The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad in Allegany County, Maryland is such a fun and unique experience to do with your kids. The train is based out of Cumberland and offers scenic (and festive) trains year-round. A train ride will definitely be a fun activity for kids of all ages, parents, and grandparents. It’s one of our top picks for the best things to do in Maryland with kids!
Check out this Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Kid Friendly Guide for some of our best tips and an in-depth look at two of the seasonal train rides we love!
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Overview
The Western Maryland Railway was originally built to haul coal from Maryland and West Virginia. It was considered one of the most important regional railroads at the time.
Currently, visitors can ride either a diesel or steam engine-powered train. Each train has various levels of cabins from open air to climate controlled passenger cabins, and even super deluxe dining and glass-domed cabins.
The type of cabin you will want to book will depend on the type of train excursion you are going on. The route is fairly similar for the trains though. You will go between Cumberland and Frostburg. The scenery along the route is breathtakingly beautiful.
Most trains stop for a 90 minute break in Frostburg. However, some of the specialty trains (like the Polar Express) are shorter and don’t travel all the way to Frostburg before turning around.
Frostburg Flyer- Fall Trains
The first time we visited the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad was to ride one of the fall Frostburg Flyer trains.
Open Air Car Seating is Great for Fall Foliage
We opted for the open air car, and apart from the fact that these tickets were cheaper, for this excursion I think the open air car is absolutely the way to go!
When they say open air, they mean.. open air! This means you get a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside. We went in the middle of October at the beginning of fall foliage season.
The open air cabin was brisk but not too chilly. It was quite perfect (we wore hoodies) and due to the fantastic views, many people from other enclosed cabins hung out in our car!
Even in the open air cars, the seats are incredibly comfortable, with great leg room. All seats are assigned (even in the open air car) so you don’t have to worry about someone taking your spot.
If you have kids you can opt to sit here or in the regular coach car. At this time, you cannot purchase tickets for the glass dome or dining car on the Frostburg Flyer because alcohol is served.
Honestly, there isn’t a bad seat on the train. Because it is out and back, if you sit on the right side of the train you will get to enjoy the scenic vistas on the way out and the other side of the mountain (and also different vistas) on the way back.. or vice versa.
Spectacular Views wherever you sit
Part of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail runs along the train tracks. You can’t bring bikes on to the train at the moment. However, if you wanted to add an adventure to your train ride, you could totally ride the rails twice– once on the train and once alongside the tracks on your bikes! Or, you could book a rail-biking excursion from Frostburg with Track and Yaks!
Here are some views of the mountain side of the track. It’s really quite gorgeous and relaxing!
At the front of the train you can get really close to the actual engine. If you have a train lover, they will absolutely want to get an up close look at the train engine!
On the way to Frostburg and the way back, the train goes through a 916-ft long tunnel. This is also just a really cool experience.
Tip: Don’t stay seated the entire trip! You can get up and move around the cabin or even go to a different cabin (just not the deluxe cabins with kids). We experimented with different views depending on where we were on the train journey.
Most Frostburg Flyer trains last about 4-5 hours. There is a 90 minute break at the halfway point in the town of Frostburg. Note: there are no restroom facilities on board the train. So, you need to make sure you go potty in Cumberland before you embark, as well as in Frostburg before you head back.
Polar Express Trains
One of the most popular train excursions offered by the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad are The Polar Express train rides. They are offered starting in late November through Christmas.
Dome Seating on The Polar Express is Totally worth it!
These train excursions are one of the few where kids can sit in the dining car or the famous glass-dome car.
If you can swing it, I would highly recommend this splurge. The glass done car is gorgeous and makes the views even more spectacular.
Also, it’s very handy to have a table for your treats and goodies!
And yes, you get treats and goodies! In addition to the golden Polar Express ticket, all passengers get fresh hot chocolate and soft cookies (we had gingerbread cookies) before boarding the train. You don’t have to have a table to eat and drink. But it does make the ride really pleasant.
If you opt for a premium ticket, your admission cost includes commemorative Polar Express mugs.
What every Polar Express ticket Experience Includes
Regardless of where you sit on your excursion, the conductor will definitely pay you a visit and punch your ticket. Don’t lose it!
And one of the train cooks will read The Polar Express story to your train car.
About 20 minutes into the ride, you will make a brief stop, and a certain jolly old elf will hop on board the train!
That’s right! Santa visits with everyone and passes out the magic reindeer bell. You can jingle it to hear if you still believe in Christmas magic or not.
The Polar Express train ride lasts about 45 minutes. However, you will want to arrive at the train station about 30-45 minutes before boarding to get your hot chocolate and cookies!
Other Seasonal Trains
We have personally experienced the fall Frostburg Flyer and The Polar Express trains. However, Western Maryland Scenic Railroad has numerous train excursions that are sure to delight kids and parents!
The offer Pumpkin Patch Trains, Alpaca Days Trains, Murder Mystery Trains, and more. In August you can hop aboard the very popular Ice Cream Train.
Alpaca Days are a new event with the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad where alpacas will actually be on board the train! At the Frostburg Depot, passengers can participate in Alpaca animal encounters courtesy of the Little Wills Creek Ranch.
In the Spring you can ride the Spring Fling Train, which includes decorating and planting flower pots. Check their website or social media pages because they are always adding new events!
Stopping in Frostburg
Many of the trains stop in Frostburg for about 90 minutes before heading back to Cumberland. So, what do you do for 90 minutes?
You can wait for a shuttle or walk the relatively short (but also relatively steep) sidewalk up to the Main Street of Frostburg. Unless you are in the first group or two.. makes more send to walk the 5-10 minutes up the hill.
There are numerous restaurants you can choose for lunch or a snack. I highly recommend lunch at the Princess Restaurant (especially if you have your kids with you).
This is a classic diner that offers comfort food favorites like grilled cheese, milkshakes, delicious soups, sandwiches (The Miner Steak Sandwich is a must!), and more. Just to be clear, the kids (and you) will LOVE the milkshakes (they are famous for them!), as well as other kid friendly options like burgers and chicken strips. Oh, and save room for their pies!
Other options that come highly recommended include The Toasted Goat, Mountain City Coffeehouse and Creamery, Fatboys Pizza Shack, and LG’s Pizzeria and Pub.
If you have time, pay a visit to The Thrasher Carriage Museum. It is located next to the Frostburg Train Depot. It’s free (donations accepted) and they have some fun Americana like Teddy Roosevelt’s Inauguration Coach and sleighs owned by the Vanderbilt family.
Also, there is a public restroom at The Thrasher Carriage Museum that might have a shorter line than the one at the Frostburg Depot.
Other Things to Do at the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
Don’t let you train excursion be the only thing you do when you visit the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad! Cumberland is really such a cute town to explore with tons of public art murals and interesting shops and restaurants.
The Shops at Canal Place is right next to the train station. We ate lunch at the Crabby Pig before our Polar Express Train excursion and it was totally delicious BBQ.
The C&O Towpath literally runs right in front of the train depot. So, you can add a walk to your train ride. Or bring scooters and bikes and add to your adventure day!
And don’t forget the adorable train-themed playground that is located right in front of the train station.
Most trains depart from The Cumberland Train Station: 13 Canal St 2nd Floor, Cumberland, MD 21502. However, a few select trains depart from the Frostburg Depot. Make sure you confirm your departure location. Here are Google Map Directions to the Cumberland Station.
Parking can be kind of tricky for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. There is limited parking in front of the Cumberland station. Otherwise you will need to budget plenty of time to either find street parking or a public parking garage.
Cost depends on the age, event your are purchasing tickets for, and the type of seat you opt to purchase. Prices typically range from $27 for kids in the open air cabin to $127 for the premium dome cabin (these seats tend to include snacks).
There are public restrooms in the Cumberland Station and at the Frostburg Station. There are no public restrooms on board the train itself.
Large strollers are not allowed on the train. Small, collapsible strollers are allowed as long as they can fit in the overhead area above your seats.
There are ADA accessible seating in the Standard Coaches which are kept unsold up to a week prior to departure of the train. Please see the website and/or email the railroad for accommodation requests.