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Thursday, January 4, 2018

All Aboard: Making Memories on a Train

(re-post first published in 2016)
It's not too often you get to take your kids on a train ride in Florida.

For past few years, I have heard from friends about the wonderful holiday-themed North Pole Express train rides offered at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish, Florida, but it sells out very fast. This year was no exception, but when looking at the Polar Express, I saw they also offered another excursion called the old fashioned Hobo Campfire Cookout. 

It was very similar to the North Pole Express including the 6.5 mile train ride to a location they call Willow Yard, but this excursion included campfires along with a dinner of  hot dogs, marshmallows, lemonade. They even had a folk band!  

I was able to purchase tickets online, so we went the end of January. If you are wondering where Parrish is, it's about 35 miles south of Tampa. It's really not too far of a drive.

When we got to the museum, the locomotives were ready to go. That afternoon was one of the colder days of winter especially for us Floridians, but good weather for a campfire. 

My girls ages 10 and 11, loved it because we had our choice of railroad cars we could ride in. Some were open air while others were closed with heat. We chose the train with heat. My parents, who also went with us and loved it because it brought back memories of riding the train when they were younger.

The train ride to the campfire was about a half an hour. During the ride, the conductor of the train come by and punch our tickets. The girls thought this was very neat. They even had their photo taken with him. 

We were also entertained by our car host,  who gave us history on the train and a rundown on some of the other events the train goes on throughout the year. He told us he was volunteering to get hands on experience so he could work in the railroad industry. 

Volunteers are the backbone of the Florida Railroad Museum. They do everything from provide administrative skills, on-board services, restoration, maintenance and other things to run the museum and its train. 

We also had a woman dressed up like an old time hobo, who talked to us about what a hobo was and how the term "hobo" came about. It was interesting. She said a hobo was actually short for" homeward bound" and hobos became know at the end of the Civil War when the government issued free train tickets to all men to go home.

Once we go to the campfire location we were given a bundle with hot dogs and marshmallows in a bandanna. It looked like what you would see a hobo carrying back in the day. Each family had their own campfire to roast the hot dogs and marshmallows. In the background a band played folk music. After eating we got back on the train and headed back to the museum.

This Florida Railroad Museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays year-round. The excursions are usually on the weekends. 

The museum has several fun trips throughout the year to go along with the holidays. During Easter, they have the Cotton Tail Special.  Tickets are $14 to $32.

Other special events during the year include a Pumpkin Patch Express, the North Pole Express and a Murder Mystery Dinner train ride to name a few. Another big hit is the Thomas the Tank Engine Tour. 

You can check their website for more information here. 

Riding in a "real" locomotive was an experience the girls will never forget and one we hope to continue, as it was a fun adventure for the whole family.

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