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Fun things to do with train-loving kids in NYC

All aboard these train-themed activities for kids, including rides with Santa and tiny toy locomotives

Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay

If your kid goes coo-coo over all things choo-choo, NYC has a lot to offer your tiny conductor. For one, our subway system is a massive, lively maze that will give any New Yorker more than their fill of train time, but if they’re still clamoring for more, these train-themed activities for kids will be just the ticket for them. This fun list includes rides on vintage locomotives along scenic routes, train time with Santa and Thomas the Tank Engine, historical adventures and innovative designs that’ll leave all ages with a newfound respect for this mode of transportation.

After you’ve selected your train activities of choice, be sure to check out our best family attractions in NYC, the best children's museums and the best kids' books of all time (psst: The Polar Express is on the list, obvs). All aboard!

Things to do with train-loving kids

Visit the New York Transit Museum


If the kiddos get super excited about riding the subway around the city, why not have them learn all about our transportation system? The New York Transit Museum is located in a 1936 subway station in Downtown Brooklyn and families can explore and walk into 20 vintage subway and elevated cars that date as far back as 1907. Not only can kids hop into these old-school cars, but they can also see and imagine where the future of mass transit could take us.

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Boerum Hill

Tour Grand Central Terminal


Over 750,000 people visit Grand Central Terminal every day, hopping on and off trains on their routine commutes or to shop in its halls. Sign the family up for a tour to learn more about the busy terminal, its history and about the underground labyrinth of trains that whisk all those people to and from this bustling city. (212-464-8255, docentour.com/gct). Audio tour $9, children $7; docent-led tour $25, children under 10 $20. Visit ticket marked "GCT Tours" located in the Main Concourse. 

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Midtown East

Learn about the orphan train


Visit the Dimenna Children’s History Museum at the New-York Historical Society to learn about the New York orphans who were transported from the East Coast to new homes beginning in the mid-1800s. Families can sit in a train to listen to stories from these children and explore an interactive map following their trail.

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Upper West Side

Take a ride on the Essex Steam Train

Hop aboard a vintage steam or diesel locomotive for tours and seasonal events often including meals and music. Mini conductors will get a kick out of the choo-choo sounds and kid-friendly entertainment while parents sit back and enjoy views of the lower Connecticut River Valley. Don’t miss Day Out with Thomas—that would be the infamous tank engine—dates that take place every spring or the North Pole Express and Santa Special events during the winter holidays.

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Shop for toy trains

With a toy train of their own, kids can let their imaginations run wild. NYC is full of wonderful toy stores for kids where you’ll find trains of all kinds and other awesome gifts. Teich Toys and Books even has a giant wooden locomotive just begging for kids to crawl inside.

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By: Hannah Doolin

See a holiday train show

When the holidays arrive, the toy trains come out to play. The New York Botanical Garden Train Show incorporates natural elements, including moss, twigs and leaves, in its magical setup of 150 NYC landmarks and more than a dozen large-scale model trains. The trains in the Jerni Collection features handmade toys from 1850s and the Grand Central Holiday Train Show gives tots a chance to see vintage trains heading to the North Pole before they hop on the Metro-North on a weekend adventure of their own.

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By: Allie Early