When it comes to trains, tots have a one-track mind. Luckily for us, Atlanta has plenty of options for littles who love locomotives. In honor of National Train Day on May 15th, we tracked down ten trains that will blow their stack. Woot, woot!
Southeastern Railway Museum
If the Clairmont Lounge is where strippers go to enjoy their golden days, then the SRM is where all manner of locomotive showgirls (or trains and busses, to be more exact) retire. Located on 35 acres in Duluth, the SRM is a treasure trove of restored double decker busses, Pullman cars, diesel and steam locomotives, and yes, cabooses. Be sure to check hours online and train schedule to catch a ride on the “big” train (an engine with a passenger car or caboose attached), but since its operation is subject to operator availability, your best bet is to call in advance. Also, be sure to take water, apply sunscreen, and wear tennis shoes.
Details: Southeastern Railway Museum, 3595 Buford Hwy, Duluth, 770-476-2013, Hours vary by season and park train rides on Saturday only. $8 adults, $5 children ages 2 and older, Train rides $2-$3
The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History
If you know anything about Civil War history, you know that the General put the loco in locomotive. Train-jacked, so to speak, by Yankee spies posing as Confederate soldiers in Marietta, the General’s theft set in motion a race to sabotage Confederate communication lines and only recently ended with a Federal custody lawsuit in 1978 between Tennessee and Georgia. Talk about some train drama, right? Whether your train buff will fully appreciate the backstory might be up for debate; however, there is no question that the exhibit, movie (just the good parts of Disney’s The Great Locomotive Chase), and display of the General itself will leave your aficionado reeling.
Details: The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, 2829 Cherokee Street, Kennesaw, 770-427-2117, Monday – Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Admission $7.50 adults, $5.50 children ages 4-12, Children under 4 free
Stone Mountain Scenic Railway
If it’s a ride your kids are after, then it’s to the Stone Mountain Scenic Railway you must go. This 1940’s restored train sports open air passenger cars which offer a much needed breeze during the swelter of the Atlanta summer, and takes passengers on a 30 minute loop around the base of the mountain. Not interested in the other attractions at the park? You can purchase tickets to the train only, and enjoy your picnic lunch at the playground inside the park grounds after your ride. Be aware that all cars that enter the grounds are subject to an entrance fee.
Details: Stone Mountain Scenic Railway, 1000 Robert E. Lee Boulevard, Stone Mountain, 770-498-5690, Park opens daily from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, but train rides generally begin running at 11:00 a.m. and run every 45 minutes, Cost of ride is included in Adventure Pass & Mountain Membership, or $9.00 for passengers ages 3 and over, free for 2 and under
The animals are great, but the train ride is what your kids will remember about their first trip to the zoo. Located in the Children’s Zoo, you can either meander through the animal exhibits until you (finally) reach it, or you can cut to your right when you enter the Zoo and go directly there. In addition to the Georgia Natural Gas Blue Flame Express Train, which is a replica of an 1863 locomotive, the Children’s Zoo is also home to a petting zoo, carousel, rock wall, and playground. The train runs every 15 or 20 minutes during normal Zoo operating hours, except in the case of rain or extremely cold temperatures. Insider tip: Pop your head into the lobby of the Cyclorama as you leave the Zoo to catch a glimpse of the Texas, which was used by Confederate soldiers as they chased the General to Chattanooga.
Details: Zoo Atlanta, 800 Cherokee Avenue SE, 404-624-9453. Open year round except Thanksgiving and Christmas, Monday – Friday 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (ticket booths close at 4:30 p.m.), Saturday and Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., (ticket booths close at 5:30 p.m.), General admission for guests over 12 is $21.99, between 3 – 11 is $16.99, and under 2 is free, train rides are $2.50 each, and one parent rides free with any child under 42” tall
If you’re looking for a fast, cheap, and easy train fix for your kiddos, MARTA really is SMARTA. Let’s be real. Trains are amazing, complicated, and nuanced marvels of engineering, but the allure of a train to your three year old boils down to two things: 1) it moves, quickly, and 2) it makes all sorts of exciting noises. While a trip on MARTA may lack the “all aboard” call of a conductor, it is still an exciting train experience that won’t break the bank or kill your afternoon plan to run errands. Or, you can make a day of it by consulting the website for tourist attractions accessible by MARTA on the website.
Details: MARTA, various locations, one-way fare is $2.50, day passes are $9.00, kids 46” and under ride free (maximum of two kids per adult)
Steel Mill Express at Atlantic Station
Another option for those who don’t want to spend a full day satisfying a train craving, the Steel Mill Express is a brightly colored miniature train on wheels that gives ten minute rides around the retail shops at Atlantic Station on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Departing from Central Park near the California Pizza Kitchen, you can accompany your kids who might love the idea of a train, but then balk at the reality of riding one alone. Consider this “cruising,” train style, since the conductor rocks a catchy soundtrack as you chug along.
Details: Trains depart every 10-15 minutes on the weekends (Friday-Sunday), subject to weather, from 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. daily, $3.00 per ride, per child
For those of you who’ve been there, done that already and are looking to expand your train horizons beyond the scope of what Atlanta proper has to offer, consider the following day and weekend trips to take your train prowess to the next level:
Chattanooga Choo Choo: Spend a night in a real Victorian train! Take a ride on the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museums’s Missionary Ridge local line! Check out the Model Railroad Museum and Display! If this doesn’t impress your little ones, we don’t know what will.
SAM Shortline Excursion Train: This vintage, air-conditioned train takes passengers on various routes through scenic South Georgia, stopping for layovers so you can stretch your legs and explore along the way. With six depots and five itineraries to choose from, you can customize your day to suit your interests and needs. Restrooms (including a changing table) and concessions (hot dogs, sausage dogs, and barbecue sandwiches) are available onboard, so all you need to do is show up! Insiders know that the best itinerary for little ones is the Conductor’s Favorite, which departs the Cordele depot at 9:45, has a one hour layover for lunch and playtime, and returns at 1:45, but if you’d rather spend more time on the rails and have multiple stops, you have plenty of options to choose from. Don’t wait until October to try out SAM, but don’t even think about missing the Day Out With Thomas during two thrilling weeks every October, which includes a 25 minute train ride on the King himself, as well as other Thomas-centric activities. Schedules for both the regular SAM routes as well as the two weeks of Thomas are available online.
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway: Another option for a scenic ride on a vintage train, the BRSR departs from the Blue Ridge depot on Fridays and Saturdays at 11:00, and on Sundays at 1:30. Enjoy the ride in either an air-conditioned or open-air passenger car as you wind through the North Georgia Mountains and along the Toccoa River. A two hour (one and a half on Sundays) stop at the border of the Tennessee-Georgia state line for a picnic, shopping, or eating in one of the local restaurants brings the grand time commitment for this trip to four hours. In both railway options, don’t forget to pack crayons or books in case your itty bitties get restless, but remember, they’re not strapped into a car seat, and you’re not stuck behind a wheel. A ride on SAM or BRSR just might have you petitioning your Congressman for better light rail funding for the State of Georgia!
Is your little one loco for locomotives? Tell us below where you go train-ing with your tot!