15+ Epic Train Rides in Michigan that Families Will Love

Train Rides in Michigan North Pole Express

All Aboard! Train Rides in Michigan for All Ages

“They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight…” Like many parents, I’ve had that song running on repeat since my oldest discovered Thomas the Train™ when he was a toddler.

From Dearborn to Coopersville, up to Soo Junction, and every region in between, there are so many places throughout Michigan for a family to experience all things locomotive in person.

We’ve compiled this ultimate list of train rides in Michigan, featuring holiday experiences, special events, and museums.

Many of these train experiences sell out quickly. Advanced reservations are strongly encouraged.

North Pole Express
North Pole Express train in Owosso MI

Train Rides in Michigan

There is no shortage of options throughout Michigan for families who love trains.

Whether you’re looking for a modern train to Chicago or a historic ride on a steam engine from the early 1900s, we have you covered with these options for travel by rail.

1 – Take the Train to Chicago

Heading to Chicago for the day couldn’t be easier. You can hop aboard the local Amtrak in Grand Rapids, Holland, Bangor, St Joe, New Buffalo, Kalamazoo, Dowagiac, Niles, and Michigan City, Indiana.

You can board anywhere along the route. Or drive part of the way and hop on the commuter South Shore Line.

Read our handy Train Guide to Chicago for insider tips on a successful train ride to the Windy City.

Train to Chicago
Skip the Chicago traffic by riding the Amtrak from Kalamazoo

2 – Keep History Alive on a Steam Locomotive

Little River Railroad
29 W Park Ave, Coldwater, MI 49036

Drive down to Coldwater and take a ride on The Little River Railroad.

Ride from Coldwater to Quincy on a 100-year-old steam engine train for a glimpse of what train rides in Michigan used to be like.

The Little River Railroad offers special events throughout the year such as Lazy Days of Summer and rides with the Easter Bunny. If you take a ride in the summer, please note that the train is not air-conditioned.

Advanced reservations are recommended.

Little River Railroad Train Ride
This steam engine train is over 100 years old

3 – Take a Ride through the Wilderness

Toonerville Trolley
7195 County Rd 381 Soo Junction, MI 49868

Looking for train rides in Michigan in the Upper Peninsula?

If you’re in the U.P. near Tahquamenon Falls, hop aboard the Toonerville Trolley in Soo Junction for a Wilderness Train Ride.

Ride the longest 24″ gauge railroad in the country 5 1/2 miles through the wilderness.  Enjoy a view of the Tahquamenon River at the riverside park or opt for the riverboat/train ride combo tour and head to Tahquamenon Falls.

Concessions and restrooms are available during the stopover.

4 – Take a Summer Tour with Shopping and Restaurants

Southern Michigan Railroad
301 Bartlett St, Clinton, MI 49236

The Southern Michigan Railroad in Clinton MI (southeast of Ann Arbor) offers three-hour summer tour experiences.

Travel from Clinton Station to Downtown Tecumseh; your trip includes views of wooded areas and wetlands. Upon arrival, you’ll have 90 minutes to shop and enjoy the local restaurants before your return trip.

This railroad also offers seasonal trips for Fall Color Tours and Santa Express rides.

Park & Zoo Train Rides in Michigan

They may be small, pretend locomotives, but many kids still love to ride the small zoo trains.

They are even more excited when we can catch a ride on a real one! Try these train rides in Michigan on your next park or zoo trip.

5 – Zip on a Zoo Train

Multiple zoos in Michigan offer train experiences:
(1) Binder Park Zoo offers its ZO&O Railroad, a miniature train ride on a loop that goes through a tunnel and along the creek.

(2) The Detroit Zoo refurbished its Tauber Family Railroad, a miniature railroad ride from one side of the zoo to the other. These trains were donated by the Chrysler Corporation (now part of Stellantis).

(3) Boulder Ridge in Alto (near Grand Rapids) offers a small zoo train that is perfectly sized for kids.

(4) The Iberschoff Special at the Saginaw Children’s Zoo includes a car that is handicapped accessible.

Binder Park Zoo
(1) Binder Park Zoo’s ZO&O Railroad
Photo: Binder Park Zoo
(2) Detroit Zoo’s Tauber Family Railroad
Boulder Ridge Zoo Train
(3) Boulder Ridge’s zoo train is for kids only
(4) Saginaw Zoo Train

6 – Relax on the Huckleberry Railroad

Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad
6140 N Bray Rd, Flint, MI 48505

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, Thursdays through Sundays.

In addition, they have a special Day out With Thomas™ event held annually in August along with special Halloween and Christmas train rides in Michigan.

Huckleberry Railroad Train Ride

7 – Hop On, Hop Off at Historic Greenfield Village

The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village
20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, MI 48124

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 through the end of October.

Holiday Events

We have a few places in Michigan where you can travel by train with the big guy in red. But did you know you can also ride with the Easter Bunny?

Start a new holiday tradition at one of the places on our list.

8 – Celebrate Fall and Christmas on the Coopersville-Marne Train

Coopersville & Marne Railway
306 Main St, Coopersville, MI 49404

Located in historic downtown Coopersville, the Coopersville Marne Train offers seasonal Pumpkin and Santa train rides.

Advance reservations are recommended.

Kid on train - Train rides for families in Michigan

9 – Experience The Polar Express

Steam Railroading Institute
405 S Washington St, Owosso, MI 48867

Train rides in Michigan that double as a magical journey?

You bet! If you ride on the Pere Marquette 1225 at The Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso for the holidays, that is.

Take a train ride pulled by the locomotive modeled after the train from The Polar Express™during their North Pole Express event every November and December. 

This experience in total spans over four hours, including two hours of exploring the Village of Ashley’s Country Christmas (dress warm!).

This is a sell-out experience every year – get your tickets early (they sell out online within minutes!).

North Pole Express
Meet the mayor of the Village of Ashley
North Pole Express

10 – Feel the Christmas Magic During the Santa Experience

Peacock Road Family Farm
11854 Peacock Rd, Laingsburg, MI 48848

The holidays are an especially magical time at Peacock Road Family Farm.

Take the Holiday Express over the river, through the woods and past the animal farm to Santa’s cabin in the woods.

Visit Santa and Mrs. Claus and enjoy hot cocoa and roasted marshmallows at their cabin.

Continue the magic at any of several other spots on the farm. Visitors can make a caramel apple with Chrissy the Elf at the Sugar Shack and visit the Christmas Shoppe. You can even cut down your own Christmas tree or pick one from the pre-cut lot.

The Santa Experience sells out every year so be sure to get your tickets early. Tickets typically go on sale beginning August 1.

11 – Visit with Santa on a Steam Locomotive

Little River Railroad
29 W Park Ave, Coldwater, MI 49036

Cue the magic as you travel with Santa on The Little River Railroad.

You get to visit with Santa on board in a festive train car decorated just for the season.

A roundtrip ride to Quincy provides a magical setting and dreams come true for little train enthusiasts.

Buy your tickets before you go and dress warm because the train cars can get cold.

Visit Santa during your train ride.

12 – Take a Road Trip to the Holiday Train

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train

The 2023 CPKS Holiday Train travels the Northern Hemisphere to support food banks and food shelves by raising money and awareness.

Bystanders will enjoy a spectacular display of lights as the festive train rumbles along the tracks. Many cities around the Great Lakes are on the route that runs from November 20 to December 19.

13 – Spend Your Holidays on Huckleberry Railroad

Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad
6140 N Bray Rd, Flint, MI 48505

Take some time during your fall and winter holiday seasons to visit Crossroads Village.

While you’re there, take a ride on the famous Huckleberry Ghost Train Express

Return in December for an old-fashioned Christmas throughout the park and take another ride on Huckleberry Railroad.

Advance reservations are recommended.

Huckleberry Railroad Ghost Train 2022

14 – Visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens During the Holidays

Frederik Meijer Gardens
1000 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

A highlight of the Christmas season is a visit to Frederik Meijer Gardens; be sure to spend time at the Railway Garden.

Visitors will love watching the train weave around holiday-themed horticulture and 30 iconic Grand Rapids miniature landmarks.

15 – Take a Fall Color Tour or Visit Santa on the Southern Michigan Railroad

Southern Michigan Railroad
301 Bartlett St, Clinton, MI 49236

The Southern Michigan Railroad will get you in the seasonal spirit with Fall Color Tours and Santa Express rides. Catch this train just southwest of Ann Arbor, in Clinton MI.

For Christmas, the Santa Express offers a 45-minute ride up to Santa’s workshop. The kids will have a chance to tell Santa just how good they’ve been this year while enjoying hot chocolate.

The train coaches are decked out for the holidays: book the “Presents and Toys” or “Candy Cane Caboose” for your trip.

Fall Color Tour 2022

16 – Take a Spooky Train Ride at Cornwell’s Turkeyville

Cornwell’s Turkeyville
18935 15 1/2 Mile Road, Marshall, MI 49068

Mid Michigan Railroad Club runs the train rides at Turkeyville with their 1/8th scale 7 1/2 gauge railroad. Rides are FREE, but donations are appreciated.

The spooky train rides run during Turkeyville’s Haunted Adventure in October, occurring every weekend throughout the month.

During the rest of the year, the trains run on special weekends May through September (schedule).

Cornwell's Turkeyville
Cornwell's Turkeyville

Museum Exhibits

Visit these museums and preview real trains or their miniature replicas.

17 – Explore the Michigan Transit Museum – Train Depot

Michigan Transit Museum
200 Grand Ave, Mt Clemens, MI 48043

Located on the state’s east side, the Michigan Transit Museum offers inexpensive summer, fall and holiday train rides that are 30-45 minutes on Sunday afternoons. 

Make sure to visit the nearby museum in Mount Clemens which features a history of the area’s railroads.

2022 Summer Train Ride

18 – View Miniature Trains at The Museum of Science + Industry

Museum of Science + Industry
5700 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60637

While not in Michigan, a quick trip to Chicago provides “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.

Day Out with Thomas

A favorite among kids starting in their toddler years, Thomas the Tank Engine hosts his own train ride events!

Read on for where to find him in Michigan:

19 – Spend the Day Out with Thomas in Michigan

Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad
6140 N Bray Rd, Flint, MI 48505
The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village
20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, MI 48124

Thomas the Tank Engine™ chugs into Michigan twice! You can catch him at Greenfield Village in the spring (usually late April and early May) and also at Crossroads Village in the summer (usually late August).  

In addition to a train ride, kids can also meet Sir Topham Hatt, visit the Imagination Station, enjoy storytelling and so much more. 

Thomas the Train
Day Out with Thomas

About The Author

2 thoughts on “15+ Epic Train Rides in Michigan that Families Will Love”

  1. Why is there mention of the Southern Michigan Railroad which has family oriented train rides between Clinton, MI and Tecumseh, MI. Look up Southern Michigan Railroad to get the details.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *