Online Exclusive – Winter 2018

On Track for Family Fun

2 Phoenix-area parks for train-themed fun | By Paul Morris

What is it about trains and kids? When the train rolls by our neighborhood park, all sports stop. Kids jump off swings and teeter-totters to run over to watch the engine pass by. If you hold your fist up in the air and pull it down, sometimes the engineer will hit the train horn. You can count the noisy cars as they click-clack down the track, away from us.

It’s hard to know when those trains will be coming by, but there are two places you can take your family where you’ll be sure to see a train or two.

The City of Scottsdale operates the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Think of it as 30 acres of railway heaven. Here you can put your kids on a restored vintage carousel for a few spins and then buy tickets for a ride on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad. This train is a miniature reproduction of a narrow-gauge train in Colorado—small but mighty. A steam locomotive chugs sedately around the park, pulling a chain of cars. It’s fun. You can wave to the other park-goers as you roll past them. (It’s clear they are wishing they were on the train, too.)

Local railroad clubs gather in one of the buildings and use a series of elaborate track systems to run their model trains through miniature mountain valleys, tiny towns, and little farmlands. There are classes in building model trains and social gatherings to talk about all things train.

Trains are so popular that there’s a second city park we suggest you visit. The Desert Breeze Railroad Park in Chandler features a miniature locomotive and festive open-air coaches. (There’s even a cute red caboose.) This track bends and curves past a lake, around the playgrounds, and through fields of grass and trees.

Both parks offer a happy choo-choo experience for younger children. The trains move smoothly, quietly (with an occasional whistle or bell), and at a comfortable pace. Once you’ve had your turns on the train, you can release the kids into the playground and go relax on a park bench, waving at the passengers as the next train rolls by.