My Son's List of Top 5 Train Rides for Families

     By Kimberly Dijkstra 

    Kids are loco for locomotives! From the time we’re little, we have a certain wonderment for trains. The big, magical machines stoke the fires of the imagination and that feeling never really goes away. Choo-choo rides are fun for the whole family! 

    From steam engines to historic coaches, here are the top 5 train rides for families.


    Hocking Valley Scenic Railway

    Based in Nelsonville, Ohio, the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway offers a variety of train rides. The Steam Train Special is suitable for all ages. Riders travel on an authentic 1920 coal-fired steam locomotive through the historic Hocking River Valley, and past Robbins Crossing Historic Village and Hocking College.

    Ohio’s Friendliest Train Robbery is a fun, interactive experience complete with bandits on horseback who have their sights set on the big gold shipment aboard the train. The All-Caboose Train Ride is perfect for railroad fanatics and provides multiple photo opportunities.

    Also popular are the Fall Foliage, Nelsonville Halloween, and Santa Christmas Train Rides.


    Heber Valley Railroad 

    Located about an hour outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, the Heber Valley Railroad was established in 1899. For breathtaking views of Provo Canyon and Deer Creek Dam, take a relaxing round-trip ride on the historic Heber Creeper. Old-fashioned hospitality is included on this 3-hour ride. 

    For a shorter trip with incredible views of the Wasatch mountains and Deer Creek reservoir, hop on the Deer Creek Express.

    As long as the summer lasts, catch a family-friendly ride on the Hot Summer Night Train. Over 90 minutes in the evening, there will be sing-a-longs, fiddlers and fun group activities. In the fall, kids will enjoy boarding the Pumpkin Train, complete with costumed characters, pumpkin cookies, and plunge into the pumpkin patch.

    Check the schedule for the Broadway Show Tunes Train, Princess & Pirate Train, Halloween Train, Wizard’s Train, Cowboy Train, North Pole Express, and more.


    Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad

    Find the adventure you’ve been looking for on the Potomac Eagle Scenic Train deep in the heart of mountainous West Virginia. Choose the Trough Trip for a 3-hour narrated excursion through the green and rocky canyon along the Potomac River known as The Trough.

    The Green Spring Special is a 90-minute journey to and from the quaint town of Green Spring with river views and scenes of beautiful farmland. 

    Every winter, experience the holidays in a new way on the North Pole Express. Kids will feel like they’ve been whisked away to Santa’s Workshop with carolling, milk and cookies, hot cocoa, and a touch of pure magic. 


    Virginia & Truckee Railroad


    The Virginia & Truckee Railroad is known as the Queen of the Short Lines. The 35-minute round-trip ride from Virginia City, Nevada to Gold Hill boards at the original V&T 1870 Passenger Depot and continues down a route with a fascinating history. At the time the railroad was built, Virginia city was the richest city on earth, full of millionaires who got rich off the Gold Rush.

    Depending on the day of the week, you’ll either be aboard a steam train or a diesel train. It will pass through a tunnel and chug past a number of Comstock Bonanza mine sites to Gold Hill, where you’ll see the train depot, the Liberty Engine Fire Company monument, the 1859 Gold Hill Hotel, and the early Bank of California building.

    Every year around Labor Day, history comes to life when Civil War reenactors fight epic battles. In the fall, children can catch a ride on the Pumpkin Patch Steam Train or the spooky Electric Halloween Steam Train. 

    Later in the year, they can jump aboard the Candy Cane Express or the Electric Holiday Train O’ Lights to get their fill of holiday spirit and excitement.


    North Shore Scenic Railroad

    The train rides of the North Shore Scenic Railroad are fully narrated tours that delve into the history of Duluth, the harbor, and the railroads of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

    Popular for all ages, the 75-minute Duluth Zephyr operates daily and passes through downtown, the shoreline of Lake Superior, and other historic areas before turning around and returning to the train depot. 

    The Music & PIzza Train departs in the evenings and offers 2½ hours of fun with Domino’s Pizza, snacks, and live music by local musicians. For a full-day excursion, book a ride on the Two Harbors Turn. 

    Don’t miss out on a visit to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, adjacent to the train depot, and filled with even more regional history to explore.



    Honorable Mention: 


    Thomas the Tank Engine chugs around the country and rolls into different railway museums year round. Kids can hop on board a real Thomas train and party with Thomas & Friends characters in costume. Check the Day Out with Thomas website for the full schedule.

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