Monday, February 27, 2017

All Aboard!

A few years ago, we started a new tradition in our family.  Each year on their birthday, we give the kids a choice.  They can have a birthday party and invite their friends to play and indulge in obscene amounts of sugar, or we can go on a family trip.  No, this doesn’t include Disneyland.  And yes, they did ask.  If they pick a trip, it’s a quick, weekend location that we can drive to easily, stay overnight and do something fun.

Every year my daughter picks a party.  She’s social.  She loves being the hostess and the center of attention.

And every year my son picks a trip.  He’s adventurous and loves exploring new places.  For the past two years his choice has been the Railroad Park Resort in Dunsmuir, CA.

Dunsmuir?  Yes. 
Around here when we head north for recreation, people usually set their sights on Mt. Shasta.  I’ve got nothing against Mt. Shasta.  But Dunsmuir does has some family fun that is often overlooked. Where else can you sleep in a real train car converted into a quaint hotel room?


Well, maybe not nowhere. But nowhere else within an hour’s drive, that’s for sure.
Our kids love this place.  Because, did I mention the sleeping in a train part?  The rooms are cozy but comfortable.  They are stocked with the basics including a small fridge, coffee maker and microwave.  There is wi-fi available, but it’s painfully slow, so I recommend unplugging and enjoying the breathtaking view of Castle Crags just outside your window. The pool is refreshing in the summer, and the hot tub does not disappoint on cold winter nights. In addition to the train car hotel rooms, there is a campground adjacent to the railroad cars and a cute restaurant (also housed in a real train car) but both are closed in the winter.  

Up close and personal with a big steam engine.
During our most recent visit we happened to bump into a woman named Mary and her cute little dog as we browsed the (obviously train themed) gift shop.  We struck up a conversation while watching my kids climb on the antique steam engine sitting outside the gift shop.  Turns out, Mary and her husband were in the process of purchasing the Railroad Park Resort.  I took the opportunity to tell her how much our family enjoys the resort, and also offered a few observations from the guest perspective....namely, some information that was missing or hard to find on the website, and a suggestion to offer Yaks Sticky Buns in the morning.  (Because...if you've got an attentive listener, I think you should always seize the opportunity to address the important issues.)  She shared some of their dreams and visions for the future of the resort including additional kid-friendly activities and perhaps even a new zip line course on the property.  

For the past 50 years, the Railroad Park Resort has been managed by the original owners.  It's a unique labor of love that is about to enter a new chapter.  As cool as it is to sleep in a train car, the new owners seem determined to make it even better for the kids and families that visit.  Bumping into the new owner on the eve of closing the deal was a bit like chatting with an expectant mother in the final days before her due date.  The anticipation was palpable and the dreams for this (re)birth were grandiose. 

At ages six and eight, I was starting to wonder if our kids would soon be losing interest in the Railroad Park Resort.  It seems impossible that they could transition so quickly from being utterly amazed to sleep in a train car to kind of bored with the "little kid" charm of this place.  But alas, many things change as kids grow up.  For now, they still love it.  And with the enthusiasm and fresh ideas of the new owners, I'm fairly certain we'll keep finding a reason to come back.  

Enthusiastic train lover in front of our hotel room.
Footnote: If you're visiting in the winter and wondering what there is to do in the area to keep your kids entertained, we recommend skating at the Siskiyou Ice Rink, hiking the quick trail to Hedge Creek Falls, or sledding at Bunny Flat.  And of course, Sticky Buns at Yaks. 

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