For something truly different on your next family day in Los Angeles, pay a visit to the Travel Town Museum. Tucked into a tree-lined corner of Griffith Park, this outdoor museum and playground was opened in 1952 as a “railroad petting zoo,” and remains popular more than a half-century later with kids who love living out their dreams of working on the railroad. Go ahead and let your little ones climb aboard the historic locomotives–17 in all–as well as freight cars, passenger cars, and cabooses. Their imaginations will run wild as they pretend to drive these giant machines, making the perfect backdrop for family photos you’ll want to share with the world.
While the kids are exploring, indulge your intellectual side by reading about some of these amazing trains. The museum is dedicated to railroads in the western U.S. from the mid-1800s to the 1930s, so the education goes beyond the nuts and bolts of how they work to the settlement and growth of western states like California in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The majestic Stockton Terminal and Eastern No. 1, for example, served on the Western Pacific and Central Pacific lines for decades, delivering countless people and tons of freight to America’s new frontier.
Once you’ve explored all the “rolling stock,” take a ride aboard the Travel Town Railroad, the museum’s miniature train. Grab a seat toward the front for a chance to call out “All aboard!” over the loudspeaker before you embark on a journey that loops not once but twice around the museum grounds. After so much excitement, your budding little train conductors will be hungry, so lay a blanket out on a shady spot of grass and enjoy a picnic lunch while you watch fellow rail fans travel around the park. Naturally, your kids won’t let you leave until you’ve checked out the museum’s gift shop and its extensive collection of toy trains and railroad-inspired souvenirs. Go ahead and indulge them with a little memento of this delightful day together, along with a promise to come back for another day of railroad fun soon.