Things To Do with Train-Loving Kids in New Jersey
If Thomas, Percy, and James are a part of your daily conversations, take advantage of the many train and railroad attractions throughout New Jersey. From North Pole excursions to the world's largest model railroad, the Garden State has it all.
The holidays are an extra-special time for train-lovers, with Christmas train rides, model train shows, and rides through holiday lights. We've rounded up all these and more below, so read on for a list of places where you can ride the rails with your little one, check out amazing displays, and more.
Seasonal and Themed Train Rides
Black River & Western Railroad – Flemington
Located in Hunterdon County, the Black River & Western Railroad will thrill little conductors. Antique passenger coaches depart from Flemington or Ringoes for a scenic, 75-minute ride. Seasonal rides include: The North Pole Express (select dates from Saturday, November 23 – Saturday, December 28, 2019), the Eerie Limited, and the Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch.
The Delaware River Railroad Excursions has an adventure for every season. Photo courtesy of The Delaware River Railroad Excursions
The Delaware River Railroad Excursions – Phillipsburg
Operated by the New York Susquehanna & Western Technical & Historical Society, the Delaware River Railroad is the only steam locomotive in New Jersey. Special rides include: The Polar Express (select dates from Friday, November 29 – Sunday, December 22, 2019), A Day Out with Thomas, Dino Days, the Great Pumpkin Train, the Corn Maze Train, and the Mine Train.
Kids can visit with Santa on a train ride through Monmouth County. Photo courtesy of the New Jersey Museum of Transportation
New Jersey Museum of Transportation – Farmingdale
Home to the Pine Creek Railroad, the New Jersey Museum of Transportation sits inside Allaire State Park. Hop aboard the oldest continually operating narrow-gauge steam preservation locomotive for a 30-minute ride through Monmouth County. There are plenty of special events from April through December, including the Christmas Express (select dates from Friday, November 29 – Sunday, December 22, 2019), the Haunted Express, and the Easter Express. All tickets must be purchased in person at the station.
Whippany Railway Museum – Whippany
This Morris County landmark hosts seasonal events including the Polar Express (select dates from Saturday, November 16 – Monday, December 30, 2019), Easter Bunny Express, and the Pumpkin Festival. The museum, which includes railroad memorabilia, exhibits, a gift shop, and a large train layout, is open to the public on Sundays, April through October, and during special events from noon to 4pm.
Kiddie Train Rides
If you're looking for a short ride on a kid-sized locomotive, many New Jersey parks and zoos have miniature versions that can add a special touch to your family’s weekend outing. Many offer special holiday-themed rides, too.
Camden’s Children Garden – Camden
The 600-foot-long Arrow River Train Ride holds up to 38 children or 22 adults. Tickets are $2.50 each or five for $10. On Saturday and Sunday, November 9-10, 2019, don't miss the Train Festival at Camden's Children's Garden, featuring train stories, crafts, and games, plus a train ride through the garden.
DiDonato Family Fun Center – Hammonton
The Rolling Railway runs all year long, with special seasonal rides during various holidays. Starting Friday, November 8, 2019, you can ride the Magical Holiday Express to see the park decked out with millions of lights, then meet with Santa and get a special treat. Other seasonal trains include the Easter EGGspress and Trick or Treat Train.
Historic Smithville Village – Smithville
Head to Historic Smithville for the Holiday Light Show (Thursday, November 28, 2019 – Sunday, January 5, 2020), and make time for a ride on the charming choo-choo. The six-and-a-half-minute ride goes around the outskirts of the village and costs $2 per person.
Turtle Back Zoo – West Orange
Riding the rails at Turtle Back is free with zoo admission. The ride takes you through the woods and along the Orange Reservoir. Hop aboard during a visit to see the zoo's Holiday Lights display, happening from Friday, November 22 – Tuesday, December 31, 2019.
Van Saun County Park – Paramus
The train runs from mid-April to mid-November, but you can also take a ride during Van Saun County Park's Winter Wonderland from Friday, November 29, 2019 through Sunday, January 5, 2020.
Model Train Shows, Museums, and Clubs
Model train shows and displays bring the massive cars and sprawling landscapes down to their level. Here's a selection of our favorites for the holiday season and beyond.
Annual Antique Toy Train Show – Deptford
Friday, November 29, 2019 – Sunday, February 2, 2020
At the Museum of American History's 17th Annual Antique Toy Train Show, see 0- and 0-27-gauge toy trains from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s; Lionel, Marx, and American Flyer engines with adjoining cars; and vintage Plasticville buildings from the 1950s.
The Barron Arts Center Holiday Model Train Show – Woodbridge
Saturday, November 30 – Monday, December 30, 2019
An annual holiday favorite now in its 29th year, this model train show features the set up and design of Mike Gelesky.
The 62nd Annual Model Railroad Show is running through January 5. Photo courtesy of the Garden State Railway Club
The Garden State Model Railway Club's 62nd Annual Model Railroad Show – North Haledon
Friday, November 29, 2019 – Sunday, January 5, 2020
A 1,200-square foot layout features steam and diesel locomotives, a slew of trains (including Thomas, of course), and working signals.
Model Railroad Club Annual Light and Sound Show – Union
Friday, November 29 – Sunday, December 15, 2019
During the club's annual Light and Sound Show, the HO scale layout is transformed into a theater and the trains run to a professionally narrated script.
Patcong Valley Model Railroad Club Holiday Open House – Richland
Saturday, December 7, 2019 – Sunday, January 19, 2020
Stop by on the weekends to check out the club's ever-evolving HO scale model. It's also open on Saturday, November 16, 2019 for National Railroad Month.
Christmas Train Show – Ocean City
Saturday and Sunday, December 7-8, 2019
The Ocean City Music Pier hosts its annual train show featuring large-scale trains that run around a Christmas Village.
The Wayne Train Show – Wayne
Sunday, December 22, 2019
The National Collectors Club is hosting a special Christmas edition of its semi-annual exhibition at The Wayne PAL Hall. There's no shortage of running trains, plus antique models on display. The club hosts shows throughout the year; check the website for the next one.
Northlandz – Flemington
Northlandz is home to the world’s largest model railroad—up to 100 trains at a time travel more than eight miles of tracks. Your enthusiast can watch the trains circle through cities and villages and cross foot bridges here year-round. In addition, visitors can ride on a replica steam train and stroll through a doll collection and an art museum.
Model Train Shops
Want a train to take home? Check out one of these shops.
F & M Hobby Center – Flanders
240 Route 206
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11am to 7pm; Saturday, 11am to 5pm; Sunday, 11am to 3pm.
Hobbymasters – Red Bank
62 White Street
Hours: Monday through Friday and Saturday, 10am to 8pm; Friday, 10am to 10pm; Sunday, 11am to 6pm.
The Hobby Shop – Aberdeen
1077-C Route 34
Hours: Monday, Tuesday and Saturday, 10am to 6pm; Wednesday through Friday, 10am to 8pm; Sunday, 11am to 5pm.
The Holly Beach Train Depot in Wildwood is a collector's dream come true. Photo courtesy of the shop
Holly Beach Train Depot – Wildwood
4712 Pacific Avenue
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm.
The Train Room – Point Pleasant Beach
715 Arnold Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 10am to 6pm.
The Train Station – Mountain Lakes
12 Romaine Road
Hours: Monday through Friday, 10am to 6pm; Saturday, 10am to 5pm; Sunday, 11am to 4pm.
This post was originally published in September 2010 and has been updated since.