Best Places for Train Lovers in Kansas City

boy playing with toy train

There’s something about the chugging of the engine, the roar of the whistle and the allure of the conductor that has kept kids enthralled with trains since their inception. Who can blame them? They are pretty enchanting! If you have a future railway engineer living under your roof, then this guide will point you in the right direction in making all their locomotive dreams come true. 

Guide to all the best train viewing and riding in Kansas City

Kansas City Northern Railroad

Operated by the Kansas City Parks and Rec, The Kansas City Northern Railroad runs (weather permitting) from May to October. A trip to the site includes a ride in a miniature train for 75 cents and a look at other restored train cars, as well as an opportunity to enjoy the small play area. As a local, all volunteer, non-profit, their mission is to bring joy to train lovers in our area, give back to the community and provide a safe, outdoor, family friendly experience. 

They also offer birthday parties with an option to have a princess, dinosaur or superhero accompany you on a train ride! Holiday rides on the Saturday before Easter take place most years as well. 

Address: 6060 NW Waukomis Drive, Kansas City, MO 64151

National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame

For those who love all types of machines, a trip to The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame might be in order. Former President Harry Truman’s plow resides there with more than 30,000 agricultural relics. It is also home to the Museum of Farming, National Farmers Memorial, Gallery of Rural Art, Farm Town USA, a nature trail and miniature train rides. 

They host several events throughout the year, including monthly children’s programs. 

Address: 630 N 126th Street, Bonner Springs, KS 66012

Belton, Grandview and Kansas City Railroad

The Belton, Grandview and Kansas City Railroad runs May through October, ending their year with a special Halloween ride in an open-air excursion or passenger car. By purchasing tickets in advance, customers will receive access to a 5 mile (45 minute) trip through old town Belton, and then a chance to explore the other antique train cars and equipment held on site. Much like the Kansas City Northern Railroad, this is also a non-profit, operated by volunteers who want to share their love of locomotives with the next generation. 

Address: 502 E. Walnut Street, Belton, MO 64012

Midland Railroad

Seasonally, Midland Railroad in Baldwin City, offers the very popular Christmas themed ride, “Snowglobe Express”. Tickets included a 12 mile ride that transports passengers from the Baldwin City Train Depot to the magical world of “Snowglobe” where Santa’s herd of Reindeer live. It is equipped with over the top decor, a Santa mail car experience and an opportunity to feed real reindeer. Make sure to purchase tickets well in advance as they sell out quickly! Tip: follow Midland Railroad on social media to be alerted when tickets go live.

The railway also offers rides during the Maple Leaf Festival in the fall.  

Address: 1515 High Street, Baldwin City, KS 66006

Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

For a look at trains any day of the year, The Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens is home to not only beautiful floral displays and peaceful trails, but also a dedicated train garden for children. Shrubs and flowers complement a real railroad caboose, full-size railroad crossing gate and model trains that wind through mountains, bluffs, streams and a model of Downtown Overland Park.

During the holidays, the train section of the Arboretum gets a major glow up! An entire section is dedicated to trains and train lovers during their Luminary Walks. It is impressive to say the least! 

Address: 8909 W. 179th Street, Overland Park, KS 66013

Kansas City Zoo

The Kansas City Zoo is always a top attraction, and the train ride only enhances its appeal. The open-air ride now features tunnels equipped with rainbow lights as passengers zip around glancing at animals and passersby. 

Address: 6800 Zoo Drive, Kansas City, MO 64132

Union Station

Did you know Union Station is the second largest working train station, right behind New York City’s Grand Central Station?! The beautiful mainstay of our city remains an Amtrak stop and honors its history with both seasonal and everyday displays meant to delight train lovers of all ages. With 8,000 square feet of model trains, there’s no shortage of something to see. 

Tip: Purchase Amtrak tickets from Lee’s Summit to Union Station, spend a few hours looking through the displays and ride back in the afternoon for the ultimate train lover experience! 

About to enjoy an Amtrak train ride from Lee’s Summit.

During the holiday season, the historical site constructs an impressive display meant to delight all who enter, with the highlight being a miniature train ride through “Rudy’s Wonderland”. It also offers showings of the Polar Express! 

Kansas City Southern’s Holiday Express Train often makes a stop at Union Station for a limited time every December. Visitors tour a festive, static, six-car holiday train with themed displays inside and out. It is free and open to the public. Visitors board the train and tour the inside of three cars with additional access to exterior of the train for more photos. Reservations are required. 

It’s always a good idea to finish up a trip to Union Station with a meal at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant right across the street at Crown Center! 

Address: 30 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO 64108

Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad

If you are seeking an adventure, maybe a day trip to the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad in Abilene, Kansas, is just what you need! Offering a multitude of options from dinner trains to chartering your own ride, there is something to suit all types of train enthusiasts. A&S VRR is also a non-profit, solely run by volunteers. The Fred Schmidt Railroad Museum in the former freight room of the depot, provides exhibits of memorabilia and model trains. 

Address: 200 SE 5th St, Abilene, KS  67410

Gift Ideas for Train Lovers

Need gift ideas for train loving kids? We’ve got you covered there as well. How about a folding train track that is perfect to store in bedrooms or take along during road trips? A train table is the ultimate gift that is sturdy enough to last for years to come! This train sticker book is a great easter basket item or stocking stuffer! A Ticket to Ride board game will get the whole family involved on a Friday night. Finally, a dress up kit will make your little conductor picture perfect. 

Want to shop local? The Learning Tree, Brookside Toy & Science and KD Books are all amazing places to find wonderful gifts for your train loving guys and gals, while supporting Kansas City based businesses. 

All aboard young and young at heart! Hope this guide helps you spoil all the train lovers in your life. 

Kristin Ruthstrom
Kristin is a Lee’s Summit suburb transplant, after living in the Brookside and Plaza areas for over eight years. Raising three young boys with her husband, Jake, has helped her to embrace the messy, wild side of life where love is expressed in bear hugs and body slams. Professionally, she can be found teaching classes as an adjunct professor in the areas of Business, Marketing and PR. She is able to provide her students with applicable, real-life knowledge as she draws from several years working in the corporate sector. “Free time” (ha!, what's that again?) is spent on an occasional date night to favorite local restaurants, reading blogs on everything from home design to politics, riding her sweet beach cruiser bike and thinking of ways to convince her husband to do yet another home improvement project.