My son is a lover of all trains and here is a list of places we've been to in the Chicagoland area.
421 N. Springinsguth Road
Could not be more happy with our birthday party that included train rides around the park. Plus they have a train structure to climb on.
reviewed on: May 18 2012
Nitty Gritty: The Safety Park is actually located outside the Pat Shepherd Center, a preschool in Schaumburg. There are other options besides a train party. You can opt to have a jeep party, LEGO party, or bike party instead. You can also decide to go with one of their party packages which include cake, goody bags, games, a safety lesson and more. Or you can just rent the facility for two hours.
The fun: The main reason for choosing Safety Park is their 18 passenger trackless train that loops around a really cute mini town. Not only do they have that, but there is a train structure to climb, play on and a playground located on the grounds. My son loved everything about the park! Our train conductor/party host was exceptional! They were so accommodating with our requests and was very helpful with making the party run smoothly.
Bottom Line: If you have a lil one obsessed with trains, this is a really unique and fun way to celebrate a birthday!! I would give them 10 stars if I could!
1000 Lake Cook Road
Awesome model railroad garden with replicas of famous landmarks.
reviewed on: August 28 2011
The Nitty Gritty: We went here on a Saturday afternoon during their Kite Festival. I used a Groupon which was only $10 parking (normally $20). There is plenty of parking.
The fun: We went here during the Kite Festival. There was a free tram to ride out to the Island where it was held. The festival highlights included professionals flying their kites to music. My son seemed disinterested in the flying but probably because he was too young to enjoy that sort of thing. We only had time to explore the Bonsai Island, Waterfalls, Model Railroad Garden.
Son's fav moment: Definitely the model railroad garden! We splurged and paid $5 an adult (son was under 2 so free). He loved seeing all the trains going around the miniature replicas of places, statues, monuments and more.
Parent's fav moment: The Bonsai Island. Beautiful and picturesque - take lots of pictures!
Bottom Line: Most definitely recommend. There are tons of picture opportunities, so snap away. If your kids love trains, go ahead and stop on by there. The Garden hosts lots of activities during the year, so it may be worth it to check it out!
Tip: Bring comfortable shoes and don't expect to see everything if you're toting kids.
361 S LaFox St
Museum of trains? Love it!
reviewed on: March 23 2012
(Sorry for the late review)
The Nitty Gritty: We went here for the October Pumpkin Fest. There was plenty of parking, though could see it getting full if crowded (summer?). We paid for 2 adult admissions (son was free) and also $5 for a pumpkin.
The fun: If you read my other reviews, you know my son is a lover of all trains. Since it was Halloween time, we thought it'd be perfect to pick a pumpkin AND ride a trolley. While waiting for the train to depart, we were able to check out a few other trains in the "yard". Though not too many trains to look at, it was a good distraction. The trip itself took about 15 minutes each way. The end of the line was the picnic area (something we would definitely do when the weather is nice). You can get off and have a picnic or hop back on the train. Since this was a pumpkin trolley, on the way back to the depot we made a short stop to pick out pumpkins. Though not a huge pumpkin patch
of any sorts, it was a cute detour and perfect picture opportunity.
Son's fav moment: Riding the train and picking up a pumpkin from the "patch."
Parent's fav moment: The train ride and watching my son pick out his pumpkin.
Bottom Line: Loved this museum and already have plans to visit again. Definitely affordable family fun!
Tip: Bring a lunch and have a picnic at the end of the line.
124 N 9th St
Live trainwatching at its best.
reviewed on: June 10 2012
Nitty Gritty: Completely free. We saw people bring chairs to view the trains. Though we didn't get to see it up close, there was a gazebo to also view the trains. There is a train structure that people can climb on and sit. There is also a gift shop that sells authentic railroad memorabila.
The fun: You can also tune your radio to 106.9FM to hear the train dispatchers for a really unique experience. We saw 3 different freight trains when we were there.
Son's favorite moment: Getting to see lots of moving trains up close
Bottom Line: If you are in the area, by all means make a stop here, especially if you've got a train fan. It will not disappoint. If the weather's nice, bring some food and have a picnic.
5700 S Lake Shore Dr
An exhibit with over 30 model trains that include famous Chicago landmarks.
reviewed on: March 21 2011
Our family went here again in November to check out the Christmas Around the World trees and also to check out the Dr. Seuss exhibit. Our son was about 17 months and loved trains and Dr. Seuss. It was a no brainer that we go here again.
As always, we had a great time. My son could have spent hours looking at the model trains, but we had to pull him away to check out the Dr. Seuss exhibit ($5 ea person). The exhibit itself was a little smaller than I expected, but nevertheless it was interesting to learn about the writer. There is even a play area for the kids. I loved how colorful the room was and was tempted to take pictures, but had to resist because of the no photography rule.
I've never been here around Christmast time but have heard rave reviews of how pretty is is with the Christmas Around the World trees. It did not disappoint. Lots of picture opportunities and even a gift shop where you can purchase some ornaments.
I think we will just have to make it tradition to go to the MSI during the holidays. Don't miss it!
The Nitty Gritty: Admission was about $15 each adult. We used the Entertainment coupon for BOGO free admission. My son was under 1 so wasn't charged. Parking was $18 in an adjoining parking lot. Stroller friendly,
The fun: We went here on a Saturday in March. We spent about 3 to 4 hours here, though could have definitely spent the whole day if my son could last that long. The museum is huuuuge so pace yourself. DH and I usually frequent this museum as it's one of our favs in the Chicagoland area. We always make a point to check out the ice cream parlor. If you have older children (without a stroller) go to the coal mine.
Son's fav moment: Kids area on First Floor. He loved playing with the blocks and was able to walk/crawl around explore on his own. Playing with the floating balls in the Storm Exhibit on the top floor.
Parent's fav moment: New Storm exhibit & the All About You
Bottom Line: Definitely recommend
Tip: There is a Japanese Garden south of the Museum though did not visit because it was a little too chilly. Maybe in the near future!
All seats are seated by the train tracks and the food is brought out to you on a train.
reviewed on: May 07 2012
Nitty Gritty: We went to the downtown Bartlett location where it is conveniently located next to the Metra station. There is plenty of parking (both in front of the restaurant and back) and the restaurant prides itself on having all seating by the train tracks. It is a very nice sized diner.
The fun: We were here on a Sunday afternoon around 4 p.m. The restaurant was basically ours and my son immediately was excited to see the train coming around the track. Our server was very friendly especially towards the birthday boy.
They have typical diner food, and one thing to note is that all of their burgers and hotdogs are from grass fed beef with no added hormones or preservatives. The burgers and the shakes were very good.
Since it was my son's birthday, they played a birthday song on the speakers and the train brought him the cupcake with a train whistle on top. He loved it!!
Bottom Line: My son had a blast and we will be sure to come visit again. Maybe even have a birthday party here.
Tip: Be sure to sign up for the kids club. On your kid's birthday, you will be sent a postcard for a free meal and cupcake.
14245 W Rockland Rd
Come here for Model Railroad Days and then ride the mini train afterwards.
reviewed on: March 27 2012
The Nitty Gritty: We went here on a Saturday morning In September for their Train Days. There is a free parking. Besides the farm, there is a thrift store, country store, restaurant and even a pet store. Admission is only needed to ride the train, carousel, mini golf and to check out the animals.
"Train fun..and for a good cause"
The fun: The model railroad train exhiibt is actually housed in a building close by the thrift store and country bakery. One of the cool things was being able to operate the train around the track. They have more than 3 trains to operate so we didn't have to wait our turn, and was able to do it twice. There were also crafts to participate it The exhibit was a little smaller than expected but was perfect because there was no crowd. If that had been the case, I'm sure we would have been disappointed.
Afterwards, we crossed the street and bought tickets to the train. We had a few minutes to kill, so we walked around and checked out the area. If we had more time, we would have loved to ride on the mini carousel. Some animals were out and about. I admit some parts of the farm could use a little bit more loving.
Son's fav moment: Watching the train go around the track AND of course riding the mini railroad train.
Parent's fav moment: Watching my son's face light up as we rode the mini railroad train. Checking out the thrift store and making a purchase that supports a good cause.
Bottom Line: we would definitely come here again, even if there wasn't a railroad train exhibit going on. They have tons of events going and would like to check it out.
Tip: We made this a day trip (since this area was a little further from us) and went to Gurnee Mills after for lunch and some shopping.
100 S. Barnes Road
Nice mini train ride around the lake
reviewed on: March 27 2012
The Nitty Gritty: We went here on a Saturday morning In October for the Trick or Treat Walk. There is plenty of free parking. Admission is charged. We paid a fee for the special event.
The fun: Where to begin? Costumed children were walking around the area stopping at every station for a little treat. There was even a costume parade and at the end prizes were awarded. After trick or treating, the whole park was open. We immediately went to check out there mini train ride that circled around the lake. We also went on a hay ride and carousel ride. The best part was that we could go on any ride as much as we wanted. Since it was October, I believe most of the activities/features of the Village weren't available.
Son's fav moment: Riding the train and the carousel
Parent's fav moment: Seeing all the cute kids in their costumes
Bottom Line: we would definitely come here again especilly in warm weather, even if it wasn't for the Trick or Treat Walk. They have other events and even a run I would like to check out.
Tip: During their normal season, it would be great to bring a lunch to eat outside.
711 North Main Street
had a train structure to climb on along with a train ticket "station"
reviewed on: May 12 2012
It was just a matter of time before we visited this much talked about and awarded Musum.
"Fun for both kids and adults"
The Nitty Gritty: We went here on a Friday in May. Admission is $7 each person 1 and over. Since we were part of the ASTC membership we paid nothing. If you're going to the next door Burpee Museum, you receive a $1 off admission. There are no places to buy food, but there is a cafeteria. If you are looking for food, ask the front desk for a list of suggested restaurants around the area. It is very stroller friendly even the outside play area. They have a quiet spot room located upstairs by the water area for nursing. Parking is free and plentiful.
The fun:The main attraction is the Rock River Discovery Park. It is a perfect example of a playground mixed with science.You'll also find a water area, a maze, a Dino dig area where kids can pretend to look for fossils. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the structure was stroller friendly as well. If the weather cooperates, there are quite a few places with picnic tables.
We spent the majority of our time on the second floor in the Tot Spot area where there is a train structure and table, another water area, play house, ball maze, and lots more
I had to pull away my husband away from the Team Up! section where you're able to see how fast you pitch a ball, and can even play virtual reality sports games.
Son's favorite moment: Playing on the train structure and playing with the water outside
Parent's favorite moment: Testing the speed of our pitch and the outdoor science center
Bottom Line: Would definitely come here again especially if there was an event going on. I would like to check out the Bubble Festival in March.
Tip: You can take a "tunnel" to the adjacent Burpee Museum. It's free as well if you have the ASTC Membership.
435 S Birch
A mini train with real train signals.
reviewed on: April 07 2012
The Nitty Gritty: We went here on the Saturday before Easter with my 23 month old and 3.5 month year old in April. There was no fee but donations are accepted.
"Good old fashioned train fun"
The fun: The Waterman & Western Railroad is located in Waterman, Illinois close by DeKalb. The train is actually 1/3 scale miniature railroad train on train tracks that loops around a mile around the park. Out of all the mini trains we've been on this was the first one with actual train signals that worked everytime the train came around. The wait wasn't terribly long, so we were able to take in a few rides.It was a nice ride that went around the park and through a tunnel. There is also a nice sized playground that we didn't get to experience, but seemed to be enjoyed by all the kids.
Afterwards, you could take a picture with the Easter bunny. If you didn't bring your camera, they had a photographer that could print it for you.
Son's fav moment: Seeing and hearing the train signals and riding the train
Parent's fav moment: Enjoying the train ride, and the working train signals
Bottom Line: This was quite a trek, but if you are in the area and the train is running (open for certain days only)II would definitely stop on by. I hear they have a Pumpkin Train event and also a Holiday Lights Event.
Tip: Bring a lunch because there are plenty of picnic tables around. There is also a little concession stand available. Though it wasn't open, Honey Hill Orchards is also close by.
2100 Patriot Boulevard
Train table? check! And a few other train related activities.
reviewed on: March 21 2011
The Nitty Gritty: Parking was free in an adjoining lot. We arrived first thing when they opened up so we found a spot but as we were leaving, people we stalking our spot.
"Great way to spend a winter day..."
The fun: We went here in January. We spent about 2 to 3 hours here.
Son's fav moment: Crawling areas
Parent's fav moment: Music stations
Bottom Line: Definitely recommended. But would recommend for children 2 or 3+. Bring your sanitizer as its germs galore!
102 East Wesley Street
With a layout that includes over 2000 feet of track, kids can push a button to activate the train when not running.
865 Maplewood Drive
As if a store full of trains wasn't enough, this shop has a separate room full of train tables. When they tire of that, head over and watch the model railroads chugging around. They've even provided step stools for the shorter train fans.