With ticket prices at about 100 bucks a pop, the Wine Train might not be your first pick for a family outing, but some of their special events are worth the splurge (Father’s Day, Fourth of July and the Santa Train), particularly if you have family in town (and they’re picking up the bill).

If you have train-crazy kids and want to rock their world, a three-hour trip on a historic train car might be just the ticket. Or maybe you’re just jonesing to tour the wine country again, and can’t bear the thought of slogging through Route 29 traffic with kids in tow. Here are some tips for riding the Napa Valley Wine Train with kids:

How to get there: Take highway 101 North to highway 37 East. Take highway 121 towards Napa, 121 connects with highway 29. Turn left, take 29 North. Exit Lincoln Avenue. Go East on Lincoln Avenue. Turn right on Soscol Avenue. Turn left at the light onto McKinstry Street. Make a right into driveway for parking at the Napa Valley Wine Train Station.

Tips before you go: If you arrive early, plan to stop and explore the OxBow Public Market, Napa’s version of San Francisco’s Ferry Building. Coffee, tea, meat, pastries, chocolate, tableware, olive oil, wine – what’s not there? It’s literally 3 blocks away from the Wine Train parking lot and if you forgot snacks for the kids or want to stock up on local artisan food, it’s a fantastic place. Picnic tables outside provide ample opportunity for little ones to roam around. Last but not least, don’t forget to request booster seats when you complete your reservation so they will be there for you on the train at your table.

Must-Do Activities for Kids: To make the trip a hit, bring activities for the young crew so they can play around tables during lunch time –coloring books, playdough, wikki stix, magnetic puzzles or finger puppets will come in very handy.

On the Train: Think of the Napa Valley Wine Train as a restaurant on wheels with the majestic scenery of the Napa Valley as a backdrop. Starting out in downtown Napa, the scenery will slowly morph from the city’s buzzing center to the quiet residential outskirts and the green rows on vineyards. The highlight of the trip is a gourmet lunch (served in two different cars, for added fun) but for kids, the excitement of being on a train while gazing out the window is incredible. After the meal, kids can explore the train and stop in every car to discover what’s out (or under) there. You can also have the kids wave at motorists – they will wave back! Such is the magic of historic trains.

Choose your trip: Most packages include a gourmet lunch but you can also opt for the romantic moonlight escape as a date night, the sing-along piano bar train or the wine-tasting trains (that drop you at select wineries and pick you up on the way back). When the summer months roll in and Napa feels like Provence, go for the Silverado Lunch Package, a casual lunch setting with multicourse BBQ and western-themed rustic car. Bring on the Wild West kids! Call 1-800-427-4124 and ask for packages with children rates.

Insider Tip: The BBQ Lunch is the most kid-friendly and reasonably priced, with kid’s meals prices at $55 (ages 1-12). There is no child menu on the train and the same menu goes for all ages. However the kitchen can prepare pasta upon request or alter the day’s menu to suit small tastebuds – you still have to pay the full price. For more information on the food, check here. If you are bringing a stroller or carrier, you will have to leave inside your car at the parking lot as they are not allowed on the train.

A Note About Holidays: The Napa Valley Wine Trains offers various holiday-themed trains such as a Mother’s Day and Father’s Day train, a Fourth of July train where you can watch the fireworks from your train car, a Thanksgiving train with the whole nine yards of Thanksgiving food and the hugely popular Santa Train that parents book months in advance to avoid major disappointments. All the details are here.

ADVERTISEMENT

Have you ever taken your kids on an antique train? Let us know in the comment section below if you have any tips you can share with other Red Tricycle parents.

— Laure Latham