Advice on a mammoth train trip with our ten-year-old granddaughter next summer

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flitcraft

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The backstory on the planned trip is that we had for many years promised our granddaughter than, in lieu of getting toys for her birthday and Christmas, we were going to arrange a trip for her, anywhere in the world she wanted, with me and Grandpa, when she was 10 or 11. (The idea is that she'd be old enough to appreciate the travel, and able to do the geography research that we suggested her to do, and young enough that it would still be okay to spend a couple of weeks with us old-folks without extreme amounts of juvenile eye-rolling.)

When we were last discussing the trip idea with her, she expressed distaste for the idea of a long airplane flight. "Grandma, when I have to sit for so long in an airplane, it makes my butt flat!" After I reassured her that her butt only felt flat, but actually bounced right back post-flight, I asked if she might prefer a train trip in the US. She expressed enthusiasm--we took the CS end to end with her in the family bedroom last summer, and she handled it fine. So, I am planning something like this: Keystone from Lancaster PA to NYC, two days in New York, the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, two or three days in Chicago, the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles, one day in LA, then on the Surfliner to San Diego, two days in SD, and flying from there to Seattle, our hometown, where she'll meet up with Mom and Dad for All Star Weekend.

So...thoughts for what I'm not thinking about? The plan is to go with a bedroom and a supplementary roomette for Grandpa, since I think the family bedroom probably won't work by next summer, since she is already nearly five feet tall. I need to book in the next couple of days, I think. What are the can't-miss-with-kids things to do in our stops? Many years ago, we did travel with her mom as a kid, but our granddaughter has a rather different personality--brash and active, rather than quiet and day-dreamy. Am I crazy to try to do this?
 
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Definitely not a crazy idea—if she’s 10 or 11 at the time of the trip, that’s a perfect travel age.

I went with my mother to visit my grandmother in England the summer when I was 11 and loved it and remember it more clearly than many more recent trips.

Does she like history? If so, I’ll put in my usual plug for at least a day in Philly.

I’m on the quieter-daydreamy end of the travel spectrum, though, so not sure she’d enjoy what I might recommend.

Chicago—boat ride on the river (I’ve heard the architecture one is terrific). Also the Art Institute has the Thorne rooms — a collection of 66 miniature rooms decorated with tiny period furniture from all different times and places.

In Philly—anything historic—you could do the “official” stuff—Independence Hall, etc.—but will have to go through the security lines so taking a lot of time from the day.

Or you could just walk—that whole stretch of Independence Park—to get a feel for the history. Also, you used to be able to see the Liberty Bell from the outside —looking in a window. I don’t know if that’s still possible, but it gets rid of dealing with the long line inside.

Living in New Jersey, I have spent much of my life avoiding NYC (doesn’t work well for “quiet and dreamy” travelers) and haven’t been to LA or SD, so can’t make suggestions for those.

I think this is a terrific idea—and especially if your granddaughter is involved in the planning, she will love it!
 
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Kudos on your plan and combining education with an exciting trip. Kids on trains at that age are seldom a problem (speaking from experience with ours), whereas kids on planes for extended periods doesn't always end well. You've already addressed the one thing that came to mind - the length of those beds in the Family Bedroom. We got around it with two children by us sharing the lower bunk (much younger then) with the daughter in the upper and the little guy in one of the short ones, but an extra roomette down the hall would have been ideal. Don't forget the rest of Balboa Park and the giant model railroad there, since you'll probably hit the San Diego zoo anyway. It was the highlight of a similar trip with the kids and one of the reasons SD remains one of our favorite cities to visit.
 
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That sounds like a great trip!!! You wouldn't want to "adopt" a 62 year old grandson, would you??? 😂 As far as what to do in which cities, I'm afraid I'm not much help there, as the only city I have even the smallest amount of knowledge is Seattle, which you don't need any advice about.🙂 I would encourage your granddaughter research what there is to do based on her interests.

That really sounds like a terrific trip!!! Your granddaughter will love it!! And hopefully she will become a lifetime Amtrak lover!

 
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When I was that age I had very different ideas than my folks of what I'd like to do and where I'd like to visit. Besides asking her, give her a stops budget so she doesn't come up with Disneyland-priced activities at each place (like I would have done). For the historic place visits, I'd suggest whatever the focus is in her history and geography lessons the following year. My folks did that and it paid off in getting me interested in classes I would have otherwise detested. Do they still have science classes at that age? I got interested in geology from a teacher in 4th grade so we also visited geology highlights around the country.

Get her maps or an atlas, electronic or paper as she prefers, to write on. I liked being able to follow along or help with routing on road trips but I wasn't allowed to write on them until I grew up and got my own maps.

What a terrific plan, experiences instead of stuff.
 

Rambling Robert

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NYC -
Pizza
Horse & Carriage Central Patk
Statue of Liberty

LSL -
Hudson River - looking west
Erie Canal - looking south

SWC -
Albuquerque- There’s a very elder indigenous woman with a table of stuff - on both trips I bought $25 worth of stuff. Some secondhand.

Have you thought about Washington DC - the Zoo and 17 other Smithsonian
places are generally free. The zoo requires preregistration. Cardinal or Capitol Limited will get you to DC.

I usually skip planning anything in LA. The. Getty? Hollywood?
 
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Not really my expertise except when 9 years old was taken on a long distance trip to places I never dreamed of, haven't stopped wondering about what's out there ever since.

As an adult the child in me loved the Tar Pits in LA that we visited a few years ago and Venice Beach can't fail to get anyones eyes wide open, it's such a happy place. So how about reversing the LA and San Diego time schedules, 2 days LA and 1 in SD?

Bet you get al least as much out of it as your grandaughter, happy for you.
 

Trollopian

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If she likes wild animals the Dan Diego zoo is a must. You need to research it as I believe they have at least 2 separate locations.

Another terrific San Diego attraction is the U.S.S. Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that's been turned into a fascinating museum. "The USS Midway was the United States' longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, from 1945 to 1992. Approximately 200,000 Sailors served aboard the carrier, known for several naval aviation breakthroughs as well as several humanitarian missions." I'm a history buff but what I really found fascinating was how the ship functioned as a small city, with compact berths and showers and barbers and a dentist's office and even a pokey. There are some parallels with railcar design; both have to make efficient use of limited space.

 
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If she likes wild aimals the Dan Diego zoo is a must. You need to research it as I believe they have at least 2 separate loations.
The SD Zoo Safari Park was the highlight of our SoCal trip with our twin granddaughters when they were ten.


Rather than taking the plane to Seattle think about taking the Coast Starlight and spending one night in SLO, renting a car to visit the Hearst Castle. We did that with the granddaughters when they were 11. They were stunned by its magnificence but angered by its history of partying through a World War.

If she is a natural history lover, use your short time in LA at the LaBrea Tar Pits.

On our trips east with out granddaughters they have loved Philly and Boston for the history. They have been to Valley Forge twice.

They are now fourteen, and next summer want to take the Texas Eagle/Coast Starlight to SLO again. We are planning that for July. My wife and I will get a family room so that we can all be together with a view to both sides in daylight and the girls will get a roomette for the two overnights each way. We will coach from LAX to SLO and back.

Both girls are now considering back-up college plans already "behind" U.T. - Austin. Cal Poly, Wisconsin, and VaTech are on their [early] curiosity lists. So our next Chicago trip will end up with a visit to Madison and to Frank LLoyd Wright's Taliesin.

We second the Art Institute in Chicago, but one of our granddaughters is a WW2 afficionado and the German U Boat is worth a visit for the interested.
 
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flitcraft

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Thanks so much to all of you for your terrific ideas! And, although Philadelphia won't be on this itinerary, I have copied the Philly suggestions into a file. Since my granddaughter has just moved to Lancaster, I know there will be a lot of Philly daytrips when we visit--as soon as they get a bed for the spare 'guest-room, office, den.' (Or at least a double sized air mattress!)

Last summer our trip to LA on the Coast Starlight included a four day stop in LA (and Anaheim...for the obligatory Disneyland visit!) We told her that the plans for California would be a surprise, to be revealed during the course of the trip via rounds of Twenty Questions. When we got to the Anaheim part of the 'guess the destination' game, she gave me the stink eye and said, "We're not going to an Angels' game, are we?" She's gotten used to the family obsession with baseball, and so that was a natural guess!

By the way, we usually stay at the Metro Plaza in LA when coming to LAUS by train, but last summer the reviews were kind of sketchy--lots of construction/renovation noise and disruption--not that the Metro Plaza couldn't stand a bit of renovation! But we decided to try something different, so stayed at the Miyako Hotel in Japantown--a little bit farther than the Metro Plaza from Union Station, but not that out of the way. I highly recommend--it's a little bit pricier than the Metro Plaza, or at least was last summer, but the rooms are nicer, and they have a great Japanese bakery in the lobby that my granddaughter still talks about a year and a bit later!

Edited to correct the name of the Metro Plaza, and also to note that the renovations may be finished there--thanks Rambling Robert!
 
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In Chicago the Maggie Daley Park looks like a fun place for kids. Part of Millennium Park, towards Lake Shore Drive. The "Bean" of course. Also the Adler Planetarium is worth a visit. There is a bus that runs there from the Roosevelt Road L stop. You could actually spend days just at the museum complex there.
 
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I have a question for y'all. Our twins want to see FLW's Oak Park structures on our next Chicago trip. What is the best way to get from Union Station to Oak Park? I know how to get to the Museum District, but Oak Park is across the city. Loop? Uber? Tie in with the rent car for the Madison side trip?
 
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I think you have a good plan but I will make two suggestions.

One is to skip the Lake Shore if possible. It is a single level train without an observation car and has flex dining. Perhaps you can use the meal car as a lounge during non-meal times but it probably depends on the crew. (Corrections would be welcome.) I am concerned that it could be a tedious trip for your granddaughter.

The other suggestion would be to take the California Zephyr instead of the Southwest Chief. I certainly like the Chief but the Zephyr has the superior scenery and I think would make for a more memorable trip.

Whatever you do, I hope you have a great time and will post a report of your trip.
 
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I have a question for y'all. Our twins want to see FLW's Oak Park structures on our next Chicago trip. What is the best way to get from Union Station to Oak Park? I know how to get to the Museum District, but Oak Park is across the city. Loop? Uber? Tie in with the rent car for the Madison side trip?
His home & studio are a 15 minute walk (just under a mile) from the Oak Park station on the Green Line of the L. Or you can take a bus (every half hour) from the station that gets you to about 1/4 mi. from the site.

Note that children under 8 are not allowed on the house & studio tour.


Here's a suggested self-guided walking tour:
 
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His home & studio are a 15 minute walk (just under a mile) from the Oak Park station on the Green Line of the L. Or you can take a bus (every half hour) from the station that gets you to about 1/4 mi. from the site.

Note that children under 8 are not allowed on the house & studio tour.


Here's a suggested self-guided walking tour:
Thanks! I did this myself 40 years ago. Took the Loop from the Hotel where my legal seminar was held. But I didn't start from Union Station and would not be current if I had!
 
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Thanks! I did this myself 40 years ago. Took the Loop from the Hotel where my legal seminar was held. But I didn't start from Union Station and would not be current if I had!
From Union Station, you can walk a half mile north on Clinton to the Green Line, or can you take a slightly shorter walk to Quincy on the Loop and transfer from the Pink to the Green Line at Clinton.
 
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