All aboard for a trip down history lane! What is it about trains that call up nostalgia for days of yore? Hearing the conductor shout as the engine chugs slowly as it steams its way back into time? Watching the kids become wild western cowboys and robbers? Or is it the fantastic scenery - the deserted depots fading into the distance, glorious rivers and trees stretching as far as the eye can see, or feeling the cars climb up, up, up to the mountain tops? Whatever it is, families can have a full day of exploration and excitement while riding. Kiddos can have a shootout with the Lone Ranger, pick pumpkins, hang with ghosts or explore old gold mines. Passengers of all ages will love to power down the track, relaxing as time flies. Be sure to head out and discover these super amazing engines and cars covering tracks all over the United States.
1. Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Narrow is right! The rails are only 3 feet wide and climb an astonishing 3,000 feet through the mountains, making for a WOW experience. Originally created to carry gold and silver down from the peaks, this historic train now delights in carrying passengers behind vintage steam locomotives with bright shiny colors. Relive the sights and sounds of yesteryear for a spectacular journey.
Insider Tip: The Prospector Car is the only enclosed family-with-wee-ones-friendly car. Other options include the open-air gondola and the vintage coach, which provide sweeping views of the mountains.
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
479 Main Avenue
Dates: Runs Year Round
Prices: Kids 12 & Under $52, Adults $88, Kids 3 & Under Free
2. Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
Want to hop on a killer ride through the Carolina Mountains? The Tuckasegee River Excursion traveling 32 miles round trip through old railroad towns and scenic meadows is a family favorite. From over 125 species of trees to the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, riders can revel in some of the most beautiful natural scenery in America. The little ones will go wild if on one of the various specialty excursions including Peanuts™ The Easter Beagle Express, The Lone Ranger™, Railfest, Peanuts™ The Great Pumpkin Patch Express, and The Polar Express™.
Insider Tip: From June - Aug, kids 2-12 years ride FREE every Tuesday on the Tuckasegee River Excursion, Open Air Standard Coach Seating with the purchase of one adult ticket! Booking ONLY available by phone 1-800-872-468.
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
226 Everett Street
Bryson City, Nc
3. Thunder Mountain Line
Idaho's only scenic mountain train will take travelers through the beauty of Boise National Forest and along the lush waters of the Payette River. Beginning in historic Horseshoe Bend, the train will make a 30 minute stop in Banks, just enough time to explore the gold mining exhibit, take pictures of the stage coach and visit the the station house. The kiddos will get a kick out of hangin' with the Lone Ranger, dodging a shootout on the Wild West Train or having an easter egg hunt with the conductor on the Easter Bunny Rail.
Insider Tip: Forgot to bring a lunch? Go with a Conductor Box Lunch for $8.
Thunder Mountain Line
Horseshoe Bend, Id
4. California Zephyr
This legendary train has been bringing folks to the Golden State from Chicago since 1949. Why not enjoy a small portion of this historical ride? Leave the bay behind and travel through the great California agricultural valley, up and down Donner Summit and into Truckee. This 6 hour trip has stellar cliffside views of the Sierras and the trip will remind travelers of hundreds of thousands of "49er's" who set out looking for gold in the foothills.
Insider Tip: This ride is not a historical day trip but rather a real mode of transportation. Plan your Tahoe getaway around riding the rails!
5885 Horton Street
5. Grand Canyon Railway
All aboard the train to the Grand Canyon! From 65 miles out, this adventure trip takes travelers to the edge of the canyon and back. Ride along the Colorado Plateau, from the open desert to the pine mountains. This fun jaunt includes a visit from historical characters from the Wild Wild West --- just perfect for those excitable kids wanting to be cowboys and girls. The Annual Pumpkin Patch ride is also great fun, and everyone is encouraged to wear costumes, brave the haunted rail car to select pumpkins from the patch only accessible by train.
Insider Tip: The extremely popular Polar Express Ride is now taking reservations for the Nov - Dec 2012 rides. Call 1-888-848-3511 for a reservation today.
Grand Canyon Railway
233 North Grand Canyon Boulevard
Dates: Runs Year Round
Prices: Coach Class: $75 per person
Phone: 928 635-4253
6. Mount Washington Cog Railway
This funky train is a one-of-a-kind adventure, it carries passengers up a 3-mile-long trestle on the steepest railroad tracks in North America, to the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington. Once at the top, jaws will drop at the awesome panoramic view, spanning the mountains and valleys of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, north into Canada, and east to the Atlantic Ocean.
Insider Tip: Be on the lookout for the service house defying the laws of geometry along the steep grade!
Washington Cog Railway
3168 Base Station Road
Marshfield Station, Nh
Dates: April - November
Prices: Kids 12 & Under $39, Adults $62
Have you and your family had a historic and awesome train ride? Where?!