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Taking a Field Trip with Metrolink in Southern California

Have you ever taken your children on a field trip and traveled by train?  Recently, I took my daughter and her best friend on Metrolink for the first time down to San Juan Capistrano to visit Zoomars Petting Zoo and have lunch at the historic El Adobe de Capistrano.

We started our day at the Irvine Metrolink Station and decided to arrive 15 minutes early so not to be late for our train.  My daughter was excited to help me navigate Metrolink’s new touch-screen ticket machine where I purchased three tickets for our day time adventure to San Juan Capistrano.  

Metrolink Southern California
Metrolink Travel

While waiting for our train, we talked about what’s it like to take the train and why it’s an important mode of transportation.  From a fact sheet I had on hand, we learned that Metrolink has 62 stations in total and is the nation’s 3rd largest commuter rail system operating seven lines across 538 total route miles serving six Southern California Counties – Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego. Since we travel to San Diego often, we plan to take the train next time.

Metrolink Irvine Station
Metrolink Travel Irvine
Map of Metrolink

We also discussed the difference between the three types of trains that Metrolink operates in SoCal.  We were surprised to learn how big their fleet is.  Metrolink has 53 locomotives or engines that provide the power for the train, 121 Bombardier BiLevel Coaches and 137 Hyundai Rotem BiLevel Cars.  Metrolink is also the first passenger rail system in the nation to operate new locomotives powered by Tier 4 clean technology.  Green is the way to go these days!

Traveling with Metrolink was a seamless experience.  We successfully got on the train and took a 20-minute ride down to San Juan Capistrano.  The conductor announced each stop along the way so we knew exactly when to get off.

As soon as we arrived, we stepped off the platform into the heart of Los Rios History District, which is California’s oldest neighborhood.  In addition to offering 40 homes and three adobe structures dating back to the early 1700 and 1800s, the area is filled with several fun things to do including shopping, food and sights to see.

Metrolink San Juan Capistrano

Our first destination was to Zoomars at Riverstreet Ranch.  Zoomars is a local popular spot for families to visit and offers a small petting zoo, train rides, panning for gold, pony rides and tractor rides and more.\

Upon arrival, the girls decided to visit with the guinea pigs.  A staff member brought them two guinea pigs to feed and interact with.  The fuzzy animals were quite friendly and loved to be pet.  They especially enjoyed eating the carrots and lettuce.

Zoomar's Petting Zoo
Zoomar's Petting Zoo
Zoomar's Petting Zoo

Next, the girls made their way over to meet the Emu.  He was a bit feistier than the other animals.  You have to watch your fingers when feeding him.  We also fed the soft and fluffy bunnies nearby.  Afterwards, the girls took a short tractor ride around a race course and tried to beat each other’s best times.

Zoomar's Petting Zoo

After visiting Zoomar’s we walked a short distance to eat lunch at the historic El Adobe de Capistrano, where President Nixon hosted many luminaries like Henry Kissinger, the crown prince and princess of Jordan, Anthony Quinn, Clint Eastwood, and John Wayne. 

Where did President Nixon eat in San Juan Capistrano

We sat right next to where President Nixon and the First Lady would dine up on the balcony level.  As we ate, we discussed President Nixon’s presidency and some of his great accomplishments and limitations.  After lunch, we explored the Mexican restaurant a bit more.  It is very kid-friendly and has a colorful history having served as a trading post, stagecoach stop, post office, and the town’s jail.

What a wonderful day of history and travel we had visiting San Juan Capistrano.  The next time you are considering a day trip or weekend adventure to a city in Southern California, consider taking the Metrolink and using their recommended travel guides. To learn more about these itineraries, visit here, and for more
information about where Metrolink travels, visit

Happy Field Tripping!