Why the Amtrak Train from OKC to Dallas is 100X Better than Driving

by Jenna Lee
Amtrak train in OKC on the platform. Copyright Travels of Jenna

Why should you take the Amtrak train from OKC to Dallas?

Let me start by saying that the train from OKC actually takes you to Fort Worth. From there, you can connect to the Dallas train, Uber, or just hang out in Fort Worth for the weekend. Oklahoma City really isn’t that far from either. The two cities are often lumped together as one and referred to as DFW, a spin off of the local airport code. It’s 3.5 hours straight down I-35 making it a common weekend getaway from OKC and the surrounding area. So why take the train from OKC to Dallas when it’s that easy to drive? Let me tell you why. DFW is highway hell.

DFW traffic is an adventure of its own. If you’re the type of person that thinks of driving as a competitive sport, Dallas traffic might be fun for you. Just don’t expect anybody to play by the rules. Entering the DFW metro is like accidentally (or intentionally) pulling onto a Nascar raceway and not a single driver (probably including you) actually knows what they’re doing.

Need more reasons to take the train from OKC to Dallas? Keep reading.

Read More: Top Kid-Friendly Activities in OKC

Santa Fe Depot and the Amtrak train from OKC to Dallas (Fort Worth). Copyright Jenna Lee, Travels of Jenna
Board the Amtrak train at Santa Fe Depot to get from OKC to Dallas easily.

Reason #1: You’ve been to the DFW area and learned your lesson.

Have you ever been to Dallas? If so, you know exactly why you should take the train from OKC to Dallas if at all possible. Driving around the DFW area is an utter nightmare. I live less than four hours away and usually find myself in the area a few times a year. Despite being familiar with it and having the ability to manage it pretty well, I loathe DFW traffic. If you are a slow driver, cautious driver, indecisive driver, or simply a driver that likes to even vaguely follow the rules, you’re doomed. Get off of the Dallas highways and stay off.

Reason #2: You’d like to avoid becoming roadkill with a big toll bill.

In a best case scenario, you’ll end up lost; trapped on four wheels of terror, trying to avoid becoming roadkill, and likely racking up an enormous toll bill that you probably won’t learn about until you get a collections notice in the mail a few months later. Don’t even get me started on the NTTA, the toll agency notorious for their questionable billing practices. Sound like fun? Didn’t think so. Survival skills in DFW traffic are reduced one’s ability to take risks; risks that require you to throw every rule you’ve ever learned about operating a moving vehicle out the driver’s side window. Dallas might be one of Texas’ largest metropolitan areas but it’s the Wild Wild West when you get behind the wheel.

Reason #3: You like to travel easy.

Visiting Dallas is a pretty common weekend getaway for us Okies. Those of us who have done it a time or two know well enough that, unless you are spending the entire time downtown, it’s easier and cheaper to stay outside of Dallas Proper in areas like Fort Worth and Addison, Texas. The hotels are usually cheaper and you’ll save cash on other things like hefty parking fees. If you don’t want to drive, it’s super easy and inexpensive to just uber or take the DART, Dallas’ light rail system, to most points of interest.

While driving might technically be cheaper than a train ticket, it’s much more comfortable to be able to sit back and relax. On the train, you can take a nap or read a book. You can even get up to stretch your legs, use the restroom, or go buy a coffee and candy bar from the cafe car all without pulling over. Besides, if you take gas and parking into consideration, the train ticket might be cheaper after all. If nothing else, the cost of the ticket is worth saving yourself the stress of driving in the DFW. After all, you ARE on vacation and you shouldn’t spend it stressed.

Reason #4: You appreciate your sanity.

Sane drivers do not occupy the Dallas Freeway Pit of Peril. At least not for long. They are weeded out and separated from the reckless folks like wheat from the chaff. And by reckless, I actually mean wreck-less. A responsible person was, ironically, responsible for that fender bender you just passed. They tried to obey the rules. To survive DFW traffic, you must keep in mind that, around here, it’s a dog eat dog world. Overly cautious drivers will be chewed up and spit out.

If you do decide to go ahead and accept the challenge, it’s time to channel your inner Evel Knievel. You’re probably going to need it as you enter the freeway. To safely on-ramp you’ll likely need to be traveling at least 85mph. Then, inevitably, you will need to exit the next off-ramp located 6 lanes over in exactly 540 ft. Good luck getting through the thicket of seasoned commuters. Oh, yeah, welcome to Dallas.

Why I took the Train from OKC to Fort Worth

Recently, a good friend had to meet a client in Fort Worth. Since we were due for a girls trip anyway, we decided to make a weekend getaway out of her work trip. After talking about which one of us was going to drive and grumbling over how awful traffic is in the DFW, it dawns on us. “Why not just take the train?” We’ve talked about it before, actually. However, getting around to planning a weekend getaway is more often coffee chatter than it is a reality. Now, we had a perfect excuse.

I’m actually surprised at how long it has taken me to book a round trip ticket on the Heartland Flyer. Other than the 5 years that I spent in West Texas, I’ve lived my whole life in Oklahoma. Given how easy the train makes getting out of Dodge, even for one day, it’s something I should have tried out long ago. Alas, here we are. Sometimes, it’s the adventures in your own backyard that get overlooked the most.

Plus, I’ve never really considered Fort Worth as a destination. Sometimes, I think we get plagued with the side effects of the “too close to home” syndrome. You know, the one where if a destination isn’t a certain distance from your home it gets automatically disregarded as unexciting? That’s totally false by the way and Fort Worth is a prime example of that.

Sundance Square in Fort Worth. Copyright Jenna Lee

How to take the Amtrak train from OKC to Dallas (Fort Worth)

Turns out, Fort Worth actually has a really cool downtown area with a ton of things to do. It’s really too bad that it seems to rest in the shadows of its big-city counterpart. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dallas too. Fort Worth just has a little bit more charm. So, if you want to travel by train from OKC all the way to Dallas, go ahead. If you want a little less hustle and bustle, step off that Amtrak train in Fort Worth. Either way, the process is super easy.

Pick Your Dates

There aren’t a lot of trains from OKC to Dallas. In fact, you can only catch the Heartland Flyer once a day so the first thing you want to do is pick your travel dates. The train departs OKC at 8:25 the morning and returns from Fort Worth in the evening. You will roll back into OKC at approximately 9:27 in the evening, leaving Fort Worth at around 5:25 pm. This makes it easy in the sense that you won’t have to choose among a number of routes, you will only need to decide what days you want to travel. We chose to leave on a Friday morning and return on Saturday night. I know people who have gone and returned all in the same day.

Sign Up for the Rewards Program

The next step is to purchase your tickets but before you do that, be sure to sign up for the rewards program. Every time you travel on an Amtrak train you will earn reward points plus you’ll get a bonus just for signing up. At the time of this article, that bonus is 500 points. You will also receive emails with deals and promotions and can turn your accrued points into free tickets for future travel.

Book Your Ticket

Now that you know when you want to travel and you have signed up for the rewards program, it’s time to book your tickets! Head to the official Amtrak website and enter the route. Unless you want to take the train from OKC all the way to Dallas, be sure to enter Fort Worth as your destination since that is where the Heartland Flyer officially ends service. Otherwise, you will be shocked at how long that trip actually takes. The train ride from OKC to Fort Worth only takes a little more than 4 hours whereas the train trip to Dallas will take nearly 6 hours.

If you are traveling all the way to Dallas, the lengthy travel time to Dallas isn’t actually as bad as it seems. The extra time is due to a layover between trains in Fort Worth. You’ll have about an hour which is just enough time to grab some lunch before moving on. You can grab a sandwich at Subway located right near the station or you can walk a couple of blocks to a different restaurant. If you’re not hungry, pass the time by taking a quick walk just a few blocks south to the Fort Worth Water Gardens, a unique water feature near the convention center. Just be sure to make it back in plenty of time to board!

Where to Board the Train

Besides OKC, you can also pick the train up in Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley, Ardmore, or Gainesville at their respective departure times. It will even be a little cheaper. So basically, if you live further south down I-35, you don’t need to travel up to OKC to catch the train. Just book a ticket from the nearest Heartland Flyer train depot. In OKC, you’ll board at the Santa Fe depot near downtown. I’ve included the address in the FAQ section below.

Fort Worth Water Gardens. Copyright Jenna Lee
Fort Worth Water Gardens

Parking at the Santa Fe Depot in OKC

Currently, the Santa Fe Depot only offers day parking at a daily rate of $10. However, overnight parking is not available at the depot. If you want to park overnight, you will need choose one of the nearby parking garages. If you are planning on an overnight trip and don’t want to deal with parking, you may want to think about having a friend of family member drop you off at the train station or book an Uber. Sign up using my code jennal4569ui to get a free ride (amount varies by city.) Another option is to book your ticket from Norman where parking is available for free.

You’re All Set!

Now that you’ve got your ticket booked, all you need to do is figure out all of the fun things you want to do in Fort Worth or Dallas. I know that when we booked our first trip on the Heartland Flyer, we had several questions. We also learned a few things along the way that only come by experience. I’ve addressed everything I can think of that you might want to know in this FAQ section.

Important FAQ About Taking the Train from OKC to Fort Worth (and Dallas)

Fort Worth Train Station. Amtrak OKC route to Fort Worth. Copyright Jenna Lee
Where is the Santa Fe Depot in OKC?

The Santa Fe Depot is located at 100 East E.K. Gaylord in Downtown OKC.

How many bags am I allowed to take on the train?

Each passenger is allowed up to two carryon bags and two personal items free of charge. Carryon baggage must measure 28x22x13 and weigh 50 lbs or less. Personal items can weigh up to 25lbs and measure up to 14x11x7 each. Excess baggage is charged at $20 each. For more information, view the Amtrak train baggage policy.

What if I’m traveling with a baby?

Children, including babies, are welcome on board. Travelers riding with a baby are allowed an extra item such as a stroller or diaper bag at no charge.

How much does it cost to ride the Amtrak train from OKC to Fort Worth?

The cost to ride depends on how far in advance you book your ticket and where you choose to board. My ticket from OKC to Fort Worth was only $31 each way. However, a same day purchase would have cost $62. Besides saving money, it’s important to book in advance because the train from OKC to Fort Worth is often sold out.

Is food available on board?

Technically, yes. There is a cafe although there isn’t much to choose from. Things like hotdogs, frozen cheeseburgers and breakfast sandwiches as well as an assortment of snacks like candy and chips are available. You can also purchase bottled water, coffee, soda, and a few alcoholic drinks. Basically, it’s your typical concession.

Are the seats spacious?

The seats are very spacious and able to recline considerably. There is also a footrest under each chair that you can extend. For the most space, arrive at the station early and choose bulkhead seating. You will have even more legroom and will not have anyone reclining in front of you. The only downside is that the bulkhead seats don’t have tray tables.

Should I bring a blanket?

If you tend to get cold, I recommend traveling with a blanket. We took the Heartland Flyer in September and, although it was 95 degrees outside, the train was pretty cold.

Is there wifi access on-board?

There is, but the connectivity to the Amtrak train wifi is pretty sketchy. You may have better luck with your cell phone providers internet. I had the best connection with my mobile phone, but even that wasn’t great for the most part.

How many trains run from OKC to Dallas?

Only one! The Amtrak train that runs from OKC to Fort Worth, aka the Heartland Flyer, leaves and returns to OKC once per day. You can use the train to spend a day in Fort Worth or extend your stay in the Dallas area and return on a different day.

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