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Family attractions in Kansas City for kids who love trains

The KC Family Entertainment Examiner enjoys a "Day Out with Thomas" with her family in Baldwin City.
The KC Family Entertainment Examiner enjoys a "Day Out with Thomas" with her family in Baldwin City.
Maria Roth, 2007

Train rides, train exhibits, model train displays, train toys, and train-themed restaurants in the Kansas City area

Many young children go through a “train” phase. They learn the names of all of Thomas the Tank Engine's friends, spend hours building elaborate train tracks for their toy freight and passenger trains, and get excited whenever they hear a real train whistle blowing. Kansas City kids can celebrate their love of trains at these local attractions.

The Midland Railway in Baldwin City, Kansas, is well-known for its Day Out with Thomas event in early summer. Don't fret if you and the kids missed Thomas the Tank Engine in June; he and Sir Topham Hatt will be back next summer. Regular train rides on the Midland Railway are offered mid-June through the end of October. Ride the Maple Leaf Special or the Halloween Train this October. Check the train schedule and ticket prices at the Midland Railway Historical Association's website, or call (913) 721-1211.

Take an old-fashioned family train ride on the Belton, Grandview, & Kansas City Railroad, which offers regular weekend rides May through October, and many special train rides. The train departs from Old Town Belton for a leisurely 5-mile, 45-minute round trip. Special train rides in 2010 include the summertime Family Food 'n' Fun Train and Friday night Ice Cream Trains. In October, ride the Pumpkin Express Train. Kids can meet Santa on the Santa Train in late November and early December. Children 2 and under ride free. Check this year's schedule and ticket prices, and get directions at, or call (816) 331-0630.

Kansas City's Union Station, already a popular family destination, is home to two permanent exhibits that are sure to appeal to young train enthusiasts: the KC Railroad Experience and the new Model Railroad Experience. The Model Railroad Experience exhibit is free if you've already purchased tickets to another Union Station attraction.

Don't forget that Union Station is still a functional train station. If you'd like to take a train instead of a car or plane to your next destination, check out Union Station's Amtrak schedule. Kansas City, Missouri, isn't the only local Amtrak stop.  Amtrak also stops in Independence and Lee's Summit, Missouri, and Topeka and Lawrence, Kansas.

In December 2009, the Kansas City Garden Railway Society created the Great Plains Train Station in The Great Mall in Olathe, Kansas. Fans of model trains can check out this “G scale marvel” 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, or noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is FREE.  Watch this video to see footage of the trains at Great Plains Train Station and learn more about the Kansas City Garden Railway Society.

The Kansas City Northern Railroad offers super-cheap, 50-cent rides for all ages on bright miniature trains weekends and holidays, May through September. Hours of operation are Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday (and holidays) noon to 6 p.m. The trains circle Frank Vaydik Line Creek Park on a half-mile track and go through a 110-foot tunnel. Visit the KCNRR website to see pictures and get directions. 

A trip to the Kansas City Zoo wouldn't be complete without a train ride. Keep your eyes peeled for camels, kangaroos, and more. Who can scream the loudest in the tunnel?

Planning a family visit to the Agricultural Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas? Take a ride on the miniature train while you're there.  Visit the Ag Hall of Fame website to learn more. 

Fritz's Railroad Restaurant, which now has three locations in the Kansas City area, is a treat for kids who love trains. Kids will enjoy wearing their free, paper engineer's hats and watching the small train engines delivering sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and fries.  Read my review of Fritz's new Shawnee location here.

If the kids are desperate to add more Thomas the Tank Engine Wooden Railway toys to their collection, check out these stores in the Kansas City area:  Gifts & Accents in Metcalf South Mall and The Toy Store in Lawrence, Kansas (it's worth the drive!).

Related articles by this author:

What are the best kid-friendly restaurants in Kansas City?

What are the best family activities in Lawrence, Kansas?



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