Today I welcome a guest post by Angie, a mother from the Bay Area to two boys with a great tip for train enthusiasts young and old.
Do your little boys like trains? What kind of question is that, you ask. Not only do I have two boys (4 and 5), but also a husband who is quasi-obsessed with locomotives himself! We have spent lots of time in the past 5, almost 6 years on trains; Oakland Zoo, Tilden Park, Fairyland, SF Zoo, you name it. But the most awesome adventure that we've take by train, by far, is Niles River Canyon Railroad.
The station is a short 25 minutes south on 880 from Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, to Fremont, where you'll exit on the Niles exit. The town of Niles has its own intriguing history, Essanay film studios made quite a few films there in the early 1900's, and that includes four Charlie Chaplin movies. The town of Niles today is still home to the studios, now a film museum, and a ton of quaint antique shops and cafes. Walking through Niles is really like stepping back into history.
A greeter will usher you and your car into a gravel parking lot and help you to park your car, then you'll find the ticket booth.
Cost: $7 for kids (children under 3 are free), and $12 for adults. Credit cards are accepted.
The ride and food: The train shows up about 15 minutes before it leaves the station and you can find your way onto whichever car you like. There is a refreshment car that serves hot dogs, drinks, chips, and other snacks, but most people bring a picnic lunch. You can sit in an open air car (we usually do), but if the sun is too bright, there're also a variety of closed cars. The trip takes you through the most beautiful canyon, over the Alameda Creek (which I never knew existed) and also through a train yard (which is very exciting for the little boys). The ride is about 30 minutes to Sunol, where you can get off and wander into a little gift shop or just stretch your legs. You can also get off and stay awhile. Though, we usually come right back on the same train, which leaves about 20-30 minutes after arriving. You can also do the same trip from Sunol to Niles.
This trip is great for kids of all ages. We see infants, toddlers, and school age kids, as well as big train nerds like my husband, and tourists. There is also an amazing Holiday train!! Don't miss it, you'll never forget it, and I promise you won't want to miss it the next year. It's a bit pricey at $25 a ticket, but there are a few Wednesday bargain nights which only cost $17 per person.