Best East Bay Destinations & Tips for Train Lovers - 510 Families
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Best East Bay Destinations & Tips for Train Lovers

Can we talk about trains? My little boys are all about trains. When my oldest was one, the best way to get him out of the house was to talk about the choo choos we would see: real train, BART train, train table, it didn’t matter (but there had to be trains).

The Bay Area has some amazing places to go for young train-lovers!

I could easily talk my child into leaving Totland if I said we were going to go to Target for some trainspotting. In fact, I was nervous to accept a hand-me-down train table for fear of losing that leverage to get out of the house. I needn’t have worried, we picked up a used train table, and he was still happy to go anywhere to see trains!

Bay Area Trains You Can Ride with Kids

Niles Canyon Railway child looks out window
Enjoying the ride on the Niles Canyon Railway | Photo: Angie

Our part of the Bay Area has many options for train enthusiasts to ride the rails in many sizes and forms. You could easily spend all your free time tracking them down (Hee hee, I said “track”).

Recreational railroads for riding, reservations recommended.

Public Transit that fits the bill

petaluma smart train
Riding the Petaluma SMART train | Photo: Kristen Murakoshi

Best East Bay Places for Trainspotting:

Point Pinole
Waiting | Point Pinole Regional Shoreline

To get your train lover out of the house, promise a visit to some of these destinations. It worked for me.

Aquatic Park Playground (AKA Dreamland): Right on the marina path at the end of Bancroft, this tucked away playground is nearly fenced in. It goes silent every time a train screams past both because the trains are deafening from this proximity and also the kids stop playing to watch.

Albany Target: Seriously, do some shopping and then watch for trains. If you want to blow your kids’ minds with how cool this outing is, get cocoa at the Starbucks before the waiting begins.

Emeryville Station: If all else fails and we didn’t see any trains on our outing, I will swing by the closest train station on the way home and say, “oh, look a train” because it never fails that there’s at least one parked here {More to do with kids in Emeryville while you wait!}

Glendale La Loma Playground: Chugga chugga, this multi-level playground in the Berkeley hills boasts a train play structure that an imaginative child can get lost in.

If you miss the train they used have at San Pablo Park, you’ll love this one | Photo: Julie Herson

Jack London Square: We love watching for trains at Jack London Square because we can get up close and personal with the train gates. Up, down, ding, ding, ding! Oh, look, a ferry!

Point Pinole Regional Shoreline: There’s so much to do in Point Pinole – take a short hike, play on the playground, splash in the water, walk the pier, or wait for trains.

Pollara on Fourth: If we’re out for a tasty dinner, we can sit on the patio and watch for trains. We can toddle around the rest of Fourth Street to see and hear trains. Whee.

Still closed per Covid-19

Make a Bay Area Train Lover Weekend of It

Stay in a caboose near Silicon Valley

About an hour and fifteen minutes from Berkeley. Though I haven’t been to this adorable AirBnB, I am totally smitten with it. This one is a skosh too small for my family of five. If you’re sleeping only two adults and two children and want a cozy, rustic little hideaway, I’d go for it. Nestled somewhere in the redwoods outside of Cupertino and Saratoga, sleeping in this caboose will thrill your little train lover and your inner child.

this incredible caboose is a hotel room
This incredible caboose sleeps four among the redwoods | Photo: Pat and Doris via AirBnB

Make a train lovers getaway to Santa Cruz

It’s about 90 minutes to Roaring Camp from Berkeley. Karen shares some of her favorite tips for a train-lovers family trip to Santa Cruz that goes beyond Roaring Camp and has you renting a cool beach house.

Take a train lovers trip to Sacramento

The train ride from Berkeley is about one hour and 45 minutes. From the East Bay, you definitely have to ride the train to Sacramento. Once there, the River Fox is running special local routes.

Stay in a caboose and explore the Shasta Area

About four hours from Berkeley. My family and I stayed in the caboose resort up in Redding and really enjoyed it. At the suggestion of my friends (pictured below), we had a wonderful weekend sleeping in a cool caboose and exploring the whole area. Though the rest of the activities weren’t very railroad-inspired, your train lover should be thrilled.

Stay in a caboose like this at Railroad RV Park
Stay in a Caboose 10 for 2 adults & 2 kids at Railroad RV Park | Photo: Lisa Sharp

[Photo credits: Anna Azimi and Heather Flett]

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10 thoughts on “Best East Bay Destinations & Tips for Train Lovers”

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  6. Train Tables: toy safari, Bay Area discovery museum gift shop
    Another cool spot is Brennan’s is actually at the Berkeley Amtrak station making it a great spot to eat.

  7. Bayfront Park is a great place in Pinole that has beautiful scenery, good trains, and a pedestrian bridge where you can see both the Union Pacific Oakland subdivision and the BNSF Stockton subdivision. Expect mostly Amtrak but maybe some freight if your lucky.
    BNSF is single track so only 3 trains per day minimum.
    UP is double and around 20-30 trains per day minimum.

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