Escaping the LA Grind
The hustle in LA is real. The norm? An hour long commute on the 10, 9 hours in the office, 90 minutes in the car, rolling calls on your way to drinks in Hollywood, hot yoga and a too-healthy dinner with friends, before getting not-enough-sleep. Repeat. We love LA for its energy, but sometimes this grind gets rough on even the toughest of Angelenos.
But imagine this: It’s Friday. You’ve just spent five days on your hustle, not batting an eye. You’re psyched to get out for a long weekend. You throw LAX into Waze and, given that it’s 6pm on a Friday, it’s not looking pretty — 2 hours on the freeway to the airport, plus TSA and unexplained delays.
All Aboard This Hidden Gem
We cannot express how delighted we were when we discovered Amtrak. It’s the definition of a hidden gem. First of all, trains leave from the actually beautiful Union Station, in the heart of Downtown LA. It’s a rare dollop of old world charm in the middle of busy LA. Arrive early and grab a drink at TRAXX, a classy restaurant that will absolutely make you feel like Don Draper.
Now, we were headed to Flagstaff, Arizona, a beautiful small city that acts as a gateway to the Grand Canyon. Take note, Angelenos: Amtrak has amazing service to all your favorite weekend haunts. We’re talking Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego, and it even gets you pretty close to Palm Springs. You’re welcome for the 400 freeway hours we just saved you.
Because we were on an overnight train in a roomette sleeper car, we were ushered to the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge after picking up our tickets. It’s mega chic. There, you can check your bags, enjoy some free refreshments, and turn on the chill. When you’re done enjoying the lounge, you hop on a tram and, like a true queen, you are shuttled to the train. A friendly conductor will get you acquainted with your room… where your bags are already waiting for you because Amtrak is magical and only wants you to be happy. It’s true.
Roomettes are dope. The train to Flagstaff from LA is on the same schedule every day — leaves at 6pm, arrives at 6am. So you gotta get those zzz’s, especially if you’re going to, say, hike the Grand Canyon the next day. These overnight bliss boxes have two large chairs that face each other, for evening gossiping, wine sipping, cheese eating, and card playing. When you head off to the dining car for a dinner that’s included in your ticket, a conductor comes to prepare the bedroom, magically transforming the chairs into a bunk bed. People tend to loiter at the dinner tables long after the meal ends. You’re seated at large tables with strangers, which creates a really fun environment, with everyone getting to know one another.
A Perfect End to an Unforgettable Trip
After you’re done eating (and maybe drinking a few gin and tonics – IDK, who’s to say), you make your way back to the roomette and fall asleep on a surprisingly plush bed as the desert stars fly past your bed-to-ceiling window. In the morning, we got a nice wake up call an hour before our stop, so we’d have time to take a shower and pack. (Yes, they have showers!) Pretty amazing.
The real beauty about taking the overnight train to Flagstaff is the ease of travel once you’re there. We rented a car in Flagstaff for a much better rate than they offer at the Phoenix airport. What’s more, you’re only an hour from the Canyon, versus the nearly four hours from Phoenix. Flagstaff is an incredibly charming, outdoorsy city and we’d recommend it as your home base while exploring the Canyon and the rest of northern Arizona. For the return trip you can either take the train back, or head south through Sedona, spend a night in lively Tempe or classy Scottsdale, before flying out of PHX.
About the Author: Charlie Kelly is the co-creator of The Get Out, the no-frills, all-fun home for hip travel inspiration from around the world.