AmtrakCalifornia Zephyr

Amtrak California Zephyr: 18 Things You Need To Know Before Riding

8 best amtrak cross country train rides
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Does the California Zephyr have a dining car

The California Zephyr does have a full service dining car. The dining car on the California Zephyr serves the traditional dining menu. Dining car meals are included in the ticket price of sleeping coach passengers and will be available for purchase to coach passengers in late 2022.

There is also a cafe on board the California Zephyr, which is located on the lower level of the observation car. The cafe is open to all passengers to purchase hot and cold food throughout the day.

California Zephyr dining car
Traditional dining

What is a California Zephyr Roomette Like

The roomette rooms on the California Zephyr will be Superliner Roomettes. They feature two chairs that face each other during the day. At night the two chairs slide together to form a lower bed and the upper berth folds down from the ceiling. There are no bathrooms or showers in the superliner roomettes. Bathrooms are located down the hall and there is a shower on the lower level for roomette passengers.

Doors on superliner roomettes will lock from the inside, but not the outside when you are out of your room. Access to the car is limited to sleeping coach passengers.

There is only one power outlet in the superliner roomette, so be sure to bring an adapter or portable charging station, as we’ve talked about in our 20 must have items for an Amtrak trip.

California Zephyr roomette
California Zephyr Roomette at night

What Is A California Zephyr Bedroom Like

Bedrooms on the California Zephyr will be Superliner Bedrooms and are more spacious than a roomette. During the day a bedroom will have a couch on one side and a chair that faces it on the other. At night the couch folds down like a futon to form the lower bed and the upper berth folds down from the ceiling. Superliner Bedrooms have a private bathroom with an all in one shower and toilet area. Next to the couch there is a sink and counter area.

All bedrooms are on the upper level of the train, except the accessible bedroom and family bedroom, which are on the lower level.

California Zephyr bedroom
California Zephyr Bedroom

What days does the California Zephyr run

The Amtrak California Zephyr runs every day in both east and west directions. There is one daily departure from Chicago at 2:00pm and one daily departure from Emeryville, CA at 9:10am on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The California Zephyr is not a hop on hop off train, you’ll need a ticket each time you get off and get back on the next day.

Where Should You Stay In Emeryville and Chicago

If you’d like to stay close to Union Station before or after your visit, we recommend the Hyatt Place Chicago Downtown – The Loop, which is about a 5 minute walk from the station. We have also stayed at the La Quinta near the station and loved it.

The Emeryville Station is near several hotels, and all are within walking distance. The closest hotel is the Hyatt House Emeryville, which is also usually the most expensive. In any case we don’t recommend walking to the hotel from Emeryville as it includes a tough walk over an overpass at the station to get to the other side of the tracks. Your best bet is to take a cab or hotel shuttle to your hotel. For this reason any hotel in the Emeryville area will be fine. We’ve stayed at the Sonesta Suites, Hilton Garden Inn and Four Points by Sheraton, and they were all pretty much the same so take whichever one is cheapest.

Does the California Zephyr have WiFi

The Amtrak California Zephyr does not have WiFi. While many Amtrak trains have WiFi connections on board, the California Zephyr as well as most of the cross country train routes do not as there are many areas where they would lose service. In some parts of the route you will not have cell service either.

How much does the California Zephyr cost

The base price for the California Zephyr is $141 in coach class and $563 in sleeper cars. Coach class tickets do not include meals while sleeper car tickets including traditional dining meals. Discounts and sales are available to get fares at a lower price from time to time. You can save the most money by booking as far in advance as possible and not traveling during peak times. Summer will be the most expensive season.

Does the California Zephyr have bedrooms

The California Zephyr has bedrooms in the sleeper cars. The sleeper car offers superliner roomettes, superliner bedrooms, superliner family bedrooms, and superliner accessible bedrooms. Roomettes are found on the upper and lower level, while bedrooms are all on the upper level. Family bedrooms and accessible bedrooms are both on the lower level.

Does the California Zephyr have an observation car

The California Zephyr does have an observation car. The observation car is available to all passengers regardless of which ticket they have. The observation car is open 24 hours a day. There are chairs that face outwards and extra power outlets to charge your electronics in the observation car.

California Zephyr observation car
The observation car

How long are the stops on the California Zephyr

Most stops on the Amtrak California Zephyr are 3 minutes. Every few hours there is a fresh air break stop, which lasts 10-15 minutes, and a few times on the trip there will be a crew change stop which will last around 30 minutes. You are allowed to get off the train during a fresh air break or a crew change stop but not the shorter stops. You should never leave the platform and you should be ready to board when all aboard is called.

How long does the California Zephyr take

The California Zephyr takes 52 hours from Emeryville to Chicago or Chicago to Emeryville. You’ll be on the train for 3 days and two nights if there are no delays.

How fast does the California Zephyr go

The top speed of the California Zephyr is 79mph, but the average speed is 55mph. Most of the time the train will not be moving at the highest possible speed. Through the gorges of Colorado the train will be going slower than normal, so you’ll have great views.

Is the California Zephyr route better East or West

The California Zephyr route is great in both directions. It is timed to pass through the Colorado gorges during daylight so you’ll see the best sights either way.

Is the California Zephyr usually on time

The California Zephyr is not usually on time. You should not plan on this train arriving on time to its destination. Do not plan tight connections at the end of your trip as the California Zephyr is often late. Delays can range from a few minutes to 12 or more hours.

Is the California Zephyr a Superliner train

The California Zephyr is a Superliner train. It will carry both Superliner I and Superliner II sleeping cars. There is very little difference between the Superliner I and Superliner II sleeping cars. Most notably the public restrooms in the Superliner I cars are bigger than those of the Superliner II. If you are in a sleeper car you will not get a choice of which type of car you will be in.

California Zephyr bathroom
Larger Superliner I bathroom

How many stops are on the California Zephyr

The California Zephyr visits 37 stations. It will stop at stations in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois.

Is the California Zephyr Worth It

The California Zephyr is regarded as the best Amtrak Route in the United States and is totally worth the money to ride. If you are going to ride, make sure you are on the prettiest section of the route which is from Denver to Emeryville. The Empire Builder and the Coast Starlight are the other two great routes in the Amtrak system, and the three routes can be combined to make a round trip circle route. We did this by going from Los Angeles to Seattle on the Coast Starlight, then Seattle to Chicago on the Empire Builder and finally Chicago to Emeryville on the California Zephyr.

Where does the California Zephyr stop

Robert Marmion
Rob is married to Allie and together they have been traveling the world for the past 2 years. Rob is one of the most published photographers in the world, having published over 750,000 images in the last 15 years. He enjoys doing landscape and astrophotography while on the road.