Is your little one loco for locomotives? Check out our must-visit list of train museums, train rides for kids in Los Angeles, must-visit stations, and a chance to ride real trains for free (at least for the kids). When your kid is crazy about all things trains, it’s full steam ahead!
Over a century old, this funicular (a train that goes up and down a mountain) shuttles passengers between Hill St. and Grand Ave. on Bunker Hill. Originally opened in 1901, Angels Flight—the world’s shortest railway—has given more than 100 million rides on its hillside track.The top station is located at California Plaza (350 South Grand Ave., while the lower entrance is located at 351 South Hill St.—which, handily is across from Grand Central Market (and one of our favorite spots for lunch!). Park there and just walk across the street. Or if you are really going to make a train day of it, take the metro to the Civic Ctr/Grand Park station—Angel's Flight is 5 minute walk.
Hours: Daily, 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Cost: $1 each way or if you use your Metro TAP card, it costs just .50!
351 S. Hill St.
Southern California Railway Museum
File this destination under "Worth the Drive" (it's 77 miles from DTLA). For train-crazy toddlers, make sure to catch appearances by Thomas and Percy, and a special Christmas-time Polar Express Train Ride. This Orange County museum also has the West’s largest collection of railway locomotives, passenger and freight cars, streetcars and other artifacts dating from the 1870s. The museum also operates a railway where visitors can ride on the historic trains and trolleys that helped shape Southern California.
Do you want to hear a bit of history? Then catch a hosted tour! Narrated tours of the museum and their extensive collection Mon. through Fri. between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Hours: 9 a.m.-5p.m.; railway opens from 11a.m.-5p.m. on weekends only and special events
Cost: All-day train ride pass, $12 for ages 12 & up; $8 for ages 5 through 11; free for ages 4 and under
2201 South A St.
Travel Town Museum & Railroad
For train enthusiasts and those kids with a growing obsession, Travel Town is a perfect spot thanks to the collection of historic rail cars and the ride-a-long train that goes around the perimeter. It's located in a grassy, relaxed area of Griffith Park and happens to also be a great place to spread out a picnic. Of course if your little trainspotter is still obsessed with all things choo-choo come birthday-time, you can have a train-themed birthday party in one of their train cars. Also don't miss the well-stocked gift shop—a great resource for train-related toys.
Open: Open daily (except Wed.); 10 a.m-4:45 p.m.
Cost: Free to enter; train rides are $3 & up
5200 Zoo Dr.
Griffith Park & Southern Railroad
Also inside Griffith Park, Griffith Park & Southern Railroad often runs two locomotives around a scenic track that includes a tunnel, a trestle bridge, a Wild West street scene and a corral full of real horses. There’s plenty of parking, plus a concession stand, snack bar and a gift shop, as well as a small space-flight simulator and the nearby Griffith Park pony and wagon rides.
Open: Daily, 10a.m.-5p.m.
Cost per ride: $3 & up
4400 Crystal Springs Dr.
L.A. Live Steamers Railroad Museum
The train ride at this Griffith Park spot is aboard a 7½" gauge model train, which makes it about an eighth the size of a standard train. You sit on top of it, straddling the train car, as opposed to inside it. You'll cross bridges, pass through tunnels and alongside miniature towns. Know before you go: Passengers must be at least 34-inches tall to enjoy the ride.
Insider Tip: If you are there on the 3rd Sun. of the month, swing by and check out the relocated Walt's Barn—it's where Walt Disney worked on his own trains and brainstormed new ideas.
Open: Sun. only, 11a.m.–3p.m.
Cost per ride: $3
5202 Zoo Dr.
Calico Railroad at Knott's Berry Farm
If you're headed to Knott's Berry Farm, be sure grab a seat on the Calico Railroad, which has been at the park since Jan. 12, 1952. The locomotive is an authentic Denver and Rio Grande Narrow Gauge train that was used in the early 1900s. Warning: The train has the highest crime rate in all of Orange County (wink, wink), as notorious bandits stage hold-ups on every ride.
Open: Daily, 10a.m.–10p.m. most days
Cost per ride: Free with admission (tickets start at $53, but you can find discounted tickets here).
8039 Beach Blvd.
Los Angeles Union Station
Don’t miss this DTLA landmark (built in 1939!) for an up-close look at real trains in Los Angles moving people in and out of our city. Just march right through the lobby and into the tunnel beneath the platforms, check out the schedule to see which tracks have trains leaving soon and walk up the ramp of your choice to see full-size trains in action. Dozens of Amtrak and MetroLink trains use Union Station daily, and your kids are sure to get an eye-full and ear-full of real train experience. (It can be a bit deafening on the platforms, so consider bringing earplugs if you or your kids are sensitive to loud noises).
800 North Alameda St.
Lomita Railway Museum
This museum is an undiscovered gem for Southern California families. Hidden in a residential neighborhood in the South Bay city of Lomita, it's full of train history, educational dioramas and hundreds of models depicting train cars from the 1830s to the present. The museum is housed in a 19th-century New England small-town train depot replica, and after you purchase your tickets at the old-fashioned train-ticket counter, the well-informed staff will welcome your little ones with some background on the museum, while demonstrating the facility’s genuine train lights and whistles. Tear your kids away from the kids train table set-up near the gift counter, head out to climb through the historic caboose and engine, the push-car and the water tower, and then maybe enjoy a picnic at one of the two train-centric parks next door, which together feature a contemporary caboose, a tank car and a boxcar.
Open: Fri. through Sun., 10a.m.–5p.m.,
Cost: $4 for adults, $2 for children, free for children under 2
2137 W. 250th St.
Of course, if your kid will only be pleased with riding the real thing, hop on a Metrolink train from Union Station where kids ride free on the weekends with a paying adult. Where to go for the day? Check out their explorer page for all the places you can go including Oceanside, San Juan Capistrano, Ventura County or even the Antelope Valley.