Traveling soon? We’ve got you covered. Our Travel Hacks Series covers planes, trains, and automobiles—as well as tips to make life with the littles more comfortable once you reach your destination.
Do your kids love trains like mine? Do they squeal at railroad crossings? Can they name all of the different freight cars (hopper? tanker? gondola, anyone?)? Do they build tracks that can’t be touched for days? Do they walk around the house whoo-whooing and puffing with arms chug-chugging away?
If your kids dig trains too, we have a few options for exploring the real thing.
You could check out an excursion with the Tennessee Central Railway Museum (FYI – Day out with Thomas is going on through Sept 7th). You can drive to Chattanooga to sleep on a stationary Victorian train car at the Choo Choo or visit the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. In November and December, you can drive to Bryson City, NC and take the Polar Express. If you have a few days to kill (and money to spend), you could take the Amtrak (though you’d have to get to Atlanta or Chicago to hop aboard).
However, if you’re into creating your own train adventure for cheap, you can easily ride the Music City Star (Nashville’s commuter train).
Here’s what to do:
Buy tickets in advance.
You can spend $5 at the kiosks at the stations…or you can go to Kroger and buy a handful at a discount. I’ve heard, though not personally confirmed, that you can also buy 1-ride tickets for as low as $2 at the downtown station. Kids under four are free.
Decide on your route.
The Star runs into town and back out east three times in the morning and three times in the evening. If you have early risers (and can get motivated to get out of the house), you could try the morning trips. I’ve never done it, but I’m sure some mama out there can get herself and her wee ones packed and out the door in time. Alternatively, you can leave your vehicle at Cumberland Park, walk across the pedestrian bridge (river! boats!), and catch the 4:20 train out of town. Depart at any of the stations (Donelson, Hermitage, Mt. Juliet, Martha, or Lebanon), and then catch the train heading back into town.
Alternatively (and this is my favorite trip), you can pick up the kids from school (or get them up after nap) and drive out to Mt. Juliet. Park your car and take the 3:40 or 4:15 into town. While you’re downtown, hop on the free bus circuits and get literally anywhere downtown (or just ride the bus around and gawk at the gawkers) or walk up Broadway to Savannah Candy Kitchen and get your fill of fudge and goodies for the ride home under an elevated model electric train. Just be sure to return to the station by 5:45 to take the last train back out to Mt. Juliet. If your kids aren’t totally knocked out from excitement of your big adventure, grab some barbecue at Martin’s BBQ Joint in Mt. Juliet on your way home (featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and #1 on USA Today’s best barbecue places in Nashville.
Bring some supplies.
In addition to your diaper bag or fresh set of under-roos if you’re toilet training like our little one, bring some water and snacks. You might consider some of the entertainment options Shannon suggests for air travel for the ride home, because once the sun sets, you won’t be able to ogle at the school bus graveyard and other amazing sites from the train…and tired commuter train riders aren’t particularly entertained by toddlers running up and down the aisle after a long day at work.