There is something ageless about riding a miniature train, with a kid on your lap or seated beside you, waiting for that first lurch of the train on the tracks, excitement growing as the whistle blows and the conductor yells, “All aboard!” When my youngest was a toddler and then a preschooler, we rode the Zilker Zephyr (soon to be Zilker Eagle) religiously. An old soul with patience for sitting and a fascination with all things mechanical, he never tired of it. Despite the regular route, in his eyes, it was never the same experience. And for me, there was something magical about sitting on small wooden seats and watching the world pass by, as the rhythm of life slowed to the pace of a miniature train.

So, for this month’s article, I jumped at the chance to hop aboard some of Austin’s best trains. Here are my favorites:

Austin Zoo Train

If you want to ride a train surrounded by alpaca, llamas and alligators (oh my!), head to the Austin Zoo. Here, you can make the train ride part of a bigger zoo experience. As you and your crew wait for the train, wander the trails of this 15-acre, non-profit rescue zoo where you can visit and feed some of the animals. A 15-minute train ride will take you winding through a mile of Texas hill country terrain as it chugs along past longhorn, ostriches and deer on the return trip. The train runs daily on the hour and half-hour. Rides cost $5 (for kids 2 and over) on top of zoo admission. (Ask about birthday parties too.)

Cedar Rock Train

On the other side of town in Southwest Williamson County Regional Park, you’ll find the Cedar Rock Train. This electric train was hand-built by owner Ken Knowles. He and his wife Holly laid the 1.4-mile track that circles through the park, where passengers wave to joggers, fishermen and baseball and cricket players. Kids also love the pre-recorded whistles, train-themed music and chugging sounds that add to the experience. Another highlight is passing through a spooky tunnel on the return trip to the depot at the Shady Oak Junction. The train runs daily at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour, except on weekday afternoons when it runs once an hour at a quarter till. Purchase tickets for $3 at the depot (babies ride free). On weekends, this area is hopping with kids enjoying the train-themed playscape and picnic area (that can also be reserved for parties). Look for a miniature-golf course coming soon.

Zilker Eagle

Also on its way is the much-anticipated, all-electric Zilker Eagle. It takes its name from the original miniature train that chugged through Zilker Park from 1961- 1996. It was later replaced by the Zilker Zephyr that made its last run three years ago, leaving a whole generation of babies to toddlers waiting to ride this well-loved route through the park and along the lake. The depot has been spruced up with a new loading platform; a new mural has been painted beneath the Barton Springs bridge; and tracks have been re-laid. As soon as testing, training and inspections are finished this spring, look for the Zilker Eagle to be coursing down the tracks.

Lucksinger is a mom of two who always enjoys a good train ride. She is editor of Austin Family magazine and author of the local family guidebook, “Exploring Austin with Kids.”

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