Train Mania in Chicago

Nina Taluc, co-founder of, has several suggestions for indulging your young train enthusiast's passion for this mode of transport. For many more family fun ideas, visit, a family-friendly website that gathers Chicago area events, activities and more into one easily searchable database.

All Aboard Diner

All Aboard Diner combines a great variety of dishes with an inviting, family oriented atmosphere. Children will love that meals are delivered right to your counter seat via Train! While waiting for their meal, they can pass the time at the interactive train exhibit, viewing the various train-themed art, watching the model trains run around the counter and up high, or even playing a video game.

Where: Downers Grove
When: Monday - Saturday 11:00 am to 8:00 pm; Sunday 11:00 am to 7:00 pm
Cost: Varies
Ages: All ages

Illinois Railway Museum

The Illinois Railway Museum is a Museum in Motion using full-size electric, steam and diesel trains. You can watch a little red streetcar clang across Depot Street on the car line, or the thundering steam train whistle past on the mainline, or perhaps the gleaming streamliner whisper by. These artifacts don't just sit there, they move!

Kids will love the many special events held at the museum, often centered around holidays. Coming up this weekend and next is an event sure to be a hit with every Thomas the Tank Engine fan out there: the museum's Day Out With Thomas

Where: Union
When: Weekend operations: 10:30AM - 5:00PM, grounds 9:00AM - 6:00PM
Weekday operations: 11:00AM - 4:00PM, grounds 10:00AM - 5:00PM
Cost: $8 - $12 adults; $4 - 8 children; Admission "fares" include unlimited rides
Ages: All ages

Chicago Botanic Gardens - Model Railroad Garden

A family favorite, this enchanting outdoor exhibit takes visitors from coast to coast with model trains, miniature representations of America's best-loved landmarks, and colorful small-scale gardens.

The 7,500-square-foot Model Railroad Garden features 17 garden-scale trains on 1,600 feet of track. More than 5,000 tiny trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and flowering plants of close to 300 varieties re-create the topographical landscape of America. Vignettes of tiny people and animals give the exhibit a storybook feel, while sound effects and a working geyser capture visitors' imaginations.

Where: Glencoe
When: Summer hours: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. daily Weather permitting
Cost: Model Railroad Garden admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3 to 12 (Garden members save $1 per ticket).
Ages: All ages

Museum of Science & Industry - The Great Train Story

The Great Train Story model railroad has more than 30 trains running on 1,400 feet of track, completing the winding journey between Chicago and Seattle. Along the way, you can even help the trains complete their journey with various interactive stations that allow you to help build a mountain tunnel, raise and lower a drawbridge, assist in loading lumber on a train car—and much more.

Where: Chicago
When: Open every day except Christmas Day.
Cost: $9 - $15, depending on age and Chicago residency status.
Ages: All ages

Train Cakes: The two train-shaped cakes shown in this segment are from:

Swedish Bakery

Located in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago, this bakery specializes in European style pastries and cakes and also offers an online store. This bakery earned Nina's seal of approval and won her business when she taste tested her way through several bakeries looking for the perfect cake for her 40th birthday.

Where: Andersonville neighborhood, Chicago
When: Monday - Saturday; closed Sundays. Check website for store hours.
Cost: Varies by menu item.
Ages: All ages

Sarah's Pastries & Candies

Sarah's Pastries & Candies offers everything from cupcakes and brownies to custom wedding cakes and favors.

Where: 2 Chicago locations: Oak Street and inside Macy's State Street store.
When: Open daily; check website for store hours.
Cost: Varies by menu item.
Ages: All ages

Other Train-Themed Businesses:

Hesston Steam Museum

History comes alive at the Hesston Steam Museum as real steam locomotives take you on a spectacular two and a half mile journey through deep woods, past lakes and farm fields. The Museum is filled with other steam powered machinery including a steam-powered saw mill, a railroad steam crane, steam powered electric power plant, steam traction engines and more.

Where: La Porte, IN
When: Open every Holiday and weekend (Sat. and Sun.) from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. Museum Grounds open at 11:30am CDT. Trains run noon until 5:00pm CDT.
Cost: Admission and parking are free; train rides are $5 per adult; $3 per child over 3; free for kids under 3.
Ages: All ages

The Great Chicago Kiddie Express Train Co.

To really spice up your child's train-themed birthday party, you may rent the Great Chicago Kiddie Express and give train rides to your guests. This electric train will work on any hard surface and will carry 15 to 20 children in its 4 cars or a reduced number of adults.

Where: Based in Buffalo Grove and serves all of Chicagoland
When: Available for rent 7 days a week, year round.
Ages: All ages

2 Toots Train Whistle Grill

A fun, nostalgic place that celebrates old fashioned comfort food delivered on authentic Lionel® electric toy trains. Uniquely, EVERY guest receives their food from the multiple toy trains running on the track throughout this restaurant's two locations.

Where: 2 locations: Glen Ellyn, IL and Downers Grove, IL
When: Open daily; check website links for hours.
Cost: Varies with menu item.
Ages: All ages

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