The Millennial Trains Project leads crowd-funded transcontinental train journeys for young innovators. It’s pretty rad. (Photo: Millennial Trains Project)
Journeys build leaders. As the official mantra of the Millennial Trains Project (MTP), this phrase propelled the 10 day cross-country train trip undertaken by 25 young social innovators from around the globe.
Founded by Fulbright scholar, Patrick Dowd, the mission of the MTP is to advance social projects while exploring new frontiers. The participants boarded the train in Los Angeles and traversed the nation in a set of streamliner cars, stopping in Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.
Over the course of the journey, we engaged in leadership development exercises with industry experts aboard the train and were allotted dedicated project time in each city to raise awareness about the causes they champion.
This year’s MTP class ranged from a film student creating a children’s television show to promote education in Afghanistan to a National Geographic Young Explorer grantee studying community-based invasive species management. Due to the support of Comcast and NBCUniversal, I had the privilege of riding the train to promote the GenHERation Summer Leadership Series 2015, a 10 city tour across North America to hold leadership conferences for high school girls.
An important theme of the MTP is the power of place. After visiting each city, we discussed the unique attributes of each location and how they assist millennials in catalyzing change in their communities. If you find yourself in one of the MTP cities, be sure to add these historic landmarks and emerging attractions to your itinerary.
Los Angeles, California: The United Artists Theater
Pur trip kicked off at the United Artists Theater in downtown Los Angeles. We went on an exclusive tour of the 1600 seat-theater that was founded by Hollywood legends Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith, and Charlie Chaplin.
Built in 1927, the theater was constructed to serve as refuge where actors could escape from the constraints of the studio system to showcase their original work. (Photo: Katlyn Grasso)
In 2014, part of the theater was converted into the luxury boutique Ace Hotel. Walking through the front doors of the Ace Hotel is like stepping onto the set of a music video with a community mezzanine and rooftop pool.
Austin, Texas: The Charles Moore Foundation
Nestled in a residential neighborhood, the Charles Moore Foundation is a compound of preserved buildings that pay homage to its namesake architect. As the leader of the architecture departments at Yale, UCLA, and the University of Texas, Moore was awarded the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1991. We visited the foundation for a traditional Mexican dinner and lecture with the Executive Director of the foundation.
The house is a whimsical architectural paradise boasting coral walls, indigenous figurines, an alternating tread staircase, and a pool in the center of the property. (Photo: Katlyn Grasso)
Guests are welcome to stay in the Andersson House and Cube Loft in exchange for a contribution that supports the foundation’s preservation efforts.
San Antonio, Texas: The San Antonio River Walk
Also known as the Paseo del Rio, the San Antonio River Walk is a pedestrian walkway lined with restaurants, shops, hotels, and bike trails.
More than 11.5 million people visit the River Walk every year. (Photo: Katlyn Grasso)
A local explained that the River Walk is like “the American Venice” providing tourists with easy access to the cultural center of San Antonio. After lunch at La Gloria, my train mates and I ventured down the River Walk and visited the Alamo.
New Orleans, Louisiana: French Quarters
After visiting the New Orleans Mission and meeting the Mayor of New Orleans, we spent the afternoon exploring the French Quarters. We dined at the Hotel Monteleone for lunch and explored the art galleries decorating the streets. We interviewed artists on the street about the inspiration behind their work and were invited into the home gallery of a local painter.
The stunning architecture of New Orleans. (Photo: Katlyn Grasso)
Baltimore, Maryland: American Visionary Art Museum
The American Visionary Art Museum showcases work from self-taught individuals whose art is guided by their personal passion. Exhibits range from the world’s largest Pez dispenser collection to a gigantic poodle on wheels. Every year the AVAM hosts the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race for human-powered works of art. This year’s “Out of this World” theme is a tribute to the Hubble Space Telescope’s 25th anniversary at the AVAM.
You won’t want to miss this very special museum. (Photo: Katlyn Grasso)
Washington, D.C.: Dupont Underground
On the last day of the trip, the MTP participants were given a tour of the abandoned trolley station underneath Dupont Circle. Dupont Underground is an organization working to revitalize the 75,000 square foot space to create a cultural destination that engages DC’s residents and visitors. The Dupont Underground team envisions the area as the home of temporary exhibitions, performances, retailers, and restaurants. The team plans to activate the Underground within the next five years.
Deep beneath Washington D.C. (Photo: Katlyn Grasso)
The most important realization among the MTP participants was that you do not have to be on a cross-country train trip to experience the power of place. This trip encouraged us to curiously explore cities to discover the potential for change, which is a practice that can be pursued by anyone anywhere.
Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad.