Does your little one go gaga for choo-choos? Does Brio blanket his bedroom? We’re not surprised. D.C. is home to many modes of transportation, including some of the coolest cabooses around. Beat the heat by hopping on one of these air conditioned or open aired locomotives for a life-sized experience.
Catch the Wheaton Express
The miniature train at Wheaton Regional Park offers the perfect kid’s ride. The C.P. Huntington is a replica of an 1863 steam locomotive named for the president of the Southern Pacific Co. Leaving every half hour, the train takes passengers on a 12-minute ride over a trestle bridge and past the park’s small lake.
Bonus activity: The Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel, which used to operate on the National Mall, sits right next to the “train station,” and $1.75 tickets are good for either activity (children under 2 ride free with a paying adult). Both are open from 10 am to 6 pm on weekdays; 7 pm on weekends.
Wheaton Regional Park
2000 Shorefield Rd. (Silver Spring, Md)
Ride the Real Deal
How about a short ride on a true train? MARC’s route from Union Station to Garrett Park offers the experience of both a big-city train depot and a whistle stop in a quaint suburb for $8 round trip per adult (up to two kids ages 6 and under travel free with a paying adult). Many other short routes are available as well, and Amtrak offers round trips to Baltimore for as little as $24 per person (kids under 2 ride free).
Bonus activity: Eat lunch at Black Market Bistro, which sits adjacent to the Garrett Park station. Adults will appreciate the salmon and quinoa salad, while even the pickiest of petite eaters would wolf down pasta with butter and cheese. In Baltimore, check out the Inner Harbor, a quick ride away from Penn Station on the free Charm City Circulator’s purple route. The National Aquarium is a sure hit.
50 Massachusetts Ave., NE (Union Station)
Take a Trolley Tour
The free King Street Trolley in Alexandria takes riders from the Old Town Metro all the way to the waterfront, where kids can check out the boats and feed the ducks. The old-fashioned transport— actually a bus, but dressed up to look like a streetcar—runs every 15 minutes between 11:30 am and 10:15 pm.
Bonus activity: Alexandria’s soft playroom isn’t in Old Town, but it’s a short drive or bus ride away (take the AT5/AT6 from the Metro). This spot is exactly what it sounds like—a room full of soft climbing and play equipment that your child will adore. There’s even a ball pit to leap into. It’s open 9 am to 8:30 pm Monday through Thursday and 9 am to 5:30 pm Friday through Sunday.
King St. between King Street Metro and Potomac Waterfront
Learn While You Roll
The National Capital Trolley Museum is a twofer: a museum about D.C.’s historic streetcars, and a working trolley to ride. The museum, which includes an operational model of the Rock Creek Railway, is open weekends from noon to 5 pm year-round, as well as Thursday and Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm from June 15 to Aug. 15 (and at certain other times during the year). Tickets cost $5 for kids and $7 for adults, and they allow unlimited rides on the trolley, which departs every 30 to 40 minutes.
Bonus activity: During the summer, the museum offers crafts and stories for kids on Thursdays and Fridays. Pop in!
National Capital Trolley Museum
1313 Bonifant Rd. (Colesville, Md)
Make it a Metro Adventure
It might be a commute to you, but a ride on Metro can be a true adventure for your kid. To avoid the crowds, aim for mid-day or a weekend (though plan for extra time on Saturdays and Sundays, given frequent track work and other delays). Make the trip extra special by planning an exciting destination.
Bonus activity: Ride to Judiciary Square and take the elevator up above ground—you’ll be just steps from the National Building Museum, with its expansive Great Hall and fun-filled Building Zone. Remember that the Building Zone has timed entry (once per hour at quarter past) and costs $3 per person (including adults) for anyone over age 3.
Do your kids have a favorite local locomotive? Please tell us about it in the comments section below.