If you’re looking for getaway ideas from Austin, there’s more than road trips and flights. One Amtrak route, the Texas Eagle, stops in the city and travels to Chicago and Los Angeles with many stops in between. There are many great destinations you can visit while having a train adventure at the same time. See the list below to explore the best Amtrak trips from Austin with good arrival and departure times to get started.
Editor’s Note: Amtrak Guide is reader supported and we may make a small commission if you purchase a product via one of the links below. For current train schedules, visit Amtrak.com.
San Marcos is an easy trip from Austin with a travel time of about 45 minutes. 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. Shopping at the San Marcos Premium Outlets and Tanger Outlets along with the Wonder World Cave and Adventure Park are other top activities.
You’ll need to stay in San Marcos two nights in order to have a full day to explore (the train from Austin arrives in the evening and returns in the morning). Econo Lodge is closest to the station (9-minute walk) or check out the top hotels in the area.
San Antonio is full of things to do for kids and adults. The city is famous for its River Walk and historic Spanish missions, including the Alamo (also known as Mission San Antonio de Valero). There’s also Fiesta Texas Six Flags, SeaWorld, Natural Bridge Caverns, San Antonio Botanical Garden and more to check out.
Travel time is about 3.5 hours and the Texas Eagle arrives at night. The train back to Austin departs early each morning, so you’ll want to stay at least two nights in the city or book a flight home to have more time and flexibility. Several hotels (including Staybridge Suites, City View Inn and Holiday Inn Express) are in walking distance of the Amtrak station, or you can rent a car (pick-up service available) or use carshare services to reach lodging that is farther away.
Plan a trip to Fort Worth to attend the winter rodeo, eat barbecue and visit other top attractions, including the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Fort Worth Zoo and Sundance Square. There are also several museums and trails along the Trinity River to check out.
There is one train each day with a travel time of 4.5 hours. You’ll arrive in the afternoon and will need to stay overnight at least one night in order to board the return train to Austin. Hotels closest to the Amtrak station include Sheraton Downtown Fort Worth, The Omni, Fairfield Inn & Suites and Hampton Inn & Suites.
Explore hip neighborhoods, historic sites and museums with an Amtrak trip to Dallas. Travel time from Austin is about six hours and you’ll arrive near the Dealey Plaza Historic District and Reunion Tower, which has an observation deck. The Dallas Arboretum, Trinity River trails and White Rock Lake Park are great ways to enjoy the outdoors, and for nightlife, restaurants and a trolley, be sure to visit Uptown.
Plan to stay in Dallas at least one night. Across the street from the Amtrak station are two hotels: Courtyard by Marriott and La Quinta Inn & Suites. The Omni is also about a block away. For more options, a light rail stop is behind the train station on the red and blue lines — both will take you to downtown hotels and Uptown hotels. Lyft and Uber are also ways to get around.
El Paso is a 20-hour overnight Amtrak trip from Austin. Here you can experience desert and mountain landscapes along with great Mexican food in this US border city. Top things to do include hiking at Franklin Mountains State Park and Hueco Tanks Historic Site, going to a show at the Plaza Theatre, watching the Sun Bowl in December, splashing in a water park, and visiting one of the many museums (or the zoo).
The Texas Eagle only travels El Paso from Austin on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. You’ll arrive in El Paso in the afternoon on the following day. Book a flight home or work with train schedule for the return trip. Here are some of the popular trip options:
- Depart Austin on Saturday, arrive on Sunday, return to Austin on Monday (1 night in El Paso)
- Depart Austin on Monday, arrive on Tuesday, return to Austin on Thursday (2 nights in El Paso)
- Depart Austin on Wednesday, arrive on Thursday, return to Austin on Saturday (2 nights in El Paso)
- Depart Austin on Wednesday, arrive on Thursday, return to Austin on Monday (4 nights in El Paso)
To see the Midwest and the Mississippi River, plan a train trip to St. Louis, Missouri. The Gateway Arch is the famous attraction, and other great 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.
Trains arrive early in the morning after traveling overnight (about 22 hours) and return to Austin in the evening, so you can technically make St. Louis a day trip — although you’ll spend a night on the train in each direction of travel. Lyft and Uber are easy ways to get around and there’s also a nearby connection to MetroLink light rail. For more mobility, you can rent a car at Enterprise (pick-up service available).
If you decide to stay overnight, the OYO Hotel is next to the St. Louis Amtrak Station, or walk less than 15 minutes to the Drury Inn or the stunning St. Louis Union Station Hotel, which is inside the old passenger train station.
Springfield, Illinois is about 24 hours away from Austin on the Texas Eagle and is full of historic attractions. You can visit 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, the historic Cozy Dog Drive In, and a Frank Lloyd Wright house.
The train arrives in the morning and you have the option to return same day in early evening. 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.
For Southwest culture and food, head to Tucson. Travel time is just over 26 hours after an overnight trip on the train. Top places to visit include the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (which has a zoo, gardens and museum exhibits), Saguaro National Park, Mission San Xavier del Bac, Historic Fourth Avenue and the many great restaurants. Check out the event calendar for more activity ideas.
The Tucson Amtrak Station is in a walkable area next to the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum, and the Historic Hotel Congress is across the street if you’re looking for a convenient place to stay.
The Texas Eagle travels from Austin to Tucson on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday only. Trains arrive the following day in the evening and return to Austin on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. If the limited schedule doesn’t work with your travel plans, consider flying out of Tucson for the return trip.
Example train itineraries:
- Depart on Wednesday, arrive in Tucson on Thursday, return to Austin on Saturday (two nights in Tucson)
- Depart on Wednesday, arrive in Tucson on Thursday, return to Austin on Monday (four nights in Tucson)
Chicago is a fun overnight Amtrak trip from Austin. You’ll arrive in the afternoon after a 28.5 hour train ride and have easy access to museums, live music venues and top attractions, including the Willis Tower Skydeck, Navy Pier and Wrigley Field. In the warmer months, you can visit one of the city’s beaches, go on a boat tour and take a bike ride along the Lakefront Trail. There are also many festivals that you can plan a trip around all year long.
CTA city trains, Metra commuter trains, water taxis, Divvy bike rentals and Lyft/Uber are easy ways to see the sights, so you don’t need to rent a car. You easily walk to a few hotels in the West Loop near the Amtrak station, or choose from hotels in the Loop and nearby River North.
Chicago is also a great transfer point to many other Amtrak routes that travel across the United States. See the best Amtrak trips from Chicago to learn more.
For Hollywood vibes, palm trees, nightlife, beaches and many cultural attractions, plan a trip to Los Angeles. You’ll spend over 30 hours on the train and arrive early in the morning. Top places to visit include the Getty Center, Griffith Observatory, Universal Studios, Hollywood Sign and the Santa Monica Pier. Bus tours are a great way to see the sprawling city, or choose from Lyft, Uber, subway and commuter rail to get around.
Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Venice Beach (pictured top of page) are popular areas for lodging, or consider continuing your train trip with a transfer to the Pacific Surfliner (service to San Diego) or the Coast Starlight (service to Seattle).
Note that trains to Los Angeles depart Austin on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays only. Because there isn’t daily train service, you may want to consider booking a flight for the return trip at one of the many area airports for a more flexible trip.
Top photo credit: Blake Everett