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Across the US / Canada on a train with young kids...

(55 Posts)
pointtopoint Tue 30-Oct-12 20:50:54

... Last year, my children (then aged 2 and [just] 4) did Lands End to John O'Groats by train. Was BRILLIANT fun!

DS is badgering me to do another trip.

After quite a lot of thought... I have come up with this:

New York - Chicago. (Lake shore limited... big deal in train-land)
Chicago - SF (Califonian Zephyr... which if you are a bit train obsessed is a bit of a big deal!)
From SF, we'd go up to Vancouver, and then back across Canada, to Toronto... Niagara Falls and back to NY...

So... good people on MN... What do I need to see on the way? The Grand CAnyon? The Rockies? What's unmissable if you are 3 and [just] 5??

DS (who will be 5, but only just, is train obsessed, so that will be enough for him... ) but DD (who will be nearly 4) would like some other stuff. Animals are a favourite!

ANy advice much appreciated.

Sulfur Wed 31-Oct-12 12:41:16

I have looked at doing a big North American train journey.

What has put me off has been the expense. These journeys are really expensive! The main thing, though, is the timing of the trains. The last time I looked, NYC to Chicago, for example, was an overnight service.

ggirl Wed 31-Oct-12 12:44:47

I wouldn't recommend the across Canada bit, the rockies are worth it but after that there is endless days of prairie , then endless days of thick evergreen trees...not fun at all.

pointtopoint Wed 31-Oct-12 15:18:11

sulfur - We excel at sleeper trains grin one of the big plus points for us!!! My DS didn't want a 4th birthday party - he wanted to take the sleeper to Fort WIlliam to take The Jacobite Express (which is an steam train, running on the Harry Potter train line). When I said he was a bit obsessed, I really meant it grin

Interesting about Canada... Ggirl - can I ask what route you would suggest? There are a few other routes we could look at...

Stuff I definitely want to do:
Niagara falls
Grand Canyon
San Francisico

Stuff I'd quite like to do:

ggirl Wed 31-Oct-12 15:28:44

Sorry I am not up on train routes , only have experience of that one being looong and boring. I would advise flying to Toronto from an airport on the west coast.

Sulfur Wed 31-Oct-12 15:29:41

Yeah, sleepers are good at getting from A to B but not if you are wanting to look at scenery.

The point that I was trying to make is that you need to make sure that the train's schedule matches what you want to do. A lot of cross country trains only operate a couple of times a week. You aren't necessarily going to get a joined up service if you are looking at different Amtrak regions.

If the timetables do work out for you, then it will be a fantastic trip.

Sulfur Wed 31-Oct-12 15:33:03

Niagara Falls is not to be missed.

Toronto, however, is just another big North American city. Its hinterland is great, eg the Muskoka lakes, but not sure how easy to do by train.

Sulfur Wed 31-Oct-12 15:37:22

Washington DC is a great place to spend 2 - 3 days.

If you are into American independence, then Philadelphia and Boston have a lot to offer (one day in each).

goodiegoodieyumyum Wed 31-Oct-12 15:43:09

There are trains that go across the Rockies, Calgary to Vancouver, though you can to Banff to Vancouver, very expensive and not sure that they are really suitable for kids, otherwise you will be travelling at night, as freight trains use the tracks during the day, we were stuck for three hours behind a broken down one. they have other journeys some of which are shorter, we were very happy we did the trip , we saw bears, moose, different types of squirrels, deer, bald eagles and lots of other wild life but it is a long time on the train, the trip we did, and we didn't like Calgary, wish we had gotten on at Banff as there are glaciers there.

Hope this helps, Vancouver is a great place to visit.

bran Wed 31-Oct-12 15:48:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

pointtopoint Wed 31-Oct-12 15:52:13


Thanks for the advice.

I can be flexible and make the schedules work for us (I think) It's just about making sure we see the stuff worth seeing and don't end up on a boring train!! DS is train obsessed - it really is far more about the train than the destination for him, so sleepers are fine. DS will love the train and DD and I will love the destination. Fine, we'll get to look at a bit of scenery, but the bits we miss... it's not the end of the world...

GOod advice about TOronto... Will also look at Philly and Boston.

pointtopoint Wed 31-Oct-12 15:53:39

Bran - I'm hoping to keep the flight time to 7-8 hours max.

DS is not great on planes.

I don't think the flight to Oz would go well...

bran Wed 31-Oct-12 15:56:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bran Wed 31-Oct-12 16:00:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GruesomewhereInCanada Wed 31-Oct-12 16:02:24

Vancouver is a lovely city. A train from there to Banff or Jasper will give you the best of the Rockies. Jasper is a lovely small town with the railway right through the middle, so your son would get to see the huuuge goods trains too. Jasper is a 3.5/4 hour drive from Edmonton, which has a good airport with links to the USA. Banff is about 1.5/2 hours from Calgary, which also has a good airport.

Hope that helps?

weegiemum Wed 31-Oct-12 16:04:20

Rockies - yes. Try to get enough of a stop to take a bus or hire car on the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper, and go on the ice bus on the Athabasca Glacier!

If your dd wants animals, the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park is out of this world, especially the sea otters and Beluga whales.

Sounds like a great holiday! I only know BC and a wee bit of Alberta so can't be any more help. Vancouver is worth a few days, though, and if yo can get out to any of the gulf islands (Bowen, Galiano, even Vancouver Island) it's great. Last time I went to Vancouver island (a school friend lives there) we were followed by a pod of Orcas the whole way!!

pointtopoint Wed 31-Oct-12 16:15:50

OK, I'm sold on the aquarium... She would love that! This is the sort of thing I need to know about the areas we visit!!

ALso like the idea of Jasper, so will try and factor that in too.

Regarding the islands: Are they from Vancouver? We went to the Orkneys from Jo'G in the summer and they were FAB! so would be interested in those.


goodiegoodieyumyum Wed 31-Oct-12 16:30:18

Vancouver Island is about an hour, we loved it, we went whale watching, bear watching, although we came across bears when we were just driving. Also from Vancouver you can drive to Whistler which is lovely to visit also can see bears, can you see a theme. The Rockies were spectacular and the freight trains amazing to see they were huge . I have also taken the train from New York to Boston, I really enjoyed that and the scenery, some along the coast, absolutely loved Boston.

When we went bear watching we also saw whales, seals, porpoises, sea otters, deer we went from Telegraph cove on Vancouver Island, I really want to go ad live in Vancouver never felt that about any place I have visited before.

I have also gotten a train from the Netherlands to Berlin its about 8 hours from where I live, but you can go all the way to Poland on the train it takes about 20 hours.

Nandocushion Wed 31-Oct-12 18:02:23

Do Vancouver to Calgary on the Rocky Mountaineer, then fly to Toronto from there. Agree that the in-between is dull.

Would you fly from SF to Vancouver? Going by train is slooooooow, even if pretty.

ggirl Wed 31-Oct-12 18:08:55

I loved banff and Jaspar as a child purely because of the chipmunks!

pointtopoint Wed 31-Oct-12 18:38:39

No planes.. trains all the way.

DS + trains = good

DS + planes = NOT good grin

How long is the 'boring in between bit' in canada? Am feeling happy with the train from SF to Vancouver... stopover at Seattle.

ANd, how do I include the grand canyon without straying too far from the zephyr?

GruesomewhereInCanada Wed 31-Oct-12 19:21:43

I think VIA Rail goes between Edmonton and Toronto and takes about 48 hours.

Canada is HUGE.

pointtopoint Wed 31-Oct-12 19:27:57

I think you lot are underestimating my DS's fascination with trains. When I say he is transfixed by them, I mean: HE IS REALLY transfixed with them grin

48 hours on a train is nothing to my DS... grin

ggirl Wed 31-Oct-12 19:29:37

wow 48 hrs is a lot less than it took about 30 yrs ago when I did it..old gimmer that I am. It took bloody days and days.

ggirl Wed 31-Oct-12 19:30:23

Are you sure only 48hrs?

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