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. Learn more about James J. Hill on MNOpedia, and find fun train-destinations below:
TRAIN DESTINATIONS IN MINNEAPOLIS
Minnehaha Depot | Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis
Located in Minnehaha Park in South Minneapolis this historic gingerbread depot boasts one of the prettiest settings in the Twin Cities. Learn more. Open Sundays, Memorial Day – Labor Day. FREE admission.
The Hennepin Overland Railway Historical Society | Minneapolis
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. Open weekends, 1- 4pm, Sept thru April. Trains After Dark the 2nd Saturday of each month, Jan thru April, 6-9 PM. $7/pp or $20/family.
Minnesota Streetcar Museum | Minneapolis
Take a ride on the retro Como-Harriet Streetcar Line, shuttling passengers on a scenic route between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. Trains run May – October, please see the link for the schedule. Wednesday afternoons are the only weekday you can ride from 1-4pm during the summer months. $2.50/pp.
TRAIN DESTINATIONS IN ST PAUL
Twin City Model Railroad Museum | St Paul
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. Learn more here. Open Mon, Tues & Fri 10am-3pm, Sat 10am-5pm & Sun 12-5pm. $10/pp, children 4 & under free.
- All Year, check out TCMRM’s TRAKS (“Train Related Activities for Kids”) page for activities, coloring pages and more train activities.
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 most Tuesdays at 10:30am. Please check ahead of time. Read more: Family Fun: Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store & Storytimes. $5/child to play.
Union Depot | St Paul
Union Depot is an historic station along the Amtrak national train system. Visit on Wednesdays when they put out games or for one of their many public events. There’s a designated picnic area set aside next to the tracks; bring a lunch and watch the trains come through! Read more: Indoor Delights: Union Depot Family Fun!
Jackson Street Roundhouse | St Paul
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 an operating roundhouse turntable and real train rides! Bring littles ones the first or third Wednesday of the month for Tots ‘N Trains special programming. Look for special events throughout the year such as fall color train rides and meets with Santa. Open Wednesdays and Saturdays through May 2020. $7-$13/pp, family rates available.
TRAIN DESTINATIONS IN THE TWIN CITIES NORTH METRO
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 summer weekends between 1-4pm. FREE.
North Metro Model Railroad Club | Coon Rapids
Occasionally, the club invites the public inside for open houses or to watch the trains operate. Admission is free, donations appreciated.
TRAIN DESTINATIONS IN THE TWIN CITIES WEST METRO
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.
Excelsior Streetcar Line | Excelsior
All aboard for an old-fashioned streetcar ride through downtown Excelsior. Trains run May – September, please check the link for the schedule. $2.50/pp.
TRAIN DESTINATIONS IN THE TWIN CITIES EAST METRO
St Croix Railroad | Hudson, WI
Three railroad lines operate miniature locomotives the public is invited to ride on the last Sunday of the month, May – September from 12-4pm. There is no official charge for tickets, but a donation of $5/pp is suggested. Choo Choo Bob’s Saint Croix Railroad Outing is a popular fall fundraising event. Reservations are required! Call the train shop at 651-646-5252. 12-4pm, $5/person, $20/family-up to six people.
ROAD TRIP FROM THE TWIN CITIES
Chugga chugga! You’ll have to travel a little farther from the metro to visit these trains, but they make for a lovely day trip destination.
Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway | Osceola, WI
Just across the border into Wisconsin, train rides depart every Saturday and Sunday throughout the weekend, spring through fall. 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. Learn more. Rides $12-$20/pp, meal trains $25-$55.
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.
Annual Train Events and Festivals
March: Randolph Railroad Days
This event doesn’t appear to have its own website, but find information on its Facebook page.
May: National Train Day
Begun by AmTrak, this holiday has taken on a life of its own. Who doesn’t want to celebrate trains? We keep a round up of the annual events at the link.
June: Union Depot Train Days | St Paul
A full weekend of train activities including tours of locomotives, model railroads, musical entertainment and special events for all ages. FREE.
July & August: Day Out With Thomas | Duluth
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.
October: Pumpkin Express | Osceola to Dresser, WI
Families can ride the Pumpkin Express to during MEA weekend to find their Halloween Pumpkin and celebrate the season. Tickets: $20/pp.
November-February: Night Trains | Twin City Model Railroad Museum, St Paul |
Model train displays set up for a special Christmas/winter theme. Tickets: $15/pp.