Travel Town Museum: On the Right Track for Kids

Jennifer Stern September 4, 2011 No Comments

Travel Town Museum
Travel Town Museum

What little kid (especially boys, of which I am a mother of three) doesn’t love a train? And what parent doesn’t love an easy, enjoyable and free family outing?

In the nearly two years since our family moved from suburban New Jersey to Burbank, California, we have still not exhausted a wealth of day trips with the family to places that are close by and inexpensive or free to visit. If your family, like ours, is trying to minimize expense and maximize fun family time, a visit to the Travel Town Museum might just be the perfect thing.

Will enjoying the trains on exhibit at Travel Town Museum

Located fifteen minutes from Burbank in that Los Angeles oasis known as Griffith Park, the Travel Town Museum pays homage to railroads and other forms of transportation that have played a major part in shaping our country, primarily the west. It’s all outdoors except for one building, so unlike other museums, little ones can run about and make as much noise as they want without parents needing to worry about their child using an “indoor voice” or possibly damaging a priceless artifact!

Dedicated to the City of Los Angeles in 1952, Travel Town Museum was the brainchild of Parks and Recreation employee Charley Atkins, who in the late 1940′s organized a group of dedicated railway enthusiasts to secure donations of equipment from major railroads in California. As the era of steam locomotives was dying out, Atkins and his colleagues received a good response and many donations. Though Atkins died in 1959, Travel Town continues to be one of L.A.’s most popular family attractions.

Travel Town Museum - Charley Atkins

Travel Town Museum - Charley Atkins

Little ones are sure to adore the Travel Town Railroad, a miniature train that travels around the entire perimeter of the museum two times. And the entire family can enjoy a ride aboard the Griffith Park & Southern Railroad, a mile-long train ride that takes passengers through the forest, across a 50-year-old bridge, and through an “Old West” town.

After the train rides, kids and adults alike will have fun exploring dozens of vintage railroad locomotives and cars, ranging from an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe “iron horse” built in 1899 to a bright red “Charley Atkins” built in the relatively modern time of 1941 by the ElectroMotive Corporation.

You can also clamber up into elegant dining cars, sleeper cars, box and freight cars, and my personal favorite–cabooses. I’m not sure why, but seeing that little red car (or whatever color it happens to be) at the end of a long line of trains always brings a smile to my face. Perhaps it’s because I still have a copy of the children’s book “The Little Red Caboose” that my mother bought me when I was a toddler, and that I read to my own children!

Clowning around on the tracks

We took lots of photos, and, being me, I simply couldn’t resist having a bit of fun and decided to lie down across the railroad tracks in front of a huge locomotive ‘a la “The “Perils of Pauline” just because I thought it would make for a funny photo “op.” My two older boys rolled their eyes at me and pretended not to know the crazy woman lying across the tracks. It’s so much fun to be able to embarrass your kids when they get older…

Once you and the kids have had your fill of checking out the locomotives and their cars, you will want to explore the indoor exhibit on-site, which features other forms of rail transportation including a hand trolley and an actual circus train car from the 1800′s that had been an exotic jaguar’s mode of transport once upon a time. Other exhibits include dairy and other business trucks, wagons, trolleys, and even a small play area for kids with a Thomas the Tank Engine play table, tracks and toys.

Older children and adults (only those who do not suffer from motion sickness) can even enjoy a roller-coaster simulator ride that has recently been completely refurbished. In addition to the diesel locomotives and cars, a Los Angeles Railway trolley circa 1890 and a horse-drawn car built in 1880 are also on exhibit.

A vintage vehicle on display

Of course, no museum would be complete without a gift shop, and Travel Town is no exception, offering a shop stocked with railroad-related toys, clothing items and books, as well as snacks and drinks if your kids or you feel a bit peckish.

The Museum is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Christmas Day. Parking and admission are free.

Travel Town Museum, 5200 Zoo Drive (Griffith Park), Los Angeles, CA: 323-662-5874

avatarAbout the Author:

Jennifer Stern is a mom of three teen boys, who provide her with constant inspiration to write. She is also a fitness professional/junkie who teaches everything from Spinning to Zumba. A New Jersey native, this is her second time living in Southern California. She loves the L.A. lifestyle, but does miss eating decent pizza and bagels--so she consoles herself with excellent Mexican food. She and her family live in Burbank.

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