You can start "small" by visiting a permanent model railroad exhibit. At the Museum of Science and Industry’s "Great Train Story," kids can watch more than 30 trains make the journey from Chicago to Seattle. Interactive stations allow them to build a tunnel, raise a drawbridge and load lumber. While you’re there, check out the vintage 1934 Pioneer Zephyr. During the 20-minute guided tour families can explore the baggage, smoking, passenger and observation compartments. Kids can even "drive" the train via an interactive computer. www.msichicago.org
The real thing
Ride the rails
Eat like an engineer
Once you’ve covered all the trains you can see, touch and ride, consider a train-themed restaurant where your meal can be delivered via locomotive. At the Choo Choo Café in Des Plaines, Choo Choo Johnny’s in Frankfort and 2Toots Train Whistle Grill in Downers Grove, families can eat around a track where the train "stops" at your table with burgers and sandwiches. For a summer time treat, you can even sample old-fashioned ice cream while seated in an authentic railroad caboose at The Old Caboose Ice Cream Shoppe in Flossmoor.Alena Murguia
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