Little girl in a family train trips looking out of the train window

9 Fun Family Train Trips You Can Do With Limited Time

You may have flown to a destination or are looking for a quick day trip from home. Whatever the case may be, we have the best train routes for traveling with kids when you have limited time but want to see it all.

Train trips are a great family vacation idea. When you and your family ride on a train, you don’t have to worry about driving—and trains are often less intimidating than airplanes for little kids. Here are some of the best ideas for fun train trips for families. Whether you’re in the United States, Canada, or the UK, there are some fun family train travel ideas for you.

Family Train Trips – USA

These train routes often feature heritage railways, which are great for scenic train trips that usually cover a fairly short distance. The US only has one major passenger train line—Amtrak.

1. See Fall Foliage on a Leaf Peeping Tour

Take in the glorious fall colors of the Catskill Mountains with the Catskill Mountain Railroad’s Fall Flyer or Pumpkin Express! 

Key Information: Train leaves and arrives in Kingston, NY – Tickets start at $10 for kids and $16 for adults – Ride time is about 1 hour and 15 minutes

Good To Know: Upgrade to the Pumpkin Express to be able to pick your own pumpkin.

2. Zoom Along on the Acela

The Acela is Amtrak’s fastest train and runs between Washington, D.C. and Boston with stops at major cities along the East Coast, including New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. 

Key Information: 13 total stops – Full route tickets start at $148 – Free Wi-Fi

Good To Know: There are some good deals when you travel on Amtrak with kids. For every full-fare paying adult, you can get one ticket for a child 2-12 at half price! 

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3. Make Christmas Magic Real on the Polar Express

The Polar Express is a beloved holiday classic, and many heritage railways in the US have teamed up to bring this Christmas magic to your family. There are Polar Express runs at several locations in the United States, including the Colorado Railway Museum, the California Railway Museum, the Adirondack Railroad in Utica, French Lick Indiana, and many more. 

Key Information: Lots of locations – Ticket prices vary – Book early, as these tend to sell out

Good To Know: One thing all of the Polar Express train rides have in common? Hot chocolate! 

4. Explore California by Train

Any parent who’s ever sat with squirmy kids in Los Angeles traffic knows just how bad congestion can be. For your family’s next trip in California, take the train!  Amtrak has west coast routes from LA to San Francisco and more.

Key Information: Ticket prices start at $36 for the Pacific Surfliner train route – Daily routes throughout the state – No assigned seats in coach class

Good To Know: Amtrak’s dining cars serve a variety of food, but not all of it is kid-friendly; you are welcome to bring your own food and drinks.

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5. Visit a National Park

Whether you’re taking the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park, an Amtrak train to the Rocky Mountains National Park, or quick family train trips from Chicago on the South Shore Line to Indiana Dunes National Park, you can be assured that there’s a train adventure to the national parks for your family!

Key Information: Ticket prices vary – Check lodging sites for ticket deals – National park entrance fees range from free to $30

Good To Know:  While some trains allow pets, most national parks do not.

Family Train Trips – Canada

Canada’s passenger rail is home to scenic views and is rich with history.

6. Enjoy a Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine

If your kid loves the Isle of Sodor, they’ll love seeing their favorite train characters in real life! A Day Out With Thomas lets kids ride and play all day.  

Key Information: Locations throughout Canada and the US – Tickets start at $20 – Limited time engagements, so book tickets early

Good To Know: These are closed-loop train rides, meaning you and your child embark and disembark from the train in the same place.

7. Take Scenic Train Trips Through The Canadian Rockies

A train ride through some of the most beautiful landscapes in North America is the perfect activity for the family, and with the Rocky Mountaineer Daylight Train, you can have the ideal 1-day family train trip.

Key Information: Routes usually include Vancouver and Jasper or Banff – Ticket prices vary widely – Full-service train

Good To Know: The Rocky Mountaineer train is staffed with guides who can tell you about the area.

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Family Train Trips – United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has a robust rail network—you can get just about anywhere on your rail journeys!

8. Take a Day Trip to a Royal Palace

London’s convenient commuter rail makes it easy to take family day trips from London by train. One family-friendly place to visit is Hampton Court Palace, where the whole family can enjoy learning about England’s royal history. 

Key Information: South Western Line – Tickets start at £8.10 – Admission to the palace is £26.10/£13.00 for children

Good To Know: Hampton Court Palace is one of the most kid-friendly historic sites—they even let your kids wear velvet cloaks and pretend to be royalty.

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9. Weekend in the Lake District

England’s largest national park, the Lake District, is a beautiful place to camp, hike, and spend time in nature with your family.

Key Information: West Coast Main Line – Tickets start at £39.78 – Start at Euston London and end at Oxenholme Lake District or Kendal

Good To Know: Evening fares are sometimes a third of what daytime fares are, so if you can start this rail journey a little later in the day, you’ll save money.

Have you ever taken your family on a train trip? We think that trips by train are a great family vacation idea and we hope that you think so, too!

Pay it forward and share this awesome list with friends and family so they can get inspired too!

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