Trains and Ponies at Griffith Park in Los Angeles

Located just off Highway 5 at Los Feliz Boulevard and Riverside in Los Angeles, there is the cutest kiddie train you ever wanted to see. And that’s not all, there are horses and ponies for little ones to ride as well. Named Griffith Park & Southern Railroad, this old fashioned miniature train has been here since 1948. Best for children ages six and under, babies can also ride in parents’ laps.

Open: Daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., weekends until 5:00 p.m.

Price: $2.50 a ride

Interactivity: Travel back in time to the Old West for a 8-10 minute ride around the park, past the highway — always a plus for pointing out semi trucks — and through the Old West city. Don’t miss the Griffith Park Jail in the ditch on your right — just past the “cowboy.” Yee-haw!

Pros: Train goes around the pony pen so you can see the horses up close. Parking is very close to train, so it’s a quick in-and-out activity if you need something fast. Weekday lines are never long and train runs quick, so you don’t have to wait. Concession stand has ice cream, churros, sandwiches and chips. The pony lines make for a nice added activity if you want a little bit more. Also, railroad is historic and adorable!

Cons: Weekends are a madhouse. Lines super long. Not enough green space for toddlers to run free without worry that they could get quickly to parking lot or street. Added work for parents to keep eyes out for passing horses, people and vehicles.

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A real steamer at Los Angeles Live Steamer

Photo Gallery: Los Angeles Live Steamers

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Los Angeles Live Steamers

If you don’t know what a “live steamer” is and you like trains, you’re in for a big surprise. Live Steamers are large sized model trains that allow passnegers to ride virtually on top of engines, passenger cars and freight cars. When you’re riding them, you feel like a giant because you’re literally sitting on the cars as they are powered by the steam engines and move around the track. So much fun!

Even if you don’t like trains, I highly suggest taking a visit to Los Angeles Live Steamers on a Sunday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is a private club started by train lovers over 50 years ago. The master of trains and kiddie rides Walt Disney himself was a charter member.

The club is located in a tiny enclave of Griffith Park between Travel Town and the Zoo. You’ll notice it by the “L.A. Live Steamers” sign and all the cars parked out front on Sundays, the only day of the week they are open to the public. That’s when members come out to sell tickets to ride on their personal trains, and the ride is fantastic. This week the Santa Fe express was running, but I’ve seen before one member who took out his Thomas the Tank Engine. That was a hit.

At first, you might feel a little uneasy at how small the sitting space is and how narrow the tracks are, but that’s half the fun. Kids under 34 inches will not be allowed to ride. In addition to the steamer tracks, they also have a large outdoor garden railroad where kids can watch model trains roll around the tracks.

If you read my post on the Fairplex Garden Railroad in Pomona, you know we’re a huge fan of garden railroads.

The L.A. Live Steamers club reported to me on Sunday that they are looking for members, so if you’ve ever wanted to house your own live steamer and join a club where everyone loves trains, this is the one for you.

They are also currently building a new station house, Sherwood Station, and looking for name-engraved brick donations. If you’d like to walk on your initials, it’s time to support this historic train club which brings lots of enjoyment to L.A.’s little train lovers.

Open: Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Price: $3 a ride

Interactivity: Kids can ride atop the steamers, which is about a 10-15 minute ride through the gorgeous trees of Griffith Park. This is my favorite train ride, and I’ve been on so many…!

Pros: Tunnels, bridges, miniature town scenes, water mill —  a lovely visual for the ride. The garden train amuses kids while you wait in line. Super nice and friendly staff.

Cons: Hours are limited (especially when your little one becomes addicted — mine is more used to saying, “Steamers closed” than open, so that’s upsetting), parking is kind of a mess and lines can be long if you don’t go at 11 a.m. or closer to 3 p.m.

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More videos of Fairplex Garden Railroad

This place truly is amazing — so many model trains, so little time. Catch this video of several running at once. Mesmerizing.

Gallery: Fairplex Garden Railroad in Pomona, California

Travel Town in Los Angeles

Travel Town is a Mecca of trains located in sunny Los Angeles! It’s virtually a museum for old trains and other forms of transportation, such as dairy carts, old cars and wagons. But mostly, this place is the end of the line for several different types of full size trains. Tours are given on certain days of the week, but really you don’t need an organized tour to have fun. It’s possible to climb and even enter some of the trains and moms and dads can rest assured to let your children run free because the entire park is fenced.

Travel Town is located in Griffith Park, the largest public park in Los Angeles. Located between highway 5 and 134, there are several exits that will dump you down into the park. Look for the signs that say, “Travel Town.”

You can also have a train-themed birthday party here. It was amazing! So much fun and safe for kids because you don’t have to keep watching that someone is going to run into the street when you have an excess of little ones without too many parents around.

Open: Daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Mon. – Fri.) and to 5 p.m. (Sat. & Sun.)

Price: Free! (Although donations are accepted)

Interactivity: Kids can climb on large full-scale trains, play with miniature Thomas the Tank Engine tracks in the museum (if you play in the museum, you must bring your own Thomas trains) and in the train store (if you play in the store, they let you use their sample models). You can also ride the train for $2.50. It goes around twice!

Pros: Stools in the Museum Gift Shop allow parents to sit and check iPhones (come on, you know you do it), while little ones are playing with the “borrowed” Thomas the Tank Engine trains and friends like James, Spencer, Percy and Hiro models – seriously, this is the most genius thing!

Cons: Closed early – 4 p.m. So, no activity for post-nap time, if you’re in need of that (I always am!)

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Photo Gallery: Birthday Party at Travel Town in Los Angeles

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Visit to the Fairplex Garden Railroad

We drove out the the Fairplex Garden Railroad in Ponoma, California recently to see one of the largest “garden railroads” in America. Rio loved it!

If you don’t know what a “garden railroad” is, it’s a smaller gauge railroad that railroad junkies build in their backyards, or gardens.

You might not have realized it, but there could be several railroad junkies living in your area with garden railroads you could visit with your kids if only you knew where they were. Most garden railroaders belong to a club and sometimes the clubs organize “open houses” where the public and come in and view the spectacular home projects.

It’s worth it to see if there are any near you, as my little boy loves looking at the masterful works of a garden railroader. And here, in Pomona, Calif., the largest one is on display to the public for free.

This one is located about 30 miles east of Los Angeles on HWY 10. It’s open every 2nd Sunday of the month and also daily in September during the L.A. County Fair, which is an amazing kid event if you haven’t been. Petting zoos, rides, popcorn. You can’t go wrong.

Open: Second Sunday of every month, daily in September during the L.A. County Fair

Price: Free!

Interactivity: Kids can drive two different sets of railroads, one of which contains Thomas, Percy and James.

Pros: It’s massive and truly amazing to see, the largest garden railroad in America.

Cons: No rides for kids, other than a little play train they can crawl through. You can’t touch the trains or the tracks.

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