Santa Fe Depot

The Santa Fe Depot is a cheap and efficient way to get to and from San Diego. It’s a great method for traversing the city once you learn your way around.
Santa Fe Depot
Traverse the Railways
Where to Go
Go Pass & Save
What to Expect
Best Time to Use it
Price Tickets
Tips and Best Practices
Stay Nearby

Highlights

Where You Can Go
Best Time to Use
Cost
Tips
Where You Can Go
Best Time to Use
Cost
Tips

Traverse the Railways at the San Diego Depot

If you’re coming into San Diego by train, or you’re looking for a cheap way to get around, you’ll likely find yourself at the Santa Fe Depot. This is the busiest Amtrak train station in San Diego and the third busiest in California, behind only the stations in Los Angeles and Sacramento Valley.

Thousands of people use the Santa Fe Depot every day, both as a way to access the city and to find their way around to various local attractions. Located in Core-Columbia in the heart of the business district, the depot services locals commuting to work as well as tourists looking to explore.

Like much of San Diego, this depot has a history that spans all the way back to its construction in the early 1900s. Built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, the station’s architecture is meant to reflect San Diego’s Spanish heritage and its history with the mission settlements while also helping to connect the West coast to the rest of the country.

It first began operation in 1915 alongside the Panama-California Exposition and the influx of tourists the event brought with it. It functioned as a union station for many years, and thanks to its connections to the San Diego and Arizona Railway as well as the San Diego Electric Railway, there were more than enough visitors to make the depot a notable West coast landmark.

By 1972, when California tourism was far from what it is today, the station had fallen into disrepair, and there were even proposed plans to demolish it. However, the Save Our Heritage Organization and San Diego’s Historical Review Board protested these plans. Eventually, a compromise was reached where the depot could remain in service as long as the surrounding areas were renovated, which jump-started the local tourism industry and brought riders back to the railways once again.

Today, the Santa Fe Depot is listed as one of California’s many nationally registered historic landmarks. It remains in operation, still helping San Diegans and vacationers alike avoid the headache of driving through the city.

If you want to see everything San Diego has to offer, you’ll need a convenient way to hop between neighborhoods. From the surfing and coastal culture of Oceanside to the more historically focused Gaslamp Quarter in Downtown San Diego, do your sightseeing in style at the depot.

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Stations Serviced and Where You Can Go

The Santa Fe Depot is connected to the Amtrak railway, which spans across the country and brings hundreds of visitors to and from Southern California every day. The Amtrak is commonly used for long-distance travel, but it also connects to many stops in surrounding cities. Be sure to consult a map of the railway routes as you’re planning your trip.

In addition to the train, the depot also allows passengers to board the Coaster, Trolley, and transit bus system. These are great ways to travel that all offer something a little different.

The Coaster, which spans the coastline, lets you ride while looking out at the Pacific Ocean; the Trolley allows riders to avoid roads congested with traffic; and the bus system is a great and affordable way to visit local attractions. You’ll want to check out these methods of transportation as you’re creating your itinerary and deciding what attractions you want to hit, as this will allow you to navigate the city more efficiently.

Currently, the depot only connects to the Trolley’s green line, but it is easy to transfer lines at the America Plaza station to get wherever you need to go. It is considered the southern terminus for Amtrak’s SoCal passenger train the Pacific Surfliner, as well as the southern terminus for the Coaster. Occasionally, freight trains also pass through the station, usually in the late evenings.

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Attractions that you can visit with a Go San Diego Pass include:

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What to Expect When Riding Here

The Santa Fe Depot is very safe, and there are clearly posted directions to help you orient yourself as well as friendly staff members who can point you in the right direction should you get lost. The first thing you’ll notice upon arrival is the gorgeous layout and scenery. The station’s architecture features tiled domes and towers that make it a standout landmark that’s easy to find no matter the time of day.

Amenities at the depot include bag storage and assistance with bags from the staff, an ATM, restrooms, and vending machines. The station does not feature payphones, Wi-Fi, baggage carts, or a checked baggage service. There is no parking lot at the station.

It’s recommended that you arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your departure time to ensure you can comfortably find your train, Trolley, or seat on the Coaster. Luckily, navigating the depot is easy when you know what to look for.

There are six different tracks inside the Santa Fe Depot. If you’re looking for the trolley, head to the two tracks at the eastern side platform. Otherwise, you’ll want to go to the four remaining tracks at the island platform for railway access on the Coaster and Amtrak.

You can purchase train tickets at the station from the conveniently-located kiosks or the ticket sales office.

The Best Time to Use the Santa Fe Depot

The Santa Fe Depot and San Diego as a whole have routinely gorgeous weather all year round, so you won’t have to worry about getting stuck out in the wind, rain, or snow while you’re waiting for a train. Still, many locals stand by the fact that the best time to visit is in the fall, when temperatures are perfect for just about any activity and you can really see the city come alive as you look out the window while traveling by train, bus, Trolley, or Coaster.

Since many locals use the depot to commute to work, it’s a good idea to avoid it during rush hour and in the early hours of the morning whenever possible. The work crowds can overwhelm the station’s resources and make riding a little more cramped, so it’s best to plan for another time if you can help it.

Due to its size and popularity, the station is somewhat crowded most of the time, but the crowds start to thin out in the evening hours as many tourists with young children settle in for the night. This is when you’ll find that the rail lines and trolley stops are least crowded, giving you the perfect opportunity to enjoy late-night activities like bar hopping and exploring the local San Diego area nightlife.

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The Cost of Riding and Saving During Your Travels

Ticket prices can fluctuate depending on your chosen method of transport and your destination, as well as the current going rates. For the most accurate Amtrak pricing, it’s always best to check the official website to see the current cost of your planned path.

While these prices aren’t set in stone, public transport generally provides visitors with a much cheaper way to get into and around the city compared to taxis and rideshare services. They’re a great way to save, especially if you’re travelling in a large group or as a family and you’d prefer to spend your money on San Diego’s many fun attractions instead of just getting around town.

Speaking of attractions, San Diego is home to family-friendly attractions across the city and in the surrounding area that can easily be reached from the Santa Fe Depot. Consider the San Diego Zoo in beautiful Balboa Park, LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad for families traveling with young children or SeaWorld San Diego in Mission Bay for a neighborhood with gorgeous views.

All of these attractions can be visited at a steep discount to posted prices when you purchase a Go San Diego Pass in advance of your trip. The pass features a ‘bundle and save’ setup that can be combined with our exclusive partner promo code to save you and your family even more!

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Tips and Best Practices for Riding the Rails

Disabled Accessibility
Disabled Accessibility
No Alcohol
No Alcohol
No Smoking
No Smoking
Restrooms
Restrooms
Stroller Accessible
Stroller Accessible

Travelling at the Santa Fe Depot can be a little intimidating for first-timers, but with these helpful tips, you’ll have no trouble getting around.

Hours of Operation

The Santa Fe Depot is open from 5:15 A.M. to 1:00 A.M. the following day, meaning the station is only closed for about four hours each evening in the overnight hours.

The Santa Fe Depot is open seven days a week, and these hours include the station waiting room, the kiosks, the ticket office, and passenger assistance.

Local Tips
Guest Rewards
If you're planning to use this as a way of transportation, you can start earning points toward Amtrak reward travel, hotels, car rentals and more. Don't forget to visite the official website!

Accessibility

While the Santa Fe Depot does not have an elevator, all methods of public transport can be accessed from the ground floor. Restrooms and water fountains are also accessible, and there is a wheelchair lift available.

Go Car Free

One of the most difficult things for tourists coming from different states or even countries is often learning how to get around a given city without a car. Luckily, the Santa Fe Depot helps to make San Diego one of the most walkable cities around.

With the wide variety of public transportation options available, you can feel totally confident leaving the car at home or at the hotel while still being able to traverse the many neighborhoods of the city without your own vehicle.

Snacks and Drinks are Allowed

Amtrak railways allow passengers to bring and consume their own food and beverages while on the train. Bring whatever you need to keep you and your family sated during the journey; just remember to be courteous and dispose of your trash properly after your ride.

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Stay Nearby

Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown
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