One-Track Trips: BNSF Railway

November 16, 2010 7:50:59 AM PST
Metra's busiest commuter route is the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which has a daily weekday ridership of more than 63,000 people.

What you may not know is that many stations along the 37-mile route stop at popular attractions just a short walk from the station.

Metra's BNSF runs from Chicago's Union Station to Aurora. While most weekday morning passengers are heading into the city, going to work, you could board an outbound train to Naperville to check out the DuPage Children's Museum.

"Recreational use of Metra is way up actually," said Judy Pardonnet, Metra spokesperson. "Our ridership overall is down a little due to the economy, but on the weekends, ridership is up."

In just under an hour, you can arrive at the children's museum stop in Naperville. You can see the museum from the station, and in minutes, you'll be entering a world of discovery, creativity and wonder.

"The museum is where learning comes into play," said Alison Segebarth, DuPage Children's Museum. "We're the recent winners for the Nickelodeon 2010 Parents Picks Award for the best Chicago museum, so we're very proud of that."

The different exhibit neighborhoods are aimed at kids from birth to 10 years old. While the youngsters are having an amazing time, they're also learning skill building and problem solving through play. They have storytelling every day and another popular exhibit called Waterways.

"We've been coming here four years now, brought my son on his first birthday, and we've been members ever since," said museum visitor Melissa Kocolowski. "Lots of good exhibits, they're always changing and updating."

The museum isn't the only stop in town. Beyond its doors a few blocks away is the popular Riverwalk, a five-mile path along the DuPage River, complete with covered bridges, gazebos and playgrounds. And that puts you right into downtown Naperville, filled with a variety of restaurants and quaint shops. It's tough to resist an old-fashioned candy shop. There's nothing like a sweet treat to brighten up your day.

There are plenty of other treats along the BNSF, and a cost-efficient way to experience them.

"You can get a ticket for the weekend, unlimited use on any line; it's $7," Pardonnet said. "You can use it all day Saturday; you can use it all day Sunday."

Brookfield Zoo is within walking distance from the Hollywood station. It's an easy way to visit the zoo's many exhibits. And coming up weekends in December, holiday magic!

Steps from the Downers Grove Main Street station is the Tivoli Theatre, one of the oldest classic theaters of its kind, complete with an organ player before the movies begin.

Aurora is the end of the line, and you can take a stroll to a couple of fabulous venues near the station. The historic Paramount Theatre dates back to 1931. It was the first air-conditioned building outside of Chicago. After a major renovation in the mid '70s, the Paramount Arts Center opened, offering a variety of theater, music, dance and family entertainment.

And, America's Historic Roundhouse is a fitting end to this one-track trip. Originally built in 1856, it's the oldest existing limestone roundhouse in the country. The decline of rail traffic in the mid-20th century led to the Roundhouse's closure in the 1970s. In 1996, a group of investors led by Walter Payton purchased it and converted the building into an entertainment complex, restaurant and award-winning microbrewery steps from the Aurora station.


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