Amtrak Adventures With Kids

Train rides offer nice mix of fun and function for families


Published:

Photos courtesy of Amtrak

Before we get into logistics, hear this: Traveling with your kids is worth the hassle. It expands worldviews; teaches problem-solving, adaptability and patience; and creates shared memories. Worth it. Full stop. 

But if you’ve done even a little bit of travel with kids, you know that you could drive a minivan (or a city bus. or heck, even an airplane) into the chasm between the fun you have when you get to your destination and the fun you have getting there.  

On the whole, “getting there” is the opposite of fun. It’s long lines and luggage limits and potty stops and snack shortages and wiggly kids with no space to wiggle. 

Let’s hop on the rails and redeem the “getting there,” shall we? Kids don’t have to love Thomas and Chuggington to be captivated by a train ride, and even parents who don’t appreciate the vintage delight of chugging along will appreciate the practicality of train travel.

Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods speaks to the pragmatists among us: “Long-distance trains are conducive to family travel, as it’s much easier to take care of small children on a train than in a plane or a car.” 

She’s right, of course. But she didn’t mention the fun! Train travel turns a necessary means to an end into an adventure that kids will remember for years to come. 

Train rides offer nice mix of fun and function for families with kids because: 

  • Train stations are easy to navigate, with very little waiting in line. 
  • Spacious seats offer room for wiggling, climbing and stretching out, plus plenty of electrical outlets. 
  • Kids and grownups can get up and move through the train at any time (while keeping other passengers' comfort in mind, of course). 
  • A large luggage allowance means you can bring toys, books and snacks for your journey, as well as strollers and carseats for exploring at your destination. 
  • The cafe car has tables that are ideal for board games, puzzles, Legos and other fun. 
  • Trains inspire awe and wonder in kids. They’re huge, loud, and mysterious. There’s a reason they show up again and again in children’s literature. Kids love trains. 

My family has taken short train jaunts to areas around the Triangle and our boys (ages 2 and 4) still talk about the experience. We’ve got our sights set on an overnight train trip in the next few years.  

Seasoned train traveler Leanora Shell has traveled long-distance by train with her family around the U.S. and across the globe, and she has learned how to maximize the fun of the journey. Shell points out that a little thoughtful packing goes a long way.

“We always pack small backpacks of snacks, and charged Kindles and notebooks with crayons or pencils for our girls,” she says. “We have a couple of old iPods that the girls use as cameras now, and they love recording their trips from their point of view.”

Like any form of travel, there are some logistics you need to consider to maximize fun and minimize stress.

  • Check train schedules carefully — both ways. Consider your kids’ sleep and meal schedules, take into account travel time to and from the train station, and plan accordingly. 
  • Plan end-point transport. Public transit? Hotel shuttle? Uber? Stroller walk? 
  • Allow time to explore. This is an adventure, remember? Plan to poke around the train station, watch other trains come and go, talk to the conductor and snag a few pictures. 

Triangle residents can try a day trip to Cary by train and explore its charming downtown. Don’t miss ice cream at Ashworth Drugs and a visit to Cary’s new library. Or, for a weekend adventure, head to walkable downtown Greensboro and take in its incredible play spaces in Center City Park and LeBaur Park. Charlotte also makes a nice day trip.

Let’s reclaim the rails, parents! Getting to your destination really can be part of the adventure.


Susanna Klingenberg lives in Raleigh with her husband, two young children and an unruly vegetable garden.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

The Benefits of Brief, Intense Exercise

A few minutes of brief, intense exercise may be as effective as lengthier walks or other moderate workouts.

Weekend Family Fun Across the Triangle

Dec. 6-8: Community Day at the Museum, Teen Science Café, Live Raptors and Pop-Up Art

Holiday Gifts That Foster Motor Development

The latest 'Oh, Baby!' column
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2019

Come by the Finley Center any time during the day to participate in a collaborative community art project celebrating what you are thankful for! Play a game of “Roll a Turkey” and take home...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Telephone: 919-676-6368
Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Did you know bucks or male deer can grow a new set of antlers each year? Explore pelts, skulls, tracks, and scat of white-tailed deer through hands-on discovery stations. Then learn about the...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2854
Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Please join Admissions, Division Directors and our Head of School as they talk about Duke School’s unique program, specifically for incoming kindergarten through fourth grade students for the...

Cost: $0

Where:
Duke School
3716 Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Duke School
Telephone: 919-416-9420
Contact Name: Logan Blaylock

More information

Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #127198.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Have you ever wondered what happens to our wildlife during the winter? They have a variety of adaptations to help them get through the cold months. Come explore some of their techniques then take a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

There are a lot of dangers in the woods for deer and rabbits! Read a story about these mammals and practice hiding from predators during a fun game, then make a deer-themed craft. For ages 3-5...

Cost: FREE. Registration is required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850

More information

Design and create a keepsake apron with vibrant markers and other fun decorations. After completing your apron, enjoy baking and decorating your own individual cake. Ages 6-10. 

Cost: $35/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come talk about books and eat pizza. No assigned reading prior to the meeting. Call or stop by to register: 919-245-2532.

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Parents of children learn age-appropriate social skills for children ages 3-6. Register online by Nov. 28.

Cost: $22/person or $33/couple

Where:
Project Enlightenment
501 S. Boylan Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Please visit the Homeschoolers of Holly Springs 4th Annual Holiday Market Day. Student entrepreneurs will be showcasing their products while learning about running their own businesses. All...

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Hope Community Church
2080 E Williams St
Apex, NC  27539
View map »

More information

As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
Website »

More information

Want a fun arty Friday night activity for your teen? We've got the Teen Art Takeover just for them. Once a month we open up the community clay studio just for the 11-17 set. We have art...

Cost: $5 Resident/$6 nonresident

Where:
Chapel Hill Community Clay Studio
200 Plant Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Community Clay Studio and Chapel Hill Teen Center
Telephone: 919-968-2878
Contact Name: Robena Meek
Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Join the three ensembles of the Cary Youth Voices for choral music. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Greenwood Forest Baptist Church
110 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

On season 6 of American Idol, Melinda Doolittle stunned both the audience and the judges with her powerhouse vocals and her personal charm. She placed third in the voting, and has since gone on to...

Cost: $28 + taxes and fees

Where:
The Clayton Center
111 E. Second Street
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


Sponsor: The Clayton Center
Telephone: 919-553-1737
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Meet at the Waterwise Garden (first parking lot on right) No preregistration required.Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends....

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
Website »

More information

See award-winning houses from the Town of Cary's 9th Annual Gingerbread House Competition on display. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Telephone: 919-676-6368
Website »

More information

Ages 4-12 enjoy free arts and crafts. Registration not required. Children must have adult accompaniment. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Take your American Girl to enjoy crafts, games, tea etiquette and more. Registration required online. Ages 5-10. Choose course #127007 for the 11 a.m. tea or #127008 for the 1 p.m. tea. 

Cost: $21/child

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Website »

More information

Get ready for the holidays with festive activities, shopping, a holiday concert at 5 p.m. and much more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Lafayette Village
8450 Honeycutt Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Website »

More information

Make an angel out of polymer clay to hang on a tree. Register online. Choose course #127353.

Cost: $19/resident, $25/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Kick off your holiday season with horse-drawn carriage rides, hot apple cider, live music, handmade crafts, holiday activities, and a visit with Ol' Saint Nick.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Drive
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Oak View County Park
Telephone: 919-250-1013
Website »

More information

As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
Website »

More information

Ages 3-12 and their fathers enjoy a night of dancing, light refreshments, photos and more. Registration required at Rolesville Community Center.

Cost: $25.00 per couple, non-resident $30.00 per couple, $10.00 per additional child

Where:
Rolesville Community Center
514 Southtown Circle
Rolesville, NC  27571
View map »


Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Newsletter Sign-Up

Stay connected to what's going on for families in the Triangle by signing up for our FREE e-newsletters!

Subscribe

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags