What is it about trains that are so fascinating? I’ve seen many a toddler, child, parent and grandparent riveted for hours engrossed in train encyclopedias, hunched over wooden activity tables, and standing along railways with looks of pure bliss upon their faces. Many families invest dollars and hours into the latest and greatest train sets, DVDs and picture books, but nothing quite compares to the real thing! This year why not take a real train adventure with your young ones, and share in the discovery and magic that only an engineering marvel of metal and wheels could captivate across the ages.
Roaring Camp Railroads - Felton, CA: Roaring Camp Railroads is one of my son’s absolute favorites. Two railroads run along the Santa Cruz beach and through the giant redwood forest. My son is a huge steam locomotive fan, and boy does Roaring Camp deliver. Along with the beautiful scenery, there is a historical and educational aspect to satisfy any insatiable train curiosity. Roaring Camp also offers special seasonal events, and an annual Thomas the Tank Engine event, too!
Grand Canyon Railway - Williams, AZ: I’ve always been terrified at the thought of taking my kids to the Grand Canyon; it probably had something to do with my dad’s story of visiting in the 70’s and a guy holding his kid over a cliff and telling his wife to take a picture. In any case, it’s a fantastic way to see the sights of the Grand Canyon and the Old West in a fun and interactive way. Families can travel for the day or stay the night. There are historic depots, re-enactments, a play park, and fun activities for kids of all ages. The GCR also offers an award-winning Polar Express event during the holiday season!
Crooked River Dinner Train - Redmond, OR: What was that?!?! Horses running along side the locomotive, Jesse James jumping aboard, and a murder mystery! The Crooked River Dinner Train is perfect for families with slightly older kids. Part crime thriller, part scenic ride, and dinner thrown in to boot…who wouldn’t love to spend an evening immersed in history and theatrics? If you’re in the Central Oregon area, this is a unique experience your kids will never forget!
Austin Steam Train - Austin, TX: A historic railway that’s worked hard to preserve steam trains within Texas’ history. While offering commuter options and short trips for those wishing to see the sights or do some shopping, the train also has group activities like murder mystery tours and holiday events.
Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad - Cripple Creek, CO: Not far from Colorado Springs, steam engines run all day long in Cripple Creek. The trains offer a shorter trip that’s ideal for families with small kids, and chock full of educational tidbits and information about gold mining, early railway life, and the height of the gold mining industry.