The best scenic train rides in every state

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Alabama: Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum

Located just south of Birmingham, the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum provides plenty of options for the whole family, including the one-hour Calera & Shelby Saturday Train Ride that chugs through the beautiful forests of Shelby County and kid-friendly events like the Pumpkin Patch Express and the Santa Special.

PHOTO: Jeff Greenberg

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Alaska: Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star Train

Make the most of a visit to Alaska by riding on Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star Train, a 12-hour journey from Anchorage to Fairbanks. On a clear day, you’ll have full view of the train’s namesake landmark, Denali Mountain (formerly Mount McKinley), which is the tallest peak in North America.

PHOTO: Kerrick James / ARRC

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Arizona: Grand Canyon Railway

The Grand Canyon Railway offers a 65-mile, 2-hour and 15-minute train ride along the edge of the Colorado Plateau, at an elevation of 5,000 feet. Don’t forget to look into the company’s popular Polar Express Train Ride, offered during the holiday season.

PHOTO: Facebook/Grand Canyon Railroad

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Arkansas: Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway

The Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway is open April through October and travels along the restored Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad. In November, the railway offers a distinctive off-season experience with its Saturday Excursion Trains. Have a lovely meal in the 1920s Eurekan Dining Car and view the fall leaves.

PHOTO: Danita Delimont

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Colorado: Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Museum

It doesn’t get much more rough and rowdy than this. Imagine that you’re a 19th-century cowboy and take a ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Choose the Cascade Canyon Excursion and ride a coal-fired locomotive as it chugs along 45 miles of rails originally constructed in 1882. The views of the Animas River can’t be beat.

PHOTO: Franz Marc Frei

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Connecticut: Essex Steam Train & Riverboat

Travel by land and by water during an unforgettable excursion the whole family is sure to love. Essex Steam Train & Riverboat offers a two and a half-hour jaunt that includes a 12-mile ride on a steam locomotive through the Connecticut River Valley. Then, board the Becky Thatcher riverboat and glide in style along the Connecticut River.

PHOTO: Buyenlarge

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Delaware: Wilmington and Western Railroad

You might feel as if you’ve traveled in a time machine when you hop onto a train at the Wilmington and Western Railroad. Choose the historic Mt. Cuba Meteor to ride through Delaware’s Red Clay Valley and have a picnic lunch on the Hockessin Flyer, which travels the entire length of the 17-mile line.

PHOTO: David Osberg

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Florida: Florida Railroad Museum

Soak up palm trees and lush greenery as you enjoy a 13-mile round trip on a diesel train through the Florida Railroad Museum. Don’t miss the museum’s fun events, like the Wild West Train Robbery or the North Pole Express.

PHOTO: John Parra

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Hawaii: Kauai Plantation Railway

Now this is a unique way to see Hawaii! Book a ride with the Kauai Plantation Railway and you’ll coast along through jungles and farmland in a reproduction train from the period of King Kalakaua. The conductor will stop during the trip to allow travelers to hike in a rainforest and pick their own tropical fruits.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/duluoz cats

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Idaho: Thunder Mountain Line

As Idaho’s only scenic train ride, you’ll be amazed at the scenery as you travel alongside the Payette River and Boise National Forest. For an exceptionally one-of-a-kind experience, book the “Raft and Rails” package in which participants take an hour and a half-long train ride to the rapids of the Payette River. Get ready for a heart-pounding rafting adventure!

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/Memo Cordova

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Illinois: Illinois Railway Museum

Your kids will love seeing all of the cool trains on display at the Illinois Railway Museum. This huge place holds the largest collection of historic railway equipment in North America. After taking in all that history, hit the rails for a 45-minute ride on a train of yore.

PHOTO: Richard Cummins

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Indiana: Whitewater Valley Railroad

The Whitewater Valley Railroad in Connersville, Indiana takes visitors to Metamora, a restored canal town with a working grist mill, horse-drawn canal boat, shops, restaurants and more.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/J. Stephen Conn

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Iowa: Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad

In the midst of the quiet Iowa cornfields, you’ll find an authentic railroad offering a myriad of events and excursions. The Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad offers rides in 1920s coach cars through a picturesque valley, and they have dinner and picnic trains, too.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/photolibrarian

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Kansas: Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad

Speed along through the Kansas countryside on a steam locomotive from the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad. In addition to their regular passenger trains, the railroad also has dinner train rides complete with classic red-and-white checkered tablecloths and tasty fare.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/Lane Pearman

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Kentucky: Kentucky Railway Museum

New Haven, Kentucky is home to the Kentucky Railway Museum, the oldest rail museum in the state. See the rolling green fields and farmland from a locomotive or book a private excursion on the caboose. Now that’s a cool idea for a birthday party!

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/Anthony

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Louisiana: Amtrak’s Sunset Limited Tour

Start in the grand city of New Orleans and head out to equally grand landscapes on an the Amtrak Sunset Limited tour between Louisiana and California. You’ll scope out bayous, deserts and mountains during this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/Miguel Discart

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Maine: Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum

This peaceful 35-minute train ride with the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company allows you to see the splendor of Portland up close, riding along the Eastern Promenade of Casco Bay.

PHOTO: Portland Press Herald

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Maryland: Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

For a wide variety of different train excursions, look no further than Cumberland’s Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. They have family-focused trips that include a Fall Foliage Experience and Christmas Trains and they also offer an adults-only New Year’s Eve Murder Mystery Train.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/jpmueller99

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Massachusetts: Cape Cod Central Railroad

There’s a good reason why this railroad has been featured on the Food Network show “Dining on the Train.” The Cape Cod Central Railroad specializes in exquisite adventures through sand dunes, cranberry bogs and sandy shores, all while you dine or listen to a narrator share history on the area.

PHOTO: KenWiedemann

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Michigan: Greenfield Village

Dearborn, Michigan’s, Greenfield Village is a top destination for Henry Ford fans (you can take a ride in a real Model T!) and train enthusiasts alike. The historic attraction provides rides on the Weiser Railroad where you’ll be pulled by one of the oldest steam engines in existence.

PHOTO: Wolfgang Kaehler

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Minnesota: North Shore Scenic Railroad

This is one of the best ways to see Lake Superior. Although a walk along the lake would be pleasant, a train ride with Duluth’s North Shore Scenic Railroad is even better. During the summer, board the Duluth Zephyr to see waterfront views of Lake Superior and the Lester River.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/Pete Markham

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Missouri: Branson Scenic Railway

You’ll marvel at the grandeur of the Ozarks when you take a ride with the Branson Scenic Railway. After making its way through Branson, the route dips down into Arkansas and you can pick either a Regular Excursion or the Dinner Train.

PHOTO: Dennis Macdonald

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Montana: Alder Gulch Railway

This short-but-sweet train ride with the Alder Gulch Railway is only 15 minutes long, but it’s definitely worth it. Between Virginia City and Nevada City, you’ll travel on what’s called the “short line” and behold towering pines and Montana terrain.

PHOTO: Mark Miller Photos

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Nebraska: Omaha Zoo Railroad

The railroad at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo is a real-life tale of the Little Engine That Could. You might be picturing one of those small trains for kids that travels around a zoo, but this one is in its own category: it’s a steam locomotive that rides along a heritage railroad and carries over 200,000 visitors per year. It’s an entertaining way to see the zoo’s animal residents.

PHOTO: Richard Cummins

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Nevada Northern Railway Museum

Hitch a ride on a century-old train at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum and try out a new way to stargaze. The museum offers an excursion called the Great Basin Star Train that travels to a remote area of the Steptoe Valley, which is famous for its pristine star-viewing. There, local rangers set up telescopes and share their astronomical knowledge.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/Travel Nevada

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New Hampshire: The Mount Washington Cog Railway

Open late April through November, the Mount Washington Cog Railway in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, offers a thrilling adventure as you ascend the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington. Once at the top of the three-mile track, you’ll be surrounded by mountain views as you travel through New Hampshire and Maine as well as an eastern view of the Atlantic Ocean.

PHOTO: Courtesy of The Mount Washington Cog Railway

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New Jersey: Black River & Western Railroad

Make family memories with a ride on New Jersey’s Black River & Western Railroad. Jump on a steam locomotive and participate in themed rides, like the North Pole Express and Pumpkin Junction excursions.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/Vilseskogen

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New York: Adirondack Scenic Railroad

Hiking the Adirondacks is a breathtaking experience. But if you’d prefer to see the peaks and pinnacles from the comfort of a train, you’re in luck. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad has two stations to choose from and they each provide different excursions. Little ones will delight in the Family Halloween Train and the Beer & Wine Train is geared toward adults.

PHOTO: John Greim

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North Carolina: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in North Carolina offers two scenic train rides that the whole family will surely love. Ride alongside the Nantahala River during the 4.5-hour Nantahala Gorge Excursion, or take the four-hour Tuckasegee River Excursion to ride past a spot where the 1993 film “The Fugitive” was filmed.

PHOTO: Facebook/Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

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North Dakota: Magic City Express

This is a train ride that the kiddos will really enjoy. On a scaled-down version of a historic locomotive, take a mile-long ride on the Magic City Express around Minot’s Roosevelt Park and then walk over to the Roosevelt Park Zoo next door to see lions, tigers and bears — oh my!

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/MarkSam DeLong

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Ohio: Hocking Valley Scenic Railway

The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway offers several family-friendly train options. Whether you decide to take a ride on the company’s Fall Foliage Train or its Santa Train during the holidays, these train rides along Ohio’s Hocking River promise some of the most scenic views of Ohio.

PHOTO: Facebook/Hocking Valley Scenic Railway

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Oklahoma: Oklahoma Railway Museum

At the Oklahoma Railway Museum, your family will make a 45-minute trek in a passenger coach pulled by a vintage diesel locomotive and explore the sights of Oklahoma City. Come back for the Halloween Train and Christmas Train excursions.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/Josh Friedman

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Oregon: Mount Hood Railroad

Mount Hood Railroad offers three seasonal train excursions, perfect if you’re looking for an adventurous new way to foster family bonding. Travel through woods, orchards and vineyards aboard the June through October Parkdale Excursions, see the rich colors of Portland, Oregon’s, fall foliage during the October Harvest Fall Special train ride or enjoy an Old West-themed adventure on the Western Train Robbery ride, which is offered July through September.

PHOTO: Getty Images

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Rhode Island: Newport & Narragansett Bay Railroad

The Newport & Narragansett Bay Railroad has train rides for every member of the family. As you steam around Rhode Island’s Aquidneck Island, you can savor gourmet eats on the Grand Bellevue Dinner Train, see a retelling of “A Christmas Carol” on the Dickens Holiday Dinner Theatre Train or relish fall on the Autumn Harvest Bistro Train.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/MarkC Hanchey

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South Carolina: South Carolina Railroad Museum

At the South Carolina Railroad Museum, you can take a ride with the Rockton, Rion & Western Railroad and see the panoramas of the idyllic South Carolina countryside. Choose from the dining car with picture windows, a 1952 passenger car, a 1940 caboose or an open-air car.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/civilengtiger

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South Dakota: 1880 Train

Nestled in the Black Hills, you can make like Wild Bill and take an authentically-Western train ride. Board an 1880 Train and learn about the history of the region through a two-hour, narrated excursion. These rides are offered through the Black Hills Central Railroad, the oldest continuously-operating tour railroad in the United States.

PHOTO: Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin)

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Tennessee: Tennessee Valley Railroad

It’s as if the song “Chattanooga Choo Choo” has come to life! Glenn Miller would have undoubtedly enjoyed a train ride through Chattanooga’s Tennessee Valley Railroad, where you’ll see the Tennessee scenery speeding by during your ride. The excursions each have throwback names, like the Missionary Ridge Local, Summerville Steam Special, Copperhill Special and Hiwassee Loop.

PHOTO: Stephen Saks

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Texas: Texas State Railroad

Get ready to be transported back in time once you step aboard the Texas State Railroad‘s 1920s train car. You’ll travel through Texas’ Piney Woods during your 50-mile, four-hour journey. For the kids, the Texas State Railroad sets up a pumpkin patch during the fall and offers a Polar Express ride, which begins in November.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Texas State Railroad

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Utah: Heber Valley Railroad

Hop onboard the Heber Valley Railroad‘s 1907 vintage steam locomotive to see amazing views of Utah’s Heber Valley and Provo Canyon. Make sure your kiddos are also on the lookout for bald eagles, deer and elk along the 16-mile ride.

PHOTO: Facebook/Herber Valley Railroad

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Vermont: Green Mountain Railroad

Vermont is certainly a gorgeous state, and we think that the best way to see its beauty is from a Green Mountain Railroad train. Based in Burlington, you can look at waterfront locales and fall foliage from a dinner train or the popular “Cocktails on the Rails” excursion.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/nigelmenzies

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Virginia: The Gypsy Express

Although this one isn’t as grandiose as some train rides, we love it all the same. The Gypsy Express mini train in Staunton, Virginia, is simply charming and perfectly-suited for little ones. For the past 60 years this tiny train has been enchanting visitors with its trek around Gypsy Hill Park. It just might be the most adorable train ride you’ll ever take.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/Aaron Webb

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Wisconsin: Mid-Continent Railway Museum

Wisconsin’s train mecca, otherwise known as the Mid-Continent Railway Museum, lies in North Freedom and takes visitors on rides through the exquisite Baraboo Hills. They have excursions for nearly every holiday, including the Pumpkin Special, Stars and Stripes Special and the Snow Train.

PHOTO: Flickr Creative Commons/clare_and_ben

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Wyoming: Terry Bison Ranch

This is a train-ride experience like no other. At Cheyenne, Wyoming’s, Terry Bison Ranch, you’ll hoot and holler for the many on-site activities, like horseback riding, home cooked dinners at the steakhouse and rides on their custom-built, scaled-down trains. Take a Bison Train Tour to see their ostriches, camels and of course, bison, or choose a Sunday Lunch Train for a good, old-fashioned meal.

PHOTO: Richard Cummins