New Experience: Travel by Train

In 2013, I’m going to steal an idea from Danielle over at 52 Brand New.  If you haven’t checked out this blog and you have kids, I recommend you visit it soon.   Each week, Danielle writes about an experience that’s brand new to her children.  It’s a fun, inspiring blog!  Check it out…

Now, I don’t intend to try out something new each week, but I’m going to begin to highlight those experiences that are “firsts” for my son.   A couple years ago, my husband and I created a list of things (places to see, activities to try, foods to eat, etc.) we would like for him to experience, and we’ve been steadily working through this list.  It’s a work-in-process, continually being updated.

First Trip of 2013:  A Ride on the California Zephyr

The first brand new experience for my son in 2013 was a train ride on Amtrak’s California Zephyr, on the stretch from Colfax, California to Reno, Nevada.  Now, we’ve taken my son on miniature train rides in our area (such as the Steam Train at Tilden Regional Park), and he’s also taken a very short ride on a real train (the California State Railroad Museum‘s Polar Express, a one-half hour trip from downtown Sacramento to the “North Pole” to visit Santa).  But this is the first time we actually went somewhere on a train, with packed bags, a night in a hotel in Reno, and all.  This is a trip I took several times as a child with my parents and grandmothers, from which I have fond memories.  My parents wanted to do the same thing for their grandson, so off we went late last week.

We’re fortunate to have such a scenic train ride nearby.  The California Zephyr is considered to be one of the most beautiful train trips in all of North America.  The train runs daily between Oakland, California and Chicago, Illinois.  The four-hour stretch we experienced, over the Sierra Nevada Range included scenic views of snow covered mountains and valleys, Donner Lake, and the Truckee River.  It was absolutely gorgeous.

How did my son feel about it?  He said it was “fun and boring.”  I asked him why it was fun.  His answer?  “Because we saw so many pretty things and all that snow!”  Why was it boring?  “Because there was too much sitting.”






By the way, there were a couple of other firsts on this trip.  For one, my son had never been in the state of Nevada before.  Secondly, this was his first time inside a casino (we stayed the night in Harrah’s Reno).  I love what my son had to say about the casino…  “Why does everyone in here need to be smoking?”

I want to give a big “thank you” to my mom and dad for taking us on this trip!  It was a great experience!

I look forward to many more train rides with my son in the future.  Oh, how I hope to share train travel in Europe with him someday!


  1. Love the last photo. I feel so sad that there are at least two generations that have never experienced the joy of a train ride. Thank you for giving your children that experience and passing along a wonderful part of our history.


    1. Linda says:

      Thank you! I love train travel, and I’d be very sad if my son were to never have the opportunity to experience it.


  2. Becky says:

    What a great adventure for your son, and for you too! I take the train from San Diego to Santa Barbara often to see my daughter and grandson. I love riding the train! It takes a little longer to get there, but it is so relaxing! I’m looking forward to the day when I can take my grandson on the train with me! 🙂


    1. Ah, that’s a lovely section of the route. I also love the section just north of Santa Barbara on the way to San Luis Obispo. And I agree… train travel is so much more relaxing. Especially for you, you get to skip all that awful L.A. traffic!


      1. Becky says:

        Exactly! The LA traffic is what can make the drive horrible! Fortunately for us, we have the luxury of being able to leave at odd hours, and that has made the drive a lot better! 🙂


  3. janedwellable says:

    Hi Linda,
    My name is Jane and I’m with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about Truckee to share on our site and I came across your post…If you’re open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you!


  4. Planting Potatoes says:

    What a great trip! I used to ride the Zephyr run all the time when i lived down there! Especially love the Donner Lake stretch! When I was stationed in SF, I used to ride the Zephyr all the way to Salt Lake City on my way home on leave…. But I have to agree with your son….it can be boring at times! But it is better than any other mode of travel since you do get to have the run of the train! 🙂


    1. I love train travel. It’s slower, but instead of the stress of driving, you can relax and read, take a nap, eat a meal, get up and walk around whenever you feel the need, or simply zone out and watch the beautiful scenery. I was surprised my son was bored by “too much sitting”, since we had him up and about a lot.


      1. Planting Potatoes says:

        I remember taking my daughter on her first train ride across Oregon…..she was adopted by every employee on the train and I could never find her…..!


  5. Honeypie says:

    Your blog is so much fun. I’m so impressed with your dedication to posting and the fresh, positive nature of it all. I’m glad I found it. It’s a bright, inspiring spot in my inbox.


    1. Thanks, Honeypie! Your words affirm that I’m on the right track. 🙂


  6. Kyle Kuns says:

    This post takes me back to when my wife and I took my son on a steam train ride from Durango to Silverton when he was in preschool. Now, he’s in grad school studying theoretical physics … Looks like you’re doing a great job enjoying your child’s youth!


    1. My parents took me on the Durango to Silverton train ride when I was a young teenager. Now that’s a beautiful ride!! Darn your son for growing up so quickly! Can’t we slow them down?


  7. mmtread says:

    Two firsts for the boys last week – visiting Slovakia and going skiing. There was nothing mitigated about this disaster. A train wreck from start to finish. Sometimes new things just don’t work out, but of course it’s still great to get out there and give them a shot. Will we ski again? Of course! Will we go to Slovakia again? Probably not.
    Anyway, I love the idea of something new each week, so we’ll have to give it a shot.


    1. Too bad about the Slovakia part. I hope you’ll be writing about this trip soon! I’m sure you can make this “train wreck” into a funny experience to read about. We really need to take our son skiing. I think he’d love it. The problem for us is that my husband and I aren’t skiers. But I don’t want my son to be deprived of the experience if it’s something he’d be into!


  8. mamacravings says:

    I love your son’s answer on the experience. 🙂


    1. It wasn’t what I expected him to say. 🙂


  9. Alex Jones says:

    It makes life fun trying new things. Great approach.


    1. I love trying new things. I can only hope my son does, too!


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