Train parks and railroad museums in Orange County are all around. These are all the play places for train lovers that I can think in and near Orange County, CA.
Whether you like to see big locomotives up close, far away, play on them, ride on them — I’ve got the parks for your family.
Please comment if I am missing any! I think the list is pretty comprehensive thanks to your help!
If you are looking to actually take a train trip in Orange County, I have a post about Train Trips for Orange County Locals that you might want to check out for ideas.
*Don’t think I need to say it – but I’ll say it anyways: If it’s you against the train, the train’s gonna win. Be safe and stay off the tracks!
Train Parks in Orange County
Over the years, these are the train parks I've collected on the blog. Some have regular trains that happen to pass by their location and others just have a train-theme on the playground!
Brush Canyon Park in Yorba Linda
See BNSF whoosh by just beyond the fence.
San Clemente Beaches and Beach Trail
These tracks run all up and down the beaches in San Clemente. Cover your ears; they are loud!
There is a bridge at T-Street where you can see the trains from above.
This is one spot where it might be tempting to cross the tracks, but everywhere along here there are tunnels that go UNDER or bridges that go OVER so you should never need to get anywhere near the tracks except when you go through the crossings to get to the beach at North Beach or Califia Beach.
[There is a service interruption to try to shore up the tracks near the OC / San Diego county border just south of the trail, but for now Metrolink is running on the weekends.]
Orchard Park in Irvine
This little train playground is just the right size for toddlers.
Irvine Regional Park and Irvine Park Railroad
For a fee, you can ride the train at Irvine Park Railroad.
Just note that the Christmas Train happens starts around Thanksgiving through December 23rd and it is something you must reserve ahead. From Irvine Park Railroad for 2022: "Once the Christmas Train starts on November 25th, the regular train is only Monday-Friday from 10am-3pm. The train makes no special stops during this time. The last week of the Christmas Train, December 19-23, there are no regular train rides."
Brio Park and Splash Pad in La Habra + La Habra Children's Museum
This one is a splash pad with a train theme!
And the La Habra Children's Museum has trains outdoors. There is a red train car outdoors next to a children's theater. Reader, Elise, told me the museum has a large model train set up inside, as well. She said you can go in the train cars outside.
Santa Fe Park in Placentia
The train structure at Santa Fe Park in Placential is new as of March 2023. Kids will like the train pretend mixed with a gas station/car pretend.
Stanton Central Park and Splash Pad
The splash pad has a little train AND the huge playground and slide looks like a steam locomotive and water tower.
Creekside Park in Dana Point
There is a little choo-choo with a slide in the toddler area of this park that's also good for big kids! You can see the train pass by on the tracks near the creek here, too.
Funicular at Strands Beach and Strands Vista Park in Dana Point
This one tends to run only during summer months and, even then, not very reliably. I need to get a better photo, but this is a view of the tracks that the funicular takes halfway down the hill to the beach. Parking is free and so is the funicular ride.
Rancho Santa Margarita Central Park & Splash Pad
Another nice little playground train with tunnels and slides.
Los Rios Park in San Juan Capistrano
Los Rios playground is very near the San Juan Capistrano train station. Not only do trains go by on the weekend, the train station also has old train cars as a facade on the outside if you walk around on the other side of Trevor on the Tracks restaurant. So your kids can see an old red caboose by just walking by!
It is rather pricey ($15 per adult and $12 per child) to get into Zoomar's at River Street Ranch and you need to pay an extra $4 to ride their "kiddy train" -- but that's a walkable destination from this playground.
Santa Ana Zoo Playgrounds and Rides
The Santa Ana Zoo has a little train ride along with a carousel and ferris wheel! You do need to pay to get into the zoo and pay for your ride on the train, too. The best deal is getting the membership! Also make sure to read my blog post and check the official zoo website because days/hours are limited.
Pines Park Above Capistrano Beach (and Capistrano Beach Park)
Pines Park has a picnic table with a little peek-a-boo view of the train tracks near Capistrano Beach Park below.
We used to love watching trains from Capistrano Beach Park, but the parking lot is often closed there now due to beach erosion. This is double the fun because you can have an ocean view AND a train view!
Trestles Beach Walk
Trestles is a beach at one of the last freeway offramps in Orange County off I-5. You can take a long walk down to the ocean and see the train trestle bridge (whether the train is running or not -- which it isn't at the moment due to repairs of the tracks.
San Onofre State Beach
This is another spot where you can see the trains as long as they are running between Orange County and San Diego. (That seems to change day-by-day, so I wanted to keep it in here for when the time comes for the trains to cross counties again.)
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert
This one isn't in Orange County, but I'd definitely recommend the trek! This is an impressive model railroad you can experience outdoors at the zoo!
More Orange County places to go for train lovers
Orange County Model Engineers (Goathill Junction) in Costa Mesa, CA (Orange County) – this is very popular with families. Also known as OCME to those who visit often.
Castle Peak & Thunder Railroad (backyard model railroad based on Disneyland) with periodic open houses. I first saw this on my friend Jill’s blog (Sandy Toes & Popsicles). Her post has tons of photos and tips.
Orange County theme parks with train rides
- Disneyland Big Thunder Mountain
- Disneyland Railroad
- Disneyland Casey Jr. Circus Train
- Disneyland Tram and Monorail (I think those count, because the train lovers I know love them, too!)
- Knott’s Berry Farm Calico Railroad Train Ride
- Adventure City Express Train
Christmas Trains in or near Orange County
- Irvine Park Railroad Christmas Train
- South Coast Plaza (Macy’s Home side) – Santa’s Express Train & Reindeer Carousel
- Rogers Gardens Holiday Model Train display runs outside the boutique in the gardens
- OCME is doing a Toys for Tots toy drive on the 19th/20th of November with free train rides.
- In the past, Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center in Anaheim has had a holiday train exhibit.
More Southern California places to go for train lovers
These are other spots outside of Orange County which readers recommended.
- Heritage Park in Santa Fe Springs (LA County near Whittier) has a railroad exhibit.
- Southern California Railway Museum in Perris, CA (Riverside County)
- Enchanted Railroad at Descanso Gardens (LA County near La Cañada)
- Lomita Railroad Museum (LA County near Torrance)
- Travel Town Museum in Griffith Park (LA County near Burbank)
- Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Griffith Park (LA County next door to Travel Town)
- Fillmore & Western Railway in Fillmore, CA (Ventura County)
- Riverside Live Steamers at Hobby Hunter Park (Riverside)
Originally published in June 2010.
Monday 9th of July 2012
When my kids were small they loved to go to the heritage park in Santa Fe Springs... it is a really nice place for children who love trains ... http://www.santafesprings.org/library/heritage/default.asp
Wednesday 11th of July 2012
Thanks for the tip, Mia.
Wednesday 28th of March 2012
Have you been to Goathill Junction in Irvine or the Riverside Steamers in Riverside at Hobby Hunter Park. You have to check the dates - because they are basically only certain Sundays of the month but they are minitature trains that you can ride for FREE! They do ask for donations. Great fun for little boys that love trains.
Thursday 17th of February 2011
My boys love trains. Even though we live a couple blocks from the train tracks, they still get excited everytime we see one. We'll have to remember this post next time we are in So. Cal.