Tired of the small tracks? Let's go BIG ride a real live train!
A preschooler's big train escape in the East Bay
You can begin easily at either the Emeryville Station (EMY) or Jack London Square and catch a 30 to 45 minute train to Martinez (MTZ). The train trip is just enough time to get settled and experience the train but not so long that anyone falls asleep or gets stir crazy.
Once you get to Martinez, take a short 3-5 minute walk to a nearby park. There are two super close: Nancy Boyd and Rankin Park.
At the park, eat a picnic lunch, play on the elaborate play structure and basically have a good time until it's time to reboard the train.
Get your tickets online. At Amtrak.com, specify roundtrip and station of origin as well as the number of kids and adults. Prices vary by time of day and the age of members of your party. We usually travel there around 10:15 am and return around 3:20 pm. For non-nappers, the 3:20 return train is usually a good amount of time.
Pack lunch and snacks. Of course there's always food when you get there, but it's much easier not to look for food when you're hungry and playing tour guide. As you can see above, we had a big cooler full of grub that we ate on the train, in the park, and back again!
Be ready for fun. Once you get to Martinez, grab a map, then take a short 3-5 minute walk nearby Martinez Waterfront Park. Settle in, play on the elaborate play structure, look at the ducks, watch the big kids at the skate park, and have a great time.
I have taken this train trip a few different times with preschoolers, parents, and teachers and it was super fun. Once you get off the train, turn left and walk along the path (past the old steam train) toward the visible play structure. I suggest you bypass the first playground in favor of the hugeonic play structure, skate park, and picnic pavilion just a few minutes beyond. Grab a little map at the station if you tend to get lost (or ask your app to guide you). Enjoy!
Related: Check out the Rankin Aquatic Center in Martinez.
An earlier version of this post appeared on Savvy Source East Bay.
[Photos by Heather Flett]