By Train: 2 Family-Pleasing Vacation Destinations

Taking a train is safe, comfortable and affordable. When the journey is part of the experience, kids are entertained by watching the world go by. Prevent restlessness by roaming around the train to explore and burn off energy. Bring a carry-on bag packed with entertainment and snacks to curb boredom and hunger.

BONUS: On Amtrak, kids 2 through 12-years-old ride half-price every day and infants under 2 ride free. 

1. Williamsburg and Virginia Beach


Photo credit: Williamsburg Virginia Visitors Bureau

Colonial Williamsburg is the largest living history museum in the U.S. This beautifully restored 18th-century town features costumed actors who recreate the American Revolution time period. Tickets are required to enter and provide access to historic sites, museums and programs.

Visit the Jamestown Settlement to experience America's 17th century colonial beginnings and board replicas of the three ships that brought American's first permanent English colonists to Virginia. Interact with costumed Native Americans in the Powhatan Village through live demonstrations of cooking and tool-making. In James Fort, watch tradespeople show off their skills.

Take a Tavern Ghost Walk to learn about ghosts who still haunt Colonial Williamsburg's taverns and historic buildings. This early-evening activity is suitable for all ages.

A European-themed adventure park with 17th-century charm, Busch Gardens Williamsburg offers 100 acres of family fun. Roller coasters and gentle rides for the little ones make this a fun destination for the entire family.

Beat the heat at Water Country USA, the mid-Atlantic's largest water park, where a 1950-60s surf theme entertains all ages. Get wet on water slides, falls and water cannons.

Need more soaking? Virginia Beach offers beautiful beaches, a lively boardwalk, a historic lighthouse and outdoor activities. Hike or bike around First Landing State Park to discover cypress swamps and nesting grounds for a variety of birds.

Why take the train? Passengers on Amtrak Trains heading to Williamsburg get an added bonus with a five-hour layover in Richmond, Virginia. Take a 15-minute taxi ride to Maymont Park. Explore a beautifully preserved 100-acre park with a Victorian designed mansion, numerous formal gardens, Children's Farm and Nature Center with trams and carriage rides. There is a snack bar at the Nature Center and ice cream man located past the Fox habitat towards the Japanese Garden. When you arrive into Williamsburg, the train station is perfectly located just a few steps away from Colonial Williamsburg hotels.

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2. Washington, D.C.


Photo credit: Mary A. Behre

Touring The White House, strolling along the National Mall and gazing at national treasures will leave a lasting impression on children and adults. This budget-friendly destination offers more than 100 free attractions.

The most famous address in the U.S. is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., where the U.S. president resides. White House tours take visitors through the East Wing; State Dining Room; and Red, Blue and Green Rooms. This self-guided 30-minute tour is attended by docents in each room.

Watch millions of dollars being printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing as you overlook the production floor during this free, 40-minute experience.

The National Mall is a 2-mile green space spanning along the banks of the Potomac River, from the U.S. Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial. View the Washington Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial while walking along this pedestrian-friendly boulevard.

Often called America's treasure chest, the Smithsonian consists of 17 separate museums. The most popular museum in the world, based on attendance numbers, is the Air and Space Museum. Other popular Smithsonian museums include the American History Museum, the Museum of Natural Sciences and the National Zoo, where Baby panda Bao Bao and her parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are the zoo's most popular attraction. Admission is free.

Take the Metro rail system to reach locations around the city quickly and provide some fun for the kids. Rent a paddleboat on the Tidal Basin for a great view of the Jefferson Memorial when you need a break from touring.

Why take the train? Amtrak Trains arrive at a stunning gateway to our nation's capitol, Union Station. The beautiful Beaux-Arts style building captures the traveler's attention and can stop them in their tracks just admiring the beautiful domed structure. In the heart of the city, this location offers easy access to hotels within walking distance or a short taxi ride away.

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Sara Kendall is a freelance writer who loves to travel with her husband and two daughters. She has discovered fun and learning happen together when exploring our beautiful country.