Best Railroad Experiences Near Chicago For Kids

June 28, 2013 7:00 AM

Most kids seem to love trains and get excited with anything having to do with trains. Not only are trains fun to look at and see moving, but there is also a lot of history involved with the railroads and trains. Experiencing a railroad of any kind is not only fun, but can also be very educational and a really memorable way for a family to spend the day together. Fortunately, the Chicago area offers a plethora of places to view trains and the railroad, both full scale and miniature.

Fox River Trolley Museum (Credit, Michelle Guilbeau)

Fox River Trolley Museum
361 S. LaFox St.
South Elgin, IL 60177
(847) 697-4676

About 35 miles from downtown Chicago is the Fox River Trolley Museum. Kids will enjoy experiencing the thrill of riding on an authentic electric trolley car while here. The Museum offers special events such as polar express and ghost train tickets, a pumpkin trolley, Illinois Prairie Path Day, Riverfest Express-Trolley Express, plus other special events that children and families will be sure to enjoy. The Fox River Trolley Museum is primarily open on the weekends and holidays. Be sure to check out the calendar on the website for specific days and times of operation.

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 835-5440

Just 25 miles from downton Chicago, take the kids to Chicago Botanic Garden for a day of fun. Children who love model trains will enjoy the outdoor model train display at Chicago Botanic Garden’s model railroad garden. The 7,500-square-foot garden features 18 trains on 1,600 feet of track and represents recognizable American landmarks such as the White House, Wrigley Field and the Lincoln Memorial. The Model Railroad Garden is open May through October, but during the holiday seasons, the Chicago Botanic Garden also hosts Trains, Tricks and Treats and the Wonderland Express.



Rochelle Railroad Park
124 N. 9th St.
Rochelle, IL 61068
(815) 562-7031

Kids and families will enjoy seeing trains from many different railroad companies pass through the Rochelle Railroad Park, and people can even bring chairs to view the trains. A really fun and exciting aspect of the park for kids and adults is to bring a radio and have it tuned to 106.9 FM to hear the train dispatchers give their instructions and directions to the train engineers. A fun family day can be had at Rochelle Railroad Park viewing trains, visiting the gift shop and even getting a bite to eat. A one-way trip is about 80 miles so plan to give yourself some time for this railroad experience.

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The Great Train Story
Museum of Science and Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 684-1414

Miniature trains can be just as fascinating as the full-scale models and one of the smallest and most complete miniature railroad systems is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. Visitors to The Great Train Story exhibit will see a scale railroad model with over 30 trains running on 1,400 feet of track. The journey around the track takes visitors on a tour from Chicago to Seattle. There are also interactive stations where kids can enjoy helping the trains complete their long journey.

Illinois Railway Museum
7000 Olson Road
Union, IL 60180
(815) 923-4391

The Illinois Railway Museum is America’s largest railway system and both kids and adults will have an abundance to look at and enjoy while spending time at this museum. With a 60-mile drive ahead of you, the kids’ anticipation will build on the way. The highlight of the Illinois Railway Museum for kids is the “Day Out With Thomas.” Any Thomas the Tank Engine fan will thoroughly enjoy the day. Be sure to check the website as there are specific event dates for this kid-friendly day.

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Michelle Guilbeau is an elementary teacher living in Elgin, Illinois. She has also experience in school administration and literacy coaching. Michelle enjoys sharing her knowledge of education and parenting issues with her readers. Her work can be found on