Parenting  |  Things to Do

6 Things to Do Around DC If Your Kids Are Obsessed With Trains

Choo-choose your own adventures to take with your lil' railway enthusiasts.
Photo courtesy of Watkins Regional Park.

Are your children loco for locomotives? If they won’t go anywhere without their blue-and-white striped engineer caps, watch Thomas non-stop, and are constantly covering your living room with sprawling track layouts, then congratulations: You’re the parent of a rail buff. Indulge their interest by making tracks for one of these first-class attractions.

B&O Railroad Museum

This museum boasts an impressive collective of vintage trains and rolling stock – from steam locomotives and boxcars to iron pot hoppers and cabooses. The whole family can take a trip on the Mile One Express down the first commercial railroad track laid in the States or parents can get a break by loading the kids onto the Choo Choo Blue miniature train for a ride on their own. Don’t miss the collection of model trains, which is sure to elicit oohs and aahs. $12 ages 2-12, $18 adults, $16 seniors ages 60 and up (rides cost extra). Open Monday through Saturday 10 AM-4 PM, Sunday 11 AM-4 PM.

901 W. Pratt St., Baltimore; 410-752-2490

Strasburg Railroad 

Take a trip on the Strasburg Rail Road to paradise. Well, Paradise, Pennsylvania, anyway. After the 45-minute journey on the steam locomotive is over, families can ride on the Cranky Cars or Pint-Sized Pufferbelly, or burn off some steam on the playground. Prices and hours of operation vary, so call or check online before going.

301 Gap Rd., Ronks, Pennsylvania; 866-725-9666

Wheaton Miniature Train

All aboard! Grab a seat on this replica of a classic 1863 C.P. Huntington steam locomotive for a relaxing tour of Wheaton Regional Park. The train wends its way through forests and meadows, across a trestle, and past Pine Lake. During peak popularity during warm-weather months you may have to wait in line for half an hour or longer, so make sure to bring distractions. Free for children under 2 years old accompanied by an adult, $2 each for everyone else. Open early April through late October. Hours of operation vary, so call or check online before going.

2002 Shorefield Rd., Wheaton; 301-563-7546

The Railroad Hall 

A portion of the “America on the Move” exhibit at the National Museum of American History explores the role of railroads in our country’s history. The centerpiece is a 92-foot-long locomotive that’s nearly a century old, though there are plenty of other accessories on hand–from a conductor’s watch and a track inspector’s torch to a locomotive fireman’s scoop and a machinist’s caliper. Free. Open daily 10 AM-5:30 PM, except Christmas.

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1300 Constitution Ave., NE; 202-633-1000

Watkins Regional Park 
Engine Number 342 is a miniature replica of a silver and black C.P. Huntington locomotive. It takes you past animals at Old Maryland Farm and into the surrounding forests, where you might spot some tree faces if you keep an eye out! $2 for residents of Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties; $2.50 for non-residents. Open May until October, but hours and days of operation vary, so call or check online before going.

301 Watkins Park Dr., Upper Marlboro; 301-218-6700

Fairfax Station Railroad Museum 

Let your kid burn off some excess energy by letting them climb the caboose out front of this history-packed museum, which was a lynchpin for supplies and medical evacuations during the Civil War. Inside you’ll find highly detailed model train displays that will impress little ones and adults alike. Time your visit to coincide with a Hands On Day to find out how to make one of the epic layouts yourself. Free ages 0-4, $2 ages 5-15, $4 ages 16 and up. Open Sunday 12-4 PM.

11200 Fairfax Station Rd., Fairfax Station; 703-425-9225

Parenting writer

Nevin Martell is a parenting, food, and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Saveur, Men’s Journal, Fortune, Travel + Leisure, Runner’s World, and many other publications. He is author of eight books, including It’s So Good: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids, Red Truck Bakery Cookbook: Gold-Standard Recipes from America’s Favorite Rural Bakery, and the small-press smash Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. When he isn’t working, he loves spending time with his wife and their six-year-old son, who already runs faster than he does.