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Purple and blue painted train rests under a sky with the milky way and stars.
Photograph: Courtesy Sky Railway

13 weird and funky train rides to experience across America

Think outside the box(car) for these fun train excursions, where you'll encounter all kinds of wacky, themed rides

Erika Mailman
Written by
Erika Mailman

Ride the rails for a wacky voyage! We've all heard about the Polar Express and wine trains, but for those on the hunt for a more outside-the-box(car) experience, we’ve done the work of finding these unusual, wacky excursions for you. We love how creativity rules the rails when conductors and engineers come up with unique ways to jump the train. Just plunking down and looking out the window is wonderful enough—we’re big fans of train travel in general—but when there’s something extra on board, like eating a lobster roll in Maine, belting out show tunes in Utah or stopping to gaze at the stars in New Mexico or Nevada, we’re even more infatuated. Join us for a look at the most unusual train rides in the U.S.

RECOMMENDED: The most scenic train rides in the U.S.

Weird and wonderful trains in the U.S.

Heber Valley Railroad

It’s time to channel your inner diva and start belting out the Broadway standards! This 90-minute roundtrip night train includes a carload of other folks indulging in sing-a-longs from popular Broadway musicals like The Phantom of the Opera, Hamilton, Les Miserables and more. To deepen the experience, wear a costume from your favorite show. You’ll hear live music, play trivia and have the chance to buy limited concessions on board. Bring your pitch pipe and a healthy set of lungs.

River Fox Train

Settle onto the train for a 1.5-hour trip that includes several Boba Tea tastings, either in an open-air or indoor car. To accompany the tea, you can also order handmade dumplings and mochi donuts for a savory and sweet experience, and for those who don’t enjoy bubble tea, adult (and other) beverages are available for purchase. One car is set aside for the Moving Market, a small marketplace with around five vendors selling animé t-shirts and other fun bobbles.


Mount Washington Cog Railway

Honestly, we can’t think of another ride in which the train you’re on is literally racing runners on foot! You have the easy end of the bargain as a spectator, while the Race the Cog competitors sweat just outside your windows. There are three waves of runners, and thus three rides. The race is only 2.75 miles—the problem is the 3,500 feet of gain...and the big boulders in the path… and the fact that it can be sunny and warm at the base but snowing at the summit. Oh well, you’re on the train!

Nevada Northern Railway

Here in the Nevada desert, you’ll find some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states, which makes star gazing a wonderful proposition. Even better, on board with you will be the Great Basin National Park’s Dark Rangers, who know the night sky and interpret it for you. You’ll leave town pulled by a vintage diesel locomotive just around sunset, so you can watch the sun sink as you ride. This incredible ride often sells out a year in advance, so grab your tickets when you can.


Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad

This one sounds like heaven more than any of the others to us: a ride through the beautiful evergreens of Maine, with a lobster roll in your hand and then, soon thereafter, in your mouth. Could there be a more perfect train? This is a 1.5-hour ride out to Unity Pond where you get a box lunch with a lobster roll, potato chips, a cookie and a drink. Then you ride through the woods and return, satiated.

Florida Railroad Museum

History geeks, unite! It’s a chance to experience an old-fashioned train robbery—you’ll be on board with a valuable shipment, and apparently, the U.S. marshals are there to protect it. Yet, the Hole-in-the-Head Gang might outwit the law and hold up the train just like in the old Wild West days. It looks like a fun, costumed reenactment with outlaws trying to shoot open the locked treasure box (the gun part happens off the train: phew).


Alaska Railroad

The HooDoo Choo Choo is an Oktoberfest excursion that’s fun to say, and includes great local beer, food prepared by university culinary students, and incredible views on this roundtrip ride from Fairbanks to Nenana. The HooDoo Brewing Company crafts classic German, Belgian, English and American beer styles and offers six half-pint tastings on board, and you get to keep a commemorative glass. The ride lasts 4.5 hours, and you must be 21+ to join.

Colebrookdale Railroad

You’ll need a password to sneak onto this glamorous speakeasy train which time travels back to the Prohibition era and the Roaring Twenties (only ticketed passengers get the password). Inside, musicians play Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong jazz numbers, while you indulge in hors d'oeuvres, a specialty Prohibition drink, dessert and a champagne toast, and if you need a cigar to top off the night, you can purchase that separately. The ride is three hours roundtrip. Gatsby would’ve loved this excursion!


Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Rail Road

Yes, they really leave you stranded miles from “civilization” as the rest of the train departs; you are cast away in the caboose to face two to four nights in the wilderness. You hunker down by the Greenbrier River with a load of firewood for your campfire. It all sounds rustic except that inside the caboose, there’s a fridge, stove, heater, full-sized shower and restroom, towels, linens for up to six people to sleep, and even a DVD player. No cell service, but you know you’ll be rescued. A volleyball named Wilson is not included.

Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum

Mardi Gras actually began in Alabama, not Louisiana, and this ride captures all the festivities of that very special Tuesday. Dress in purple, gold and green and enjoy the 1.5-hour roundtrip to Ozan Winery & Distillery’s tasting room where you’ll sample Yella Hound Spirits and wines paired with traditional Mardi Gras cuisine small bites. The “bourbon and beignets” kick in when you get a taste of each as well. If you’ve still got room, buy a bottle or two to take home. Must be 21+.


Sky Railway

For one night every month, historic Pullman train cars transform into a rolling observatory, with champagne and live music—and professional astronomers narrating tales of the dark skies. At the Galisteo Basin overlook, passengers go out to open-air flatbed cars to access telescopes aimed at the best constellations or planets viewable that night. The one night is selected to optimize conditions to see stars and planets.

Naugatuck Railroad

Eat yourself silly! Also, drink yourself silly. It’s easy to do on a barbecue and whiskey special. The excursion lasts three hours, including 1.5 hours in transit. Your ride includes multiple tastings of high-quality whiskey and bourbon along with BBQ served at Bad Dog Brewing Company in a beautifully restored 1901 brick firehouse in Torrington. Bad Dog Brewing is a small-batch craft brewery; their drinks will be available for purchase as well. You must be 21+.


Century Grand

Okay, so the train doesn’t actually move, but it provides an immersive 1.5-hour journey. You “depart” from Platform 18 on a 36-seat Pullman-inspired train car inside the Century Grand—a building with three different immersive cocktail bars. You’ll watch as a fictitious 1930s railroad tycoon and bootlegger runs his liquor through the Louisiana bayous, in a theatrical adventure with audio and lighting effects, motion graphics, and even haze and smoke. All the while, you’ll enjoy vintage cocktails from the 1930s and ‘40s.

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