See the Lone Star State in a whole new way.
Train travel is all the rage in 2023. Just ask Pinterest, which predicts it to be one of the hottest travel trends of the year in its annual Pinterest Predicts report. As the company notes, “In 2023, train travel will make a major comeback. Thanks to quicker boarding, extra legroom, scenic views, and a lower carbon footprint, Gen Z and millennials will find a renewed love for this timeless mode of transportation. Searches for Europe interrailing, train quotes, and train travel aesthetic are all trending way up.”
But don’t let Europe have all the fun. Sure, our European counterparts have well-known rail lines that get a lot of love, but there are plenty of tracks in the U.S. that are worth your attention, too. And Texas happens to be home to more than its fair share. Read on for seven fantastic train rides in Texas — both big and small — that you can join on your next trip to the Lone Star State.
Forest Park Miniature Railroad
One of the smallest options on this list, the Forest Park Miniature Railroad dates back to the 1950s and takes visitors on a quick, five-mile journey through Fort Worth’s Trinity Park, crossing over six bridges along the way. The family-friendly ride clocks in at just over 40 minutes, making it short but sweet. It’s open for rides year-round, but its schedule varies, depending on weather, so check in with the conductors before booking a ticket.
Grapevine Vintage Railroad
The classic Grapevine Vintage Railroad operates 1920s Victorian coaches that whisk passengers away for a ride along the Cotton Belt Route. On board, guests can lounge in plush, red velvet seating with gilded armrests while looking out at beautiful landscapes from the massive picture windows. It’s even available for special events for the ultimate train lover’s private party. Note the train is open for rides from March to December, closing each January and February for regular maintenance.
Looking for a more modern mini train experience? Snag a ticket aboard the Zilker Eagle. Though it's 60 years old, the Zilker Eagle looks like a thoroughly futuristic — albeit miniature — bullet train. It zips through Zilker Park and is also a true community effort. According to the park’s website, the train's name was chosen from more than 700 submissions and voted on by more than 7,000 members of the Austin community. Plus, it’s fully electric and comes with several ADA accessible coaches, making it available to all.
Those wanting a longer ride can hop on Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer, which travels between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, every day. The train only makes two stops in Texas (Gainesville and Fort Worth), but that’s what makes it such a great ride — it’s a straight shot between the two cities with plenty of views in between. And as Amtrak notes, once riders disembark in Fort Worth, they can connect to Dallas and San Antonio via the Texas Eagle to keep the good times going.
Texas State Railroad
History buffs will appreciate their ride on the Texas State Railroad, which takes place in a refurbished vintage train car that meanders through the landscape between Palestine and Rusk. The four-hour round-trip journey invites passengers to unplug and live the slow life for a while. On board, guests can choose between cars (including renting out the caboose for private parties) or sit on the glass-domed observation deck with a glass of Champagne in hand while watching the world go by.
Historic Jefferson Railway
Mix in a little more whimsy and history with a ride on the Historic Jefferson Railway. The rail, first built in 1910, is a gas-powered Plymouth Locomotive that brings guests on a trip through Jefferson, including along the Big Cypress Bayou. And as the train’s website explains, guests should keep an eye out for the “Boggy Creek monster” featured in the film titled “Boggy Creek.”
Austin Steam Train
The Austin Steam Train offers several unique rides on its HZRX Diesel 3134 locomotive. It has four service classes along most of its routes, including excursion coach, first-class coach, first-class lounge, and an adults-only first-class lounge. The best option is its signature ride, the Hill Country Flyer, which weaves through Texas Hill Country and allows for a two-hour layover in Burnet for guests to get out, shop, eat, and explore.
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