun, you can plan your trip around a St. Louis Cardinal game, Taste of St. Louis, Fair Saint Louis and other major events.

Springfield

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
Photo by Randy von Liski

Book a trip on the Texas Eagle to visit Springfield, the Illinois capital. Travel time is almost 27 hours — you’ll spend a night on the train. Major attractions here include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Lincoln Home National Historic Site and the Illinois State Museum. Plus, you can check out Route 66, including some of the original segments, and the historic Cozy Dog Drive In while you’re in town.

The train arrives in the morning and you have the option to return same day. If you decide to stay in Springfield for a night or longer, the State House Inn, Wyndham Springfield Center and DoubleTree Hotel are closest to the Amtrak station and near tourist areas.

Chicago

View from Navy Pier Ferris Wheel
Photo by Adam Arroyo/Flickr.com

For a vacation full of great food, live music, museums and lake time, head to Chicago. After a 31-hour trip, trains arrives in the afternoon in the West Loop near great restaurants and a few hotels. You can also walk from the station to downtown Chicago, several CTA train stations and a water taxi stop. With Lyft and Uber providing additional transportation options, you don’t need a rental car.

Consider planning your trip around one of the many festivals and events, or visit top attractions including the Art Institute of Chicago360 Chicago Observation DeckMillennium ParkField MuseumChicago RiverwalkNavy PierLakefront TrailMagnificent Mile, and Wrigley Field. We recommend staying in Chicago at least one night, although you can easily stay multiple nights to enjoy all that the city has to offer.

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