Day trips filled with family fun & learning

By Chandler Holland
Times-News correspondent 


A model of a train station and surrounding countryside can be found at the Company Shops Station, 101 N. Main St., Burlington. [Chandler Holland / Times-News correspondent

   Perhaps it’s due to the long-airing popular Thomas the Tank Engine series, for just as all children seem to go through a period when they are fascinated by horses and trucks, most children seem to enjoy an enthusiastic train faze.
Many of us never outgrow it.
To nurture this ongoing passion, consider organizing a family day trip by train. Train travel with children is easy, safe, affordable and fun. Train trips are not encumbered by traffic or weather, and the logistics are simple, from making your reservation to accessing the station. You will not experience any of the frenetic hubbub found in air travel in any of our local train stations.
The best way to book your ticket is either online at or by phone where Amtrak’s automated attendant, Julie, will answer all your questions at 800-USA-RAIL. Remember to inquire about discounted travel for children and seniors, as well as any special seasonal promotions.
Our Burlington station is easy to reach, located downtown just off Webb Avenue, at 101 North Main St. There you will find a cozy vintage-themed indoor waiting room, friendly staff and clean restrooms. The lobby’s interesting dioramas and storyboards will keep all travelers captivated, and the full-scale train engines will thrill little ones.
Day trips can be planned for both south/westbound and north/eastbound destinations. A handful of suggestions for each follow. Regardless of where you are heading, keep an eye out for train host volunteers while you are on board. Along with Amtrak’s professional staff, these volunteers ride the rails to help make your trip more pleasant — particularly for your youngest travelers.
Heading south or westbound, you can book train 73, departing Burlington at 7:55 a.m. or train 75 at 12:55 p.m. If your destination is Charlotte, plan for approximately two hours on the train. The Charlotte station is at 1914 North Tryon St. A full day of family fun and learning can be found at Discovery Place Science, located 1.4 miles from the station at 301 North Tryon St., or Discovery Place Nature, which is a 15-mile trip at 1658 Sterling Rd. For hours, entry fees, and exhibit information visit or
For a slightly shorter trip, the Greensboro station is at 236 East Washington St. A quick half-mile drive will find you on South Elm Street, chock-full of interesting shops and great restaurants, including a number of outdoor cafés. Your first destination should be the important International Civil Rights Center & Museum located in the famous Greensboro Woolworth building at 134 South Elm St. Prepare for your visit at
Just down the street at 606 South Elm St., consider a visit to Elsewhere, an unusual museum and artist residency set in a three-floor, former thrift store. More on this fascinating venue can be found at
The GreenHill Center for NC Art has exhibitions and programming that focus on contemporary visual arts and artists of North Carolina. A 2-mile drive from the Greensboro station, it’s located at 200 North Davie St. More information is at
Heading north or eastbound, you can book train 80, departing Burlington at 9:01 a.m. or train 74 at 2:03 p.m. If your destination is Raleigh, plan for approximately 1 hour, 10 minutes on the train. The Raleigh station is at 320 West Cabarrus Street. A very full, and mostly free, day is just a mile away at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, at 11 West Jones St., and the North Carolina Museum of History, at 5 East Edenton St. Directly across the plaza from one another, both museums feature fun activities and interesting displays. For more information, visit and
The Durham station is at 601 West Main St. For a day filled with visiting fun shops and great restaurants, visit historic Brightleaf Square, about 3 miles away at 905 West Main St. Just around the corner, Parker and Otis is a particular child-friendly bistro. A list of Brightleaf venues, as well as concerts and other outdoor events, is at
The Scrap Exchange offers activities that will scratch everyone’s creative itch. A 6-minute drive from the Durham station, at 2050 Chapel Hill Road, they take their mission of promoting creativity, environmental awareness, and “community through reuse” to heart — they are serious about having fun in their Creative Reuse Center. Details are available at
Don’t put it off — plan your train trip today. Regardless of whether you head east or west, a fun-filled family adventure awaits you.

Chandler Holland is a home-schooled high school graduate and a Teens & 20s writer. She looks forward to attending Warren Wilson College, and will obtain her Environmental Educators Certification during her gap year.



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