2100 Barton Springs Road
The Zilker Zephyr is a must-do whether you live in Austin or are here as a visitor. Located in the great Zilker Park, you can hop on the train in between playing at the park, swimming at Barton Springs Pool, or kicking a ball around in the fields. It’s great fun to ride around the park, waving at all of the kids and adults who like to watch the train roll by.
The Zilker Zephyr takes you on a 20-25 minute train ride that brings you under a bridge, through a tunnel and around the park for great views of the city and its inhabitants.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The train leaves every hour on the hour through the week and departs every 30-40 minutes on the weekends, weather permitting.
Cost: Children: $2.00 (Children under 1 are free), Adults: $3.00. Cash only.
Tip: Pack a lunch. There are typically plenty of tables around to picnic on or bring a blanket to spread out on the grass. Bring sunscreen…. it’s not a covered train.
The Domain, 3220 Feathergrass Court
Lakeline Mall, 11200 Lakeline Mall Drive, Cedar Park
Round Rock Premium Outlet, 4401 N. IH 35, Round Rock
Just Train Fun operates trackless trains complete with bells, smoke and whistles at three Austin-area malls. Train rides last between 8-10 minutes.
Just Train Fun is located in Phase II of The Domain only on weekends including Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The trains operate at Lakeline Mall and Round Rock seven days a week, weather permitting at Round Rock Premium Outlet.
This is a fun ride for the kids as the engineers work hard to also be entertaining while driving around the mall.
Cost: Each ride ticket costs $5. For every two tickets purchased, one is FREE!
Adults and kids (except for kids under 1 year old) need a ticket. Tickets can be purchased in the self-serve kiosks and do not expire. They are accepted at all three locations.
The MetroRail is great option when your kids want to ride a real train! We see the MetroRail often as we are driving around town, and we decided to try another ride after our first ride several years ago was a miserable experience (late train, overcrowded during Fan Fest). Since we live in Pflugerville, we park at the Howard Station and ride all the way to Downtown Austin. On our recent journey, the train was full but not too full, allowing enough seats for just about everyone who got on board, nice air conditioned and right on time. In fact, I was hoping it would arrive just a few minutes late as we were having some difficulty navigating the ticket machine.
I loved the fact that I could sit back and be a passenger since I am always the driver. I felt like I was riding through a new, unknown city! What an adventure for the entire family, especially my train-loving three year old.
The trains are clean, comfortable with a couple of tables in the very front that are perfect for playing a game of cards while traveling to and fro.
Tip: Arrive early enough to get tickets. Both machines at the Howard Station were in use when we arrived so we not only had to wait for those people in front of us to finish up but then also add in some time to figure out which tickets we needed. We had a couple of high school students with us who qualified for lower fares, but in the end, a Day Pass seemed to be the best option. We missed that train and had to wait for another half an hour for the next one to arrive.
Also, make sure you are looking at the right schedule online. I was looking at the wrong transit line originally so we arrived for a morning ride only to find out the trains only operate in the afternoons on weekends. The rides from Downtown northward end pretty early on weeknights so heading downtown on the train for dinner on a weeknight is also not really an option.
Lastly, there are no bathrooms at the stations. Make sure the kids go before leaving from wherever you are!
The Austin Steam Train is a REAL train! All cars are pulled by a 1960 Alco diesel locomotive. The Hill Country Flyer is a 66 mile round trip journey that takes you through the Hill Country with a two hour layover in Burnet. The total ride is 6 hours, departing at 10 am and returning at 4:00 pm. The Bertram flyer takes you on a 44 mile round trip journey that spans the South San Gabriel River and stops for a 15 minute layover at the historic Bertram Depot which features a fully restored operator’s bay, vintage operating equipment and historic photographs. This ride is 2.5 hours round trip with a 20 minute layover. departing at 10:00 am and returning at 12:30 pm on Saturdays with an additional option on Sundays, departing at 2:00 pm and returning at 4:30 pm.
Austin Steam Train offers many themed rides throughout the year including Father’s Day Flyer, Super Hero Flyer, The North Pole Flyer, Pumpkin and Halloween Express, Princess Flyer, Murder Mystery and a Wine and Beer Flyers for the grownups, and a special Day Out With Thomas Event. Tickets start at $20.
5. Kiddie Acres
4800 West Howard Lane, Austin
Not my favorite place to ride a train but my three year old seemed happy enough when we left, asking immediately when we could go again. The train cost is $4.50 and drives twice in a loop around the property. It wasn’t my favorite because there’s not much to look at in this loop other than the amusement park itself and the parking lot. The train horn was also incredibly loud, causing patrons in the parking lot to cover their ears as we passed over the railroad crossing. The fun for my three year old was actually the railroad crossing as it had real train crossing sounds and all!
Kiddie Acres offers additional fun for the kids including mini-airplane rides, boat rides, a small Ferris Wheel, pony rides, and more. Admission is FREE; each ride in the amusement park requires at least one ticket. Discount Day is every Wednesday and there is a coupon available here.
6. Austin Zoo
10808 Rawhide Trail, Austin
The train ride consists of a scenic ride through the hill country lasting about 20 minutes. Some of the zoo’s off-display animals can be observed from the train as well, including emus, alpacas and longhorns. There ride can be somewhat interactive with your kids as the Zoo has placed art and items throughout the property. The cost is only $2.50 (children under 2 are free) but that is on top of zoo admission.
Bonus: this train is covered so it would be a pleasant ride in the summer since the sun is partially blocked from shining directly down on you and your kiddos!
3005 County Road 175, Leander
The Cedar Rock Railroad is a fantastic quarter-scale train that takes passengers on a relaxing 1.3 mile ride through the nature-filled fields and forests of the park… unforgettable fun for all ages! The Railroad is closed on Mondays, open Tuesday through Sunday year round, weather permitting. Train rides depart every half hour on the :15 and :45. There are picnic tables, snacks and drinks available in the Shady Oak Junction Depot and a play area with a pretend train for the kiddos.
Cost: Tickets are only $2.50 per person, kids 1 and under are free.
Landa Park in New Braunfels offers a plethora of activities for the family including swimming pools, miniature golf, boats to rent in the lake, playscapes, picnicking spots, b-b-q pits, walking and jogging trails, fishing pier and much more! In addition to the above, there is also a miniature train to ride!
The Landa Park miniature train is fun for all ages! A train trip is a wonderful way to explore the park.
Cost: $3 per person (kids under 1 are free).
Hours: Daily during Spring Break – 11:00 am to 7:00 pm
Weekends only in May – 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Daily June until beginning of public school – 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Weekends only – September through April
While in New Braunfels, be sure to take your train lovers to the New Braunfels Railroad Museum, located in downtown New Braunfels at 302 West San Antonio Street. The museum has a locomotive, caboose, dining car, box car, model railroads on display. It is also conveniently located right next to one of the busiest North/ South railroad tracks. The tracks run the Mexico to Canada route and has over 30 trains passing by each day!
Kids Fun Day at the Museum happens on the first and third Saturday of each month. Kids ages 18 and under get to run the model trains!