From “Thomas the Train” to the “Polar Express,” trains tend to be a hit with kids. They’re a fun way to travel, too, because kids can get a geography lesson simply by looking out the window!
From feeding bison in Wyoming to traversing the plains of Switzerland, here are seven fun train rides for kids. All aboard!
1. Hop Aboard the Winter Park Train in Denver, Colorado
Departing from Denver’s historic Union Station, Amtrak’s Winter Park Express is a great way to bypass traffic, which notoriously gets snarled along the highway leading into Colorado’s mountain towns.
A top-deck observation tower shows off Colorado’s changing landscape during this narrated 1.5-hour ride to the base of Winter Park. Kids will spot buffalo and can count the 31 tunnels the train travels through as it makes its journey into the mountains. Once there, and during ski season, families can schuss down snowy slopes at Winter Park or go snow tubing.
The Winter Park Train could also kick off the beginning of a Wild West-themed vacation, with a stay at C Lazy U, a luxury guest ranch that’s been around since 1919.
2. Feed Bison on This Train Tour Near Cheyenne, Wyoming
Hop aboard a train at the Terry Bison Ranch and ride out to the middle of a bison herd. With buckets of feed on board, you and your children can feed the bison from the palm of your hand. They’ll lick the pellets straight from your hand, their tongues feeling like those of cats, only much bigger. Also, you can say you visited two states during the train ride, as the ranch straddles Wyoming and Colorado. Round out your visit to the ranch with a pony ride. If you’re looking for a fun time of year to visit Cheyenne, go during Frontier Days in July for rodeos, a parade and concerts.
3. Take a Scenic Ride Through Switzerland With Eurail
Trains can be a stress-free and budget-friendly alternative to flying, plus all the scenery kids spot out the window can help keep them entertained.
The Eurail Pass is a flexible, budget-friendly alternative for families who want to explore Europe with their kids without the hassle of flying from country to country. Eurail has a wide selection of rail passes, with more than 35 international and regional lines that can be used in 31 European countries.
The Glacier Express, for example, is a panoramic, almost eight-hour trip between St. Moritz and Zermatt. The train passes through 91 tunnels and crosses the elevated Oberalp Pass, with stops along the way at some of Switzerland’s coolest mountain spa towns.
4. Climb the Tallest Mountain in the Northeast
Brightly colored train cars chugga-chugga up the highest mountain in the Northeast — taking you into the clouds — during this scenic excursion with the Mount Washington Cog Railway in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The ride to the top is about an hour and you can take in views of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and even Canada.
The free Cog Railway Museum has interactive exhibits, including a train simulator, so kids can get an idea of what it’s like to be the engineer of a Mountain Washington Cog Railway Diesel Engine.
5. Take a Steam Engine Ride Through the Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in North Carolina boasts 53 miles of track, two tunnels and 25 bridges, showcasing scenery parents will appreciate. But the railroad also has fun with themed rides throughout the year, including the Peanuts-themed Easter Beagle Express, the Peanuts-themed Great Pumpkin Patch Express and the Polar Express.
Another fun option is to hop aboard a historic steam engine, the Steam of the Smokies, which dates back to 1942.
6. Ride a Train at the Railroad Museum in Wisconsin
If you’ve got a train-obsessed child, it may be worth planning an entire vacation around a trip to the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin. You can take a 25-minute ride around the museum in a vintage diesel locomotive, during which the conductor will give a good overview of how trains work and basic railroad safety.
At the museum, you’ll also get to see some of the most famous retired trains, including The GG-1, a locomotive that was built in 1932 and has been featured on a U.S. postage stamp and as a Lionel toy train.
7. Travel Back in Time at Greenfield Village in Michigan
When it comes to transportation in Greenfield Village, your family has plenty of options. The village, located in Dearborn, Michigan, has about 100 historic buildings spread out over 200 acres. It was developed in 1933 by Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company. After taking a ride on a train pulled by a historic steam or diesel locomotive, you can hop into a Model-T for another ride.
Enjoy the ride!