Historic train trips make a memorable family vacation!
Trains and train rides are exotic and pure adventure for children, especially if they have never had the chance to step aboard one. The fact of the matter though, is that train lines have been running for across the country and world for a long time, and many of the lines follow historic trails that wagons, horses and people originally blazed. Rediscovering some of these historic trails with children, on the train, is a great way to put together an exciting and memorable vacation.
Most of these train trips wind their way through North America, but there are a couple international destinations that are historic enough and still appeal to families with children.
Once a lot of settlers reached Oregon, they either boarded a boat bound for the Klondike or decided to set up somewhere along the Pacific Coast. Many headed north, through the Northwest Passage into Canada, and this is the same route the Amtrak Cascade Line runs. Watch as you ride through majestic mountain passes, watch for marine animals off the coast and head into the cities of the Northwest. Seattle sits along this line, where you can catch a whale watching boat to get up close to the same marine animals you might have spied aboard the train.
The Copper Canyon Train Tour is one of the more fabled train trips in the world, leaving Chihuahua and heading to the Gulf of California. Though this train trip only lasts four hours, it is a voyage well worth taking because you pass through some of the most difficult to reach terrain in Mexico. The line hugs mountains, passes through tight tunnels and crosses gorges on jaw dropping engineering marvels. On this trip, you can see the best of Mexico’s countryside, and explore two vastly different, environments and cultural sides of the country. To put together the best family vacation, fly into Chihuahua, ride the train to the coast and book a resort stay on the beach.
Follow the same trail thousands of daring pioneers used to reach the westernmost coast of the country. Starting in Chicago, the California Zephyr crosses the Mississippi River, the Continental Divide, passes through the Rockies, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This is one of the longest train rides offered by Amtrak, taking just under 52 hours to reach your destination, in California. Kids will be delighted by the mountain passes, tight tunnel runs, painted cliffs and wildlife viewing from train windows. Guides are on hand to tell them more about what they are seeing as you go.
To travel the route of the pilgrims, a pilgrimage trail that has been used for centuries and winds its way along the beautiful northern Spanish coast, take the Transcantábrico Gran Lujo. This Grand Train ride takes place aboard a luxury train where every last thing is seen to. Kids will enjoy the view out over cliffs and hidden beaches, through tiny mountain villages and on to Santiago de Compostela. A children’s version of Canterbury Tales makes the perfect prep reading for the storied journey.
Pam Buttikofer is a co-founder of Imperfect Women. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband of 37 years and enjoys spending time with her husband, sons and her lovable pups.