It’s summer, which means it’s time to pack up the kids and go on an adventure. But instead of taking the car, why not try taking the train? It turns out there are plenty of kid-friendly options out there. Family Travel expert Kerri Zane shares her tips on how families can discover the best parts of North and South America on the railroad.
Across the globe many rail operators are transforming train travel into THE vacation experience for families, rather than simply a means of getting from place to place. There are many train trips for you to choose from, all varying in venues and lengths of time aboard. To see if train travel is right for your family, try one of these one or two day excursions I have found up and down the Americas.
This summer my family and I traveled between Montreal and Toronto on VIA Rail Canada. What I liked most about this excursion is it’s a no-stress way to relax and enjoy amazing views with your children. Since the conductor takes the wheel, I was absolved of driving duties. And you just can’t experience a destination the same way if you’re high above the ground in an airplane. Our trip began in the luxury lounge at the train station where we were greeted by a friendly host and treated to unlimited beverages. As soon as we boarded the train it felt special. A good meal, seats with plenty of leg room and miles of green landscapes stretched before us as we crossed the country. We counted farm houses along the route, pointed out all the black and white cows, mom even got to take quick snooze without worrying about what the kids might be doing. The servers were friendly and accommodating, serving us a very good lunch and sharing an extra helping of yummy truffle chocolates.
Some of VIA Canada’s most inviting and family friendly excursions include: Winnipeg to Churchill, a 1700km two-day journey across the subarctic region of Northern Manitoba with views of the Northern lights, along with whale watching and Polar bear sightings. There’s also a two-day trip from Jasper National Park to Prince Rupert which travels along the Canadian Rockies, Pacific Coast, and rural farmland with an overnight stop in Prince George.
You and your family can be modern day pioneers traveling aboard Amtrak’s 2,256-mile two-day trip from Southern California en route to Chicago. At the start you’ll leave car-choked Los Angeles behind, traveling over Cajon Pass and into the Mojave Desert. Outside, red-rock canyons and hills unfold with thick, lush greenery. Then miles and miles of the Painted Desert east of Flagstaff, Arizona, interspersed with dusty towns. National Park Service guides from Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (La Junta, Colorado), Pecos National Historic Park (Pecos, New Mexico), and Petroglyph National Monument (Albuquerque, New Mexico) tell stories on the train between Albuquerque and La Junta, Colorado. Then inching closer to its final destination, the train traverses through Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and finally Illinois, passing by the backyards of small towns and the downtown areas of big cities.
If your children are younger and not inclined to hours and hours on a train, warm them up for a longer excursion with a visit to Heber Valley, Utah. It has plenty of family-friendly accommodations and activities, including the Heber Valley Railroad. There are sixteen miles of track between the valley and Vivian Park in Provo Canyon and the rail organizers have created a plethora of fun excursions to suit everyone in your family. There are Scenic Train tours, adventure trains that include activities like rafting, horseback riding, and zip lining. They have a BBQ trip, Murder Mystery Train, and comedy train. But what I loved about it most are the family-oriented themed excursions like Day Out With Thomas, The North Pole Express, the dinosaur train, Wizard’s Train, Fiddlers and Fireworks Train, and more. The trips range from one hour and half roundtrip to three hours. The location also offers nearby access to Park City and Sundance Resort, both just under a 15-minute drive, enabling newbies to experience the beautiful cities of Utah.
Another great back to school show and tell summer rail trip is aboard Peru Rail‘s Hiram Bingham to the Lost Citadel of Machu Picchu, the last stronghold of the Incas. The trip departs from the Andean city of Cuzco, Peru. It traverses through a thick jungle, along the Urubamba River, and across two 13,000-foot high mountain passes finally arriving at Machu Picchu. The train ride is a little over three hours. You and your kids will be treated to a historic guided tour given by natives and several hours of self-exploration before the train departs back down the mountain.
For more train travel, check out
- The Best Train Trips in North America
- 10 Reasons to Travel by Train Now
- One of the World’s Greatest Train Rides
- The Most Scenic Train Rides
By Kerri Zane for PeterGreenberg.com. Kerri Zane is a family travel expert and author of It Takes All 5: A Single Mom’s Guide to Finding the REAL One, on sale now. For more advice on health, parenting or Kerri’s exclusive MomEscapes, visit her at KerriZane.com.