What is it about toddlers and their love of trains?  They can spot and hear a locomotive chugging miles away.  Anytime you walk into a Barnes and Noble Bookstore or a Toys ‘R Us, the little ones immediately gravitate to that ever-so-popular train table.  They get super obsessed with these strangely popular modes of transportation for a couple of years and then before you know it, they are full-fledged grade-schoolers who have moved on to other big kid things (and you are left with an expensive train table and collection of wooden trains).  So while they are still young, why not let your little ones get their choo-choo fix.  We’ve rounded up 8 spots where you can bring your kids to indulge and get train happy. All aboard!

Irvine Park Railroad
This is the ultimate train ride in the OC that puffs adults and kids happily around Irvine Regional Park past a train crossing, a duck-filled lake, and a tunnel.  Engineers are dressed to impress in their overalls as they whistle and yell, “All Aboard!”, to give your little ones the complete choo-choo experience.  Tickets are $5 per person (adult or child) but you might want to invest in the $60 book of tickets just in case your kid might want to ride it multiple times.  Prepare to spend the day there since you do have to pay for parking but don’t worry, there are plenty of things to do before or after the train ride: pony rides, the zoo, renting paddle boats, and playgrounds.

Irvine Park Railroad

Irvine Park Railroad
Irvine Regional Park
1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, Ca
Online: irvineparkrailroad.com

The Zoofari Express at the Santa Ana Zoo
Not only super kid-friendly but now also environmentally friendly with its new electrically powered engine.  This 7-minute train ride chugs throughout the zoo giving your little ones some great views of the goats, anteaters, ducks, and other animals.  It’s the perfect starter safari ride for the little ones.  Train tickets are $3 each in addition to the entrance fees that are $10 for adults and $7 for kids.

santa ana zoofari express

Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park
1801 East Chestnut Avenue
Santa Ana, Ca
Online: santaanazoo.org

It truly is the happiest place on earth…especially for a budding train lover! The Disneyland Railroad is as close as you can get to a perfect replica for an old steamer.  The kids will enjoy the different scenery as the train steams ahead through animated dioramas that illustrate the story of the Grand Canyon and Primeval World.  The Main Street station is the ideal spot to get on board since gives the feeling of an actual train station from the old fashioned days.


1313 Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, Ca
Online: Disneyland.com

Knott’s Berry Farm
Despite being well-known for its Knott’s Scary Farm during Halloween, this amusement park is surprisingly packed with kid-friendly rides.  Little train enthusiasts will love the Calico Mine Ride that chugs through Knott’s Berry Farm’s gold mine complete with stalactites and stalagmites.  In addition, the Calico Railroad is the huge steam engine that tours the entire amusement park.  The ride comes full circle with an old Western stick-em-up bandit show right on the train.

knotts berry farm

Knott’s Berry Farm
8039 Beach Boulevard
Buena Park, Ca
Online: knotts.com

Orange County Model Engineers Goat Hill Junction
Little train enthusiasts meet grown-up train connoisseurs at this fun and free event that runs from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm every third weekend of every month (weather permitting).   A variety of engines and riding cars are available to seat 5-6 adults and kids.  The kids will get a kick out of these model-like trains and they’ll learn a lot from the knowledgeable engineers.

Orange County Model Engineers

Goat Hill Junction Railroad
2480 Placentia
Costa Mesa, Ca
Online: ocmetrains.org

Fashion Island Free Trolley
Fashion Island has taken notice and is offering free trolley rides!  The trolley stop is conveniently located at the kid-friendly koi pond (that’s where all of the kids gather on a gorgeous day).  The trolley will take you throughout the mall and will even drop your family off at your parking lot.

fashion island trolley

Fashion Island
401 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, Ca
Online: shopfashionisland.com

Train Ride at the Irvine Spectrum
Bring your little ones to the Spectrum to ride their weekend $2 a person train ride.  It’s your standard mall train that roams throughout the shopping center to keep your little ones entertained (and give you a break).  Afterwards, grab a snack at Auntie Anne’s pretzel, ride the ferris wheel and carousel, or just relax in new grassy area that has been recently decked out with plush couches and cushioned seating.

irvine spectrum

Irvine Spectrum
71 Fortune Drive
Irvine, Ca
Online: shopirvinespectrum.com

Orchard Park
This is the perfect spot to pack a lunch and picnic with your toddler inside this stationary train.  Plenty of street parking as well as slides, swings (even a tire swing), and sand funnels to make a lovely afternoon at the park.  It’s perfect for your little ones to bring their trains and imaginations to play conductor for a day.

orchard hills park

1 Van Buren
Irvine, Ca
Online: www.ci.irvine.ca.us

When was the last time your climbed aboard a train ride?

–Sommy Rhee

Photos from: Imagineeringmyway Flickr, cdmcyclist.com, and the rest by Sommy!