The easiest and most cost effective way to get from the bay area to Sacramento without driving is by taking the Amtrak Capital Corridor train. This train runs several times per day, and the round-trip fare is $66 which includes a quick thruway bus connection between the transbay terminal in San Francisco and the Emeryville Amtrak station. It is a very tolerable train ride at just under two hours, and exposes you to the beautiful vistas of Northern California.
I was really impressed with the thruway bus between San Francisco and Emervyille. It has comfortable seats, power outlets, wood paneling on the inside, and even seat belts.
The bus takes you over the Bay Bridge, where you get some beautiful views of the bay. The poor quality video below attempts to give you a small taste of the experience, but nothing comes close to the real thing. I love the way that on this day full of sail boats in the bay the container ship looked like it was navigating a large obstacle course.
After a 20 minute bus ride I found myself at the Emeryville Amtrak station.
The only time that I have ever been on Amtrak previously was on the northeast corridor between Washington, DC and Boston. As the train pulled into the station I heard the familiar bells of Amtrak and was excited to board. The train was very comfortable. It had two levels, and was not very busy so I had an entire section to myself.
The train ride was absolutely beautiful. It is amazing how just a few miles outside of the bay area is an area full of hills, lakes, mountains, rivers, and farms. If you take this train be sure to sit on the left side northbound and on the right side southbound in order to get the best views.
The trip ends at the Sacramento Valley station which, like most things in Sacramento, was under construction.