This was the summer of road trips in our family! Right after we got home from Maine, daddy had to work but my boy and I took off for another fun road trip! Our destination was Northern Virginia (NoVa). And we actually drove straight there (almost 10 hours). But on the way home, I couldn’t do that long of a trip again and I knew it. I looked all around our route to figure out what to do. There was the traditional Hershey Park vacation, or Sesame Place. We could hit up the Philadelphia Zoo or Baltimore Aquarium. I wasn’t thrilled with any of those ideas.
And then it totally clicked: Strasburg.
So okay, I know that is a random town in the middle of Pennsylvania and most of us in New England have no idea what that is.
But when you are a train mom, you know what Strasburg is.
Strasburg is the home of the Strasburg Railroad, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, the Choo Choo Barn and the National Toy Train Museum. It’s literally a train-obsessed child’s dream come true.
Our two day excursion was all about the trains but we also took time to enjoy this area of Pennsylvania, also known famously as Dutch Country. We made sure to explore some of the local favorites, try some Dutch Amish food and even spent a couple hours at Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park.
So if you have a train enthusiast in your family, or you are just looking for a unique summer road trip, keep reading!
All Aboard! The Strasburg Rail Road
A train-cation must include a train ride. And we had one heck of a train ride through Dutch Country.
The Strasburg Rail Road offered train rides all day long. We opted to do something different and booked seats on the dining car for an early lunch. Honestly, I had two reasons for this: first, my boy had been talking about riding in a dining car for awhile now and second, 45 minutes on a train ride seemed like a bit much for my five year old and having lunch would be a good way to fill the time.
In the end, it was a great idea. He loved having lunch on the train. We had plenty of time during our 45-minute ride to enjoy our food but also take in the scenery of Pennsylvania. The railway line was 4.5 miles and went into Paradise (the town in Pennsylvania, that is) and then reversed course back to Strasburg. The ride was 9 miles in the end.
In addition to the train ride, they had plenty of additional activities at Strasburg including cranky cars and a pint-sized puffer belly train. We paid for the unlimited wrist band (just $5) and he was able to take part in these. They also had a playground, cute gift shops and a cafe. If you choose to bring your lunch, they also have picnic groves.
All in all this was a great way to start our train-cation!
Keep on Chugging! The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Literally right across the street from the train ride at Strasburg was the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Since I booked our train ride online the day before, I opted to add on admission to the Railroad Museum. The nice thing about them being right across from each other is that we actually were able to bounce between both places. This was great because it was a hot summer day in Pennsylvania and it was nice to escape to the air conditioning at the Railroad Museum during the peak of the day.
I was a little unsure about how much my boy would be interested in a train museum. I shouldn’t have even thought twice. He loved it. And I’ll admit it was pretty amazing to see REAL trains inside a building. And these were some impressive trains!! There were opportunities to climb onboard a few of them, and there were many museum docents available to show you around and answer your questions.
Even outside there were more trains to check out. They also had a train turn table which was fascinating for my little train enthusiast.
Back inside the museum, we found even more fun activities geared towards the little ones. They had train tables and Thomas trains to play with, model train displays (with interactive buttons), and even a Lego Train display. I was happy to sit for a while in the cool museum while he played!
The Railroad Museum was so much more than I could have ever imagined. Seeing those trains up close like that was pretty incredible. Naturally, as a train mom, I have developed my own sort of interest and appreciation, and this was a great place to experience things. I was really happy we added on tickets to the Museum when we purchased our train ride for the Strasburg Railroad.
Even More Puffing! at the Choo Choo Barn
The trains didn’t end. Just down the road from Strasburg Railway, we discovered the Choo Choo Barn.
If you have ever been to a model train display, you probably understand and appreciate the work involved in one of these. 1700 square feet of model train tracks were found inside the Choo Choo Barn. Tiny little intricate details that were painstakingly put together by some amazing people. We spent over an hour just going around and around the room taking in every little detail. They also offered a scavenger hunt which makes it even more fun and helped you enjoy every little piece. They also have a night mode where the room goes dark so you can take in all the lights and enjoy the display in a different view.
We have checked out a few different model train displays in the past couple years, and this was one of our favorites!
Even More Down the Track at the National Toy Train Museum
I was not sure if we would have time to squeeze in one more train place during our day but we made it happen and I am so glad we did!
Our last train stop was the National Toy Train Museum.
While this museum was slightly geared towards the older child and adult that understand the intricacies and appreciate the history of the toy train, my five year old had a grand old time checking out 10 different model train displays. They even had two really amazing Lego train displays. We made sure to work on the scavenger hunt as well which gave us a chance to find lots of special features hidden in each layout.
Honestly, I had the hardest time peeling him out of this place compared to everything else. Whether it was the train displays, the train table he was playing at or just the fact that it had been a long day, he did not want to leave. I think he may have even understood that this was also the last stop on our train-cation.
Regardless we had a fun time at this stop and definitely recommend it for anyone heading to Strasburg.
Completely on the spur of the moment, we found ourselves debating a visit to the famous Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park. Known as one of the best kids amusement parks in the country, this is definitely a must-visit if you are in the area with little ones. This is the park for them!
As I mentioned, this was not a planned stop. Our hotel was across the street from Dutch Wonderland and every time we would leave (or return), my son would see the monorail ride that circled around Dutch Wonderland. He was in love. I debated a third night in Pennsylvania just to allow for a day at this park.
When I found out they offered reduced admission for the last three hours of the day, I decided on a whim to do it on our last night. So at 5 p.m., we headed (on foot) to the park. It was literally a five minute walk from our hotel. We checked in to the park with zero issue, and then spent three hours riding the monorail, going on a rollercoaster, taking a gondola ride, eating chicken fingers and french fries, taking a train ride, and so much more. After three hours, he was exhausted, and so was I. And I was so glad I paid for just three hours. I can’t imagine that he would have made it the whole day at this park. It had so much to do, and he could literally go on every right (except one).
This was a great way to end our day!
I couldn’t leave Dutch Amish Country without taking in some of the special things that this region is known for.
One of our random stops included a local Amish creamery. I spotted this in one of our tour books and it was apparently a local favorite, but not busy with tourists. It was off the beaten track, that’s for sure. Down on the Farm had some of the best homemade ice cream I have ever had. And the other foods they were selling was also good. We took back way too much cheese, root beer, chocolate milk, fudge… Good thing our hotel had a fridge!
We also got a close up peek at a horse and buggy! We saw a lot of those while in Dutch Country but it was pretty fascinating to see the horses up close!
We also visited the popular Bird in Hand Bakery & Cafe. Dutch Amish are well known for their baked goods including whoopie pies and fresh bread.
And like usual, I took too much home.
Our two day adventure to Strasburg, Pennsylvania was definitely memorable! I loved having a mommy and son vacation like this. I was a little nervous making a big road trip, but this was a great way to break up the drive home and it made for some special moments with my son. Even 2 months later, he still talks about our awesome train vacation. And he asks when we can go back…
As daddy says, no more vacations this year!