12+ Epic Train Rides in Michigan that Families Will Love

Kid on train - Train rides for families in Michigan

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 for train rides in Michigan, featuring holiday experiences, special events, and museums.

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 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:

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

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

3) 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.

This train ride in Michigan operates during the summer, weekends only.

Fall color tours are available during the first two weekends of October. 

Michigan AuSable Valley Railroad
230 S N Abbe Rd, Fairview, MI 48621

4) Take a Ride through the Wilderness

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.

Toonerville Trolley
7195 County Rd 381 Soo Junction, MI 49868

5) Be Enter-TRAINED on Coopersville-Marne Railway

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.

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

Park & Zoo Train Rides in Michigan

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 train rides in Michigan on your next park or zoo trip:

6) Zip on a Zoo Train

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

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

Boulder Ridge Zoo Train
Boulder Ridge’s zoo train is for kids only

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!

The Detroit Zoo
8450 W 10 Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI 48067
Saginaw Children’s Zoo
1730 S Washington Ave #2876, Saginaw, MI 48601
Binder Park Zoo
7400 Division Dr, Battle Creek, MI 49014
Boulder Ridge
8313 Pratt Lake Ave SE, Alto, MI 49302

7) 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 in Michigan. 

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

8) 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 through the end of October.

The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village
20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, MI 48124‑5029

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.

9) Visit Holiday Friends on the Coopersville-Marne Train

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.

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

10) Experience The Polar Express

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

11) Feel the Christmas Magic During the Santa Experience

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.

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

12) Spend Your Holidays on Huckleberry Railroad

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.

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

Museum Exhibits

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

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

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

14) 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.

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

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!

15) Spend the Day Out with Thomas

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. 

Day Out with Thomas

16) Visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens During the Holidays

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.

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

2 thoughts on “12+ 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.

Comments are closed.