12+ Epic Train Rides in Michigan that Families Will Love

Kid on train - Train rides for families in Michigan

All Aboard! Experience Locomotive Fun in Michigan

“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 this ultimate list for train rides in Michigan, featuring holiday experiences, special events and museums.

Thomas The Train

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MICHIGAN TRAIN RIDES

Family Train Rides and Experiences in The Mitten

There is no shortage of options throughout Michigan for families who love trains. Head to Grand Rapids and check out the miniature train during the holidays at Frederik Meijer Gardens. Or enjoy the wilderness of the upper peninsula on the Toonerville Trolley at Soo Junction.

The holidays bring unique train experiences: ride with the Easter Bunny in Coopersville or ride out to Santa’s cabin at the Peacock Family Farm in Laingsburg. And don’t forget the Little Blue Engine: Thomas the Tank Engine™ stops in Michigan twice every year – once at Greenfield Village and again at Crossroads Village.

Many of these train experiences sell out quickly. While you may be able to get tickets on the day of the event, advanced reservations are strongly encouraged.

train

Train Rides in Michigan

Michigan is home to a wide variety of train rides. 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:

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.

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.

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 recommended.

Train Rides for Families

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. 

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.

Climb aboard a historic steam engine in Coopersville. Ride in 1920s-era cars through family-owned farms and fields during a 90-minute ride from Coopersville to Marne and back. Fun fact: the train travels alongside I-96 for a brief stretch. The railroad tracks were laid down in 1858!

On Saturdays from June through September, you will love the EnterTRAINment Excursion. A singer plays railroad and other acoustic songs on his guitar throughout the trip. The conductor also walks through the train from time to time to share railroad history.

Advance reservations required. Note: vintage train cars are not air-conditioned.

Park & Zoo Trains

They may be small, pretend locomotives, but my kids still love to ride the zoo trains. They are even more excited when we can catch a ride on a real one! Try these options on your next park or zoo trip:

Binder Park Zoo offers its ZO&O Railroad, a miniature train ride on a loop that goes through a tunnel and along the creek.

Train Rides for Families - Binder Park Zoo

My kids always have to take a spin on the train at Boulder Ridge in Alto when we are there. This train is exclusively for kids.

The Detroit Zoo refurbished their Tauber Family Railroad, a miniature railroad ride from one side of the zoo to the other.

The Iberschoff Special at the Saginaw Children’s Zoo includes a car that is handicapped accessible!

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. 

Train Rides families Michigan

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.

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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.

Easter Activities for families Kalamazoo - train ride

Located in historic downtown Coopersville, the Coopersville Marne Train runs seasonally from April through December. There are so many different themed rides throughout the season!

Ride with the Grand Pumpkin, Scarecrow and Little Crow in the fall on the Famous Pumpkin Train.  The Easter Bunny hops aboard with her friends in the spring for the Bunny Train. Travel with the Big Guy in Red and his elves in December on the Santa Train.

Other special themes include the Great Train Robbery and the Murder Mystery Train.

Advance reservations recommended.

Take a magical journey on the Pere Marquette 1225 at The Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso. Take a one-hour train ride pulled by the locomotive modeled after the train from  The Polar Expressduring their North Pole Express event every November and December. 

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.

Train Rides Michigan

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 with 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.

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 recommended.

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Museum Exhibits

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

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

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.

Day out with Thomas

Special Events

In addition to the year-round opportunities to see and ride trains, there are several “train-tastic” events that only come to Michigan a few times a year. Gather up the kids and check them out!

Train events for families in Michigan

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).  Sensory-friendly Saturday times are available at Greenfield Village.

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

A highlight of the Christmas season is a visit to Frederik Meijer Gardens. When we are there for Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World, we always spend time at the Railway Garden. We all love watching the train weave around holiday-themed horticulture and 30 iconic Grand Rapids miniature landmarks.

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