Best Train Adventures for Families
Take the Train to Chicago
Heading to Chicago for the day couldn’t be easier. You can hop aboard the local Amtrak in Kalamazoo, or drive part of the way and hop on the commuter South Shore Line. Read our handy Train Guide to Chicago for all the details and insider tips on a successful train ride to Chicago.
Zip on a Zoo Train
Binder Park Zoo offers their ZO&O Railroad, a miniature train ride on a loop that goes through a tunnel and along the creek. The Detroit Zoo recently refurbished their Tauber Family Railroad, a miniature railroad ride from one side of the zoo to the other.
Celebrate a Holiday on The Coopersville Marne Train
Located in historic downtown Coopersville, the Coopersville Marne Train runs seasonally from from April thru December. Train-goers can enjoy themed events such as the Bunny Train, the Famous Pumpkin Train, and the Santa Train. They also have a reduced fare EnterTRAINment excursions which last 90 minutes and meander through family-owned farms and fields while their Singing Trainman is in your coach, playing railroad and acoustic songs.
Keep History Alive on a Steam Locomotive
Run by volunteers, The Little River Railroad is dedicated to the restoration and operation of historic railroad equipment. Ride the rails on an authentic 100-year steam engine train. During the summer months, enjoy a Lazy Days of Summer ride on Sunday afternoons. Come October, enjoy the changing leaves and pick a pumpkin on a Fall Color Run.
Experience The Polar Express
Experience the North Pole Express: The Steam Railroading Institute offers multiple excursions throughout the year, but a ride behind the Pere Marquette 1225 is what draws visitors. Passengers depart Owosso, Michigan and take a one-hour train ride pulled by the locomotive modeled after the train from the famous movie, THE POLAR EXPRESS™.
You’ll have time to explore the Village of Ashley’s Country Christmas. Included with the excursion is admission to rides, art/crafts, entertainment, a petting zoo, reindeer and Santa Claus. This is a sell-out experience every year – get your tickets early.
Photo The Steam Railroading Institute
Relax on the Huckleberry Railroad
Take a 40-minute railroad ride along the shores of Mott Lake, down a stretch of the historic Pere Marquette roadbed, and back into historic Crossroads Village. The Huckleberry Railroad runs during the summer, Wednesdays through Sundays. In addition, they have a special Day out With Thomas™ event held annually in August, Halloween and Christmas train rides. There are 11 original and replica wooden coaches and the classic red wooden caboose.
Hop On Hop Off at Historic Greenfield Village
Historic Greenfield Village offers the Weiser Railroad Ride which passes through the village and offers visitors a tour of the town. The entire route is three miles with several opportunities to embark. The train runs from mid-April thru the end of October.
Explore the Michigan Transit Museum – Train Depot
Located on the east side of the state, the Michigan Transit Museum offers inexpensive summer, fall and holiday train rides that are 30-45 minutes on Sunday afternoons. This year tickets can be purchased online as well as the day of in the caboose. Make sure to visit the nearby museum in Mount Clemens which features a history of the area’s railroads.
Look Down From the Wooden Trestles
The Michigan AuSable Valley Railroad winds through the Huron National Forest, through a long tunnel and over beautiful wooden trestles. The ride operates during the summer, weekends only. Fall color tours are available during the first two weekends of October.
Take a Ride on The Steam Railroading Institute
If you’re in the U.P. near Tahquamenon Falls, hop aboard the Toonerville Trolley for a Wilderness Train Ride. This train is the longest narrow-gauge railroad in the country and goes through about five and a half miles of thick forest. Passengers can opt to do the train ride on its own or choose to do a 21-mile riverboat ride at the train ride’s destination.
View Miniature Trains at The Museum of Science + Industry
Head to Chicago for “The Great Train Story” exhibit which has over 1,400 feet of winding track with scenery from Seattle to Chicago. Over 20 trains wind around the exhibit and twice hourly, the train goes into “nighttime mode”. While you’re there, sign up for a tour of the Pioneer Zephyr, a train whose engine was the first to travel faster than steam locomotives.
Special Events Not to be Missed
Spend the Day Out with Thomas
Witness full steam delight as your kids see Thomas the Tank Engine™ chug into the Greenfield Village Station. Enjoy a train rides, along with meet & greets with Sir Topham Hatt, Storytelling, Music, and Magic Shows, your child is guaranteed a once-in-a-lifetime train experience. Sensory-friendly Saturday times are available. Thomas the Train™ runs for three weekends in late April and early May. For other tips on this adventure, read our review.
Visit the Fred Meijer Gardens During the Holidays
Every Christmas, during the Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World event, Fred Meijer Gardens has a Railway Garden, complete with model trains that weave around holiday-themed horticulture and 30 iconic Grand Rapids miniature landmarks.
Train-Related Food Fun
Want a little choo-choo while you chew? Train lovers will love dining at one of these fun restaurants.
- The Club Car Grille Restaurant | 6225 D Ave W, Kalamazoo, MI 49009
- Bagger Dave’s | 2190 East Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512
- Ice Cream Caboose | 6300 Alden Nash SE, Alto, MI 49302
- Station 885 Restaurant | 885 Starkweather St, Plymouth, MI 48170
- The Caboose Inn | 641 Conger St, South Haven, MI 49090
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