If you are a train lover or have train lovers in your family, then the Twin Cities is a fantastic place for you.
James J. Hill–a native of Ontario, Canada–was a pioneer in Minnesota developing the Great Northern Railway and pioneering the Pacific Northwest Railway. Because of his legacy, the Twin Cities has a rich railroad history making it a great location for any train lovers.
These destinations are just the beginning of what you can find here:
- Twin City Model Railroad Museum | St Paul ($10/pp, children 4 & under free)
If you like to putter with model trains, you will enjoy a visit to the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum. With the World Famous O Scale reproduction of the St. Anthony Falls Milling District, you will be able to see how the railways played a specific and important part in history. The special holiday Night Trains runs Saturdays November through February.
- Jackson Street Roundhouse, St Paul ($5-$10/pp or $25/family)
The historic Jackson Street Roundhouse is the former steam engine maintenance facility for the Great Northern Railway. The interactive exhibits feature local and regional railway history, and you can experience a real operating roundhouse turntable. Open Wednesdays and Saturdays, there’s special programming just for little ones on select Wednesdays called Tots ‘N Trains. Special event: 5/5/18-5/12/18 – Transportation Week, $5-$12/pp or $35/family. Each day highlights a special mode of transportation (trains, bikes, road construction equipment, etc) with accompanying activities, a craft and storytimes.
- Minnehaha Depot | Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis (FREE)
Located in Minnehaha Park in South Minneapolis, one of the prettiest settings in the Twin Cities, the depot is open during Sundays Memorial Day through Labor Day and is an iconic piece of history.
- Union Depot | St Paul
Special event: 5/5/17 – The trains no longer run through the historic downtown depot, but the spirit is still alive and represented during the annual Union Depot Train Day. 10am-5pm, FREE.
- Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway | Osceola, WI (rides $8-$20/pp, meal trains $25-$55)
Just across the border into Wisconsin, train rides depart every Saturday and Sunday throughout the weekend. 50 or 90 minutes in length, these beautiful trips through the scenic St. Croix Valley offer a one of a kind appreciation for vintage trains; meal excursions such as the family-friendly pizza train are offered on 90-minute rides.
- The Hennepin Overland Railway Historical Society | Minneapolis ($7/pp or $20/family)
Offers for the most sincere model train lovers a 400 square foot layout in a nondescript building. If you are unfamiliar with Minneapolis, finding the building could be a challenge but well worth your time.
- Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store | St Paul
A must stop for young train lovers and their parents! It houses seven train tables and two or three different model layouts to mesmerize youngsters and a storytime led by Engineer Paul ongoing Tuesdays at 10am.
- New Brighton History Center | Long Lake Park, New Brighton
This history center is built in an old train depot with an historic train that kids can climb on. It is located in Long Lake Regional Park, so you can make it part of a day at the beach. The museum opens in early June and you can visit weekends between 1-4pm. FREE.
- Historic Wayzata Depot | Wayzata
The Wayzata Museum offers hands-on experiences from the James J. Hill train era, including using a Morris code machine to send your own messages. The tracks that pass the depot are still busy today. And all ages will love the Garden Railroad, an outdoor landscaped miniature railway track. The depot is open April-October, Wednesdays, weekends and holidays, 1-4pm. FREE.
More Train Depots in Minnesota
We haven’t even scratched the surface with depots to visit in Minnesota. Check out DepotMaps.com to find all the depots in Minnesota.
Train Events and Festivals
August: Day Out With Thomas | Duluth| Family highlights: Children take a ride with Thomas the Tank Engine, meet the railway controller Sir Topham Hatt, have fun in the Imagination Station, explore the Railroad Museum, and much more! | Tickets: $20/pp.