Our tips for visiting the Railway Museum in Monticello
So much more than train rides await at the Monticello Railway Museum
You’ve probably heard of the popular Polar Express train rides that happen near Champaign-Urbana each December and maybe you’ve even met St. Nick himself on one of the rides. But what you may not know is that during our warmer weather months of May-October, you can pack up the kids and head out to the Monticello Railway Museum for a great time.
Monticello Railway Museum offers a lot more than just train rides! And the museum itself does not have a charge, so regardless of who may or may not be riding the train in your party, your train fanatics can get up close and personal with the real deal… every weekend!
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The museum is open for train rides on Saturdays and Sundays, May through October. If you do plan to ride, it’s important you check the schedule out before planning your visit so you know what the schedule is and if any special events may be taking place that could impact your plans.
The museum is located at the Nelson Crossing Depot, which is the one you can see from Interstate 72 when you’re driving to Monticello (take exit 166). You may also be familiar with the Wabash Depot, which is the station in downtown Monticello, where you can also board the train. Train rides go between the two stations, so if you start at Wabash, you can get off at Nelson, visit the museum for a bit and then ride back to your vehicle. Or, just start at the museum and check out the grounds before or after your ride.
The main highlight of the museum is that you can explore the many cars parked on site, either by viewing them from the outside or even getting to climb through some of them. Kids of all ages love seeing the sleeping quarters and other features of the trains!
Some cars have artifacts from yesteryear on display that you can touch, like an old typewriter, and the museum gift shop has many items on display too. We should mention this destination is a great place to head out to when you have a day to spend with grandparents and are looking for something everyone can enjoy.
As mentioned above, it is not required you purchase a train ticket to explore the museum, but it is very likely you will want to once you head out there! Our kids love the open-top car, so bring your sunscreen! The ride from one depot to the other isn’t terribly long (maybe about 20 minutes), but you will get to see some breathtaking country views on your journey and you will feel like you’ve traveled back in time and to a far off location.
If you do get off at the Wabash Depot, you can walk just one block over to Nick’s Community Playground, with castle-like play structures calling your kids to play. Dairy Queen is just slightly further, about two or three blocks away. Whatever you do, don’t miss the last return train of the day back to Nelson Crossing Depot if that’s where you parked!