What could be more nostalgic than riding the rails across even just a pocket of America with your family? There’s no better way to show your kids that life is about the journey, and not the destination than by taking some time out of the driver’s seat to sit shoulder to shoulder and take in the sights and sounds of the wheels and whistles from the track. No matter if it’s just a short jaunt on a steam locomotive this time— the old-fashioned swing railroad bridges, freight cars, and rolling landscapes will have everyone sputtering to life and planning their next long-distance rail journey.
HOBO & Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroads
Voted “best ride for kids”, the Hobo Railroad scenic train ride rambles just long enough along the peaceful forest and Pemigewasset River for parents to relax and children to be delighted. Live music and on-board entertainment like guitarists and clowns making balloon animals make this the perfect choice for a family full of youngins or a child’s first railroad trip. Check the schedule for Storybook Sundays and Putt & Ride Passes. Lincoln, NH hoborr.com
For a longer trip and lakeside splendor, climb aboard a vintage coach in Meredith, NH for a magnificent ride along the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee that will travel through the great lawns of summer homes and afford a water view from the rails. Rail & Sail Packages begin in June. Meredith, NH hoborr.com
Conway Scenic Railroad
If an old-fashioned train ride with mountain views sounds like just the ticket, book your ride on the Valley Train departing from North Conway’s historic 1874 station. Choose from two family-friendly excursions— the one-hour Conway, perfect for young children and the bit longer Bartlett “over the river and through the woods” journey. Reserve a seat in the 1898 first class car, the Gertrude Emma, and watch the world roll by from your comfortable wicker chair. River crossings and daydreaming guaranteed. Children under 4 ride free.
North Conway, NH conwayscenic.com
Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum & Hoosac Valley Train
For a depot stop that has it all, visit the Lenox Station museum featuring an authentic replica station along with historic railroad displays and exhibits. This is the place to wet your whistle with a short ride in the cab of the “jitney” before heading to Adams for a one-hour scenic and educational narrated train ride on the classic 1955 Budd RDC through the Berkshire Hills. BSRM is steadfast in their dedication to railroad history and renovation projects. Check out their plans for the old Stockbridge route! Adams, MA berkshiretrains.org
Essex Steam Train & Riverboat
For the ultimate combination excursion on both rail and river, plan an afternoon the whole family will treasure for years to come on the Essex vintage coach steam locomotive and three-tiered true Mississippi Becky Thatcher riverboat. This 2 ½-hour journey begins with a 12-mile narrated train ride through pretty, coastal towns and tidal wetlands, and ends with a breathtaking 1-hour cruise along the Connecticut River. Bring your binocs for viewing the historic Gillette Castle and Goodspeed Opera House, and for the variety of bird habitats you’ll pass through on the train. Opt for a first class Pullman parlor car outfitted with individual padded swivel seats, or a ride on the caboose on select weekends. Check the calendar for Day Out with Thomas special event dates. Essex, CT essexsteamtrain.com
Cape Cod Central Railroad & Museum
Cranberry bogs, salt marshes, sand dunes, Oh My! Reserve your tickets onboard the Coastal Excursion train for a narrated two-hour tour showcasing Cape Cod’s natural beauty and the Cape Cod Canal. Want to pair this with an activity? A one-hour whistle stop at Pairpoint Glass includes a facility tour and viewing of live glass blowing. Hyannis, MA capetrain.com
Chatham Railroad Museum
An explorable, restored caboose and gleaming depot make this one stop you don’t want to miss before heading back to the mainland! Thousands of railroad artifacts like menus, lanterns, timetables, and even working Western Union telegraph equipment will have everyone rolling back in time. Located at Cape Cod Central Railroad.
Chatham, MA chathamrailroadmuseum.com