Train travel combines a nod to history with a unique adventure. Here are five places to ride the rails:
Heber Valley Historic Railroad. Heber Valley, Utah.
Choose from sixteen specialty train excursions, designed by this non-profit organization to educate visitors about their railroad’s rich history. Opt for a dinner ride that includes a comedic whodunit or participate in a Wild West escapade. Some families will opt to hop off the train, climb aboard an ATV, and make a bee line for the recently added zip line adventure. Come Fall, go full steam ahead to a private pumpkin patch. Kids can choose their own pumpkin to carve and scamper through the hay maze, before returning to the Depot. In December, the North Pole Express promises a visit from Santa and his elves before hot cocoa is served in a souvenir holiday mug. Contact: 435-654-5601; www.hebervalleyrr.org
Virginia & Truckee Railroad. Carson City, NV.
As the vintage train rolls down the track and the sound of a steam whistle slices the air, you will likely mark the moment as a family favorite. For more than an hour, enjoy slipping through the Sierra Nevada’s, by old cemeteries, abandoned mines and through an occasional tunnel, just as prospectors did during the Comstock silver boom of the 1860s. Be on the look out for wild mustangs. Later spend time learning about the rich history of the 150 year old city through walking tours, and museum visits. Contact: 775-687-7410; www.VisitCarsonCity.com
Harry Potter fans, gather round. That special steam train that transported Harry to wizard training at Hogwarts, is available for boarding. In real life, the Jacobite Steam Train winds 42 miles through Ben Nevis, freshwater lochs, the stunning countryside of Glen Nevis and other sites you are sure to recognize from the film series. The unforgettable journey operates May through October.
In addition to jaw-dropping scenery from coast to coast, you’ll find plenty designed just for kids on board Canada’s national passenger rail service. Serving 450 communities, expect year round children’s discounts, kid’s menus and healthy snacks available. You’ll also find games, videos and mini-lectures crafted to assist young travelers in learning along the way. Contact: 1-888-VIA-RAIL; www.viarail.ca.
Durango & Silverton Train. Durango, CO.
For stunning vistas, climb aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in southwestern Colorado You’ll travel behind vintage steam locomotive engines that have been transporting gold diggers, silver miners, cowboys, explorers and family travelers through the picturesque San Juan Mountains since 1882. Themed packages include specials for hikers, bikers, and mining enthusiasts. Kids ride free on select dates during the summer. Contact: 1-888-TRAIN-07; www.durangotrain.com.