These days, there are no shortage of Easter event options for your kids. Parks, businesses, churches, farms, even breweries now have Easter egg hunts scheduled. Traditionally, my family has gone to the Dublin Park Easter Egg Hunt in Madison. We’ve seen the event attendance grow steadily each year until it was almost TOO MANY people – the actual hunt resembled a battle scene from Braveheart or Game of Thrones. So, we decided to have a change of pace and instead of going on a traditional hunt we went on North Alabama Railroad Museum’s Peter Cottontail Express train ride. We were NOT disappointed!
North Alabama Railroad Museum
Located in Chase, Alabama just east of Huntsville, the non-profit, fully volunteer staffed North Alabama Railroad Museum (NARM) features the restored Chase Depot as well as 30 preserved railroad cars.
Each year, NARM celebrates the Easter season with its Peter Cottontail Express, which gives youngsters a chance to meet and take pictures with Peter and his helpers, then take a 35 minute train ride. Afterwards the kids get a special surprise!
Here Comes Peter Cottontail
NARM advises passengers to arrive early (at least 30 minutes prior to departure) so we took that time to explore the Depot. I’d advise getting there even earlier than that to really have plenty of time to explore and visit with Peter.
In addition to the quaint ticket office and outlying buildings, there is also a train, caboose, and several boxcars to explore. The caboose showed the Spartan conditions train operators worked under, and inside one of the boxcars was a neat model train display. Knowledgeable volunteers are also on hand to answer any questions you may have about the trains.
At about 15 minutes prior to departure, our train pulled into the station. Be aware of the crossing and make sure your kids are far away! The train will blow its horn as a warning AND IT IS LOUD, so if your kids (or you) have sensory issues keep even further away as the train arrives and its passengers disembark. Also, take the time to have a potty break BEFORE getting on, as there are no (or very limited) bathrooms on board. They will announce this as well, but you can skip the rush.
You’ll have a chance to take pics with Peter Cottontail prior to boarding. From the outside, the trains show their historical age, but the interiors looked freshly renovated. It was a great visual contrast. The paint was new and the interiors decorated in an Easter theme. Indeed, the leg room and window space was very luxurious, especially compared with flying on airplanes on today.
The friendly conductor will direct you to your seats and later punch your tickets. This is really cool for the kids, so don’t lose them! You’ll also get tickets to enter a drawing for a huge Easter egg prize; don’t worry if you won’t win as each kids will get a prize stuffed animal at the end of the train ride.
The train ride itself takes about 30 minutes total; the train till travel a few miles, then go back the way it came to the depot. Along the way the route is filled with decorations such as wild animal statues; your kid will delight in trying to find them all as well as waving to people at the rail road crossings.
A New Easter Tradition
Overall, everyone in our family really enjoyed the Peter Cottontail Express; both kids were interested in trains before and loved looking outside during the trip. We did not get a chance to fully explore the train once inside (in fact the kids were at sensory overload just taking in the sights from their seats), but we fully intend to explore when on future, longer train rides. The oldest has since asked about going to other events at NARM.
Tickets for this event tend to go early so book yours as soon as possible, especially if you are in a large group (4 or more) to insure you all get to sit together.
NARM also runs several themed events a year, such as Christmas, Mother’s/Father’s Day, so if you have Easter plans already consider doing an alternative event. If you’re looking for an alternative to “traditional” Easter events, then by all means try the Peter Cottontail Express this year!
Peter Cottontail Express Details
When: Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 10AM, 11AM, 1PM, 2PM, and 3PM
Where: North Alabama Railroad Museum (map)
Cost: $20 each for all seats – buy tickets online in advance!
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