Whether you have a thing for trains, or just want to wow the family, train car hotels and renovated depots are a fun way to spice up your vacation plans! With the popularity of Airbnb, more and more restored trains and cabooses are hitting the tourism market. Here’s a rundown of some of the best train cars and depot hotels – perfect for the train enthusiast or the kid who just likes Thomas the Train.
The Chattanooga Choo-Choo – Chattanooga, TN
Reviewed by Well Worn Suitcase
You probably remember the frequently covered song from 1941 (and maybe even the 1984 movie), but did you know the Chattanooga Choo Choo is also a train car hotel? Located in the heart of historic Chattanooga, Tennessee, the hotel calls the former Terminal Station it’s home. You can learn more about the history here.
Checking in to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo you will find yourself in the refurbished Terminal Station. This is a breathtaking space with an 82-foot high ceiling featuring a skylight. Opened in 1909, this station once served 50 passenger trains a day. Now it greets guests with class.
The historic Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel is made up of a series of Pullman Train Cars surrounding a gorgeous garden, as well as the Macarthur Building, which boasts more traditional hotel rooms.
Each Pullman Train Car offers a glimpse back in time, as well as a queen size bed. Some also feature a daybed or pull-out trundle for additional sleeping space. The rooms are tasteful and comfortable, filled with little touches to make you feel at “at home.”
There are four on-site food and beverage options available from morning to late at night. We loved the American Draft, a beer hall offering 29 draft beers inside a charmingly- decorated train car. There is also a large indoor pool, but we spent our time in the Glenn Miller Gardens, chasing tiny frogs and splashing in the unique fountains, surrounded by a beautiful variety of roses.
Whether the train lover in your life is a little one like mine or an adult looking to be spoiled, the Chattanooga Choo Choo is sure to please.
CR Station Train Caboose – Decorah, Iowa
Reviewed by Dining Duster
If you’re looking for a unique train-themed overnight experience, the CR Station Train Caboose. located on the edge of Decorah, IA is an Airbnb you’ll want to book. Outdoor lovers will enjoy the charming Decorah, IA area with various bike trails, hiking trails, and fishing opportunities.
Those who appreciate architecture will enjoy the original details throughout the Caboose, including chair rails and even the captain’s chair!
Amenities include a stand-up shower (towels provided), a window air-conditioner for warm summer nights, coffee pot and drinkware. For cooking, there’s a small refrigerator, microwave, and double hot plate – as well as a grill on the deck.
Animal lovers will like the horse pasture with horses to pet and enjoy! There is a large deck attached with wrought Iron patio furniture. The caboose faces west, providing for beautiful, Iowan sunsets.
The train caboose can sleep up to 4 people. There are bunk beds on the main floor and a queen bed upstairs.
The Cozy Train Caboose is perfect for couples. A small family could also enjoy the area and would get a kick out of the bunks and the entire experience. Danielle and Jim, father/daughter owner and operators are very friendly and welcome guests to any apples or raspberries that are growing around the Caboose.
Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot – Minneapolis, MN
Reviewed by The Walking Tourists
The Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot in Minneapolis, Minnesota combines the comfort of a full-service hotel with the history of the renovated depot that it occupies. The train station itself is over 100 years old.
The Depot pays homage to its historic grandeur with sculptures and artifacts located throughout. The hotel offers luxury accommodations catering to business travelers and families.
The hotel has some great amenities, including a fitness center opened 24 hours a day. There is also a pool open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant, Milwaukee Road has ample seating and the food is fresh and locally-inspired.
Conveniently located in downtown Minneapolis, The Renaissance Minneapolis, The Depot, is steps away from some of the local gems in the area such as the Mill City Museum, the Stone Arch Bridge, and Guthrie Theater. It’s also nearby the Metro Transit Light Rail system and easy access to major freeways to make your way to other attractions in the great Twin Cities area.
The Hocking Hills Caboose – Hocking Hills, Ohio
Reviewed by Yoder Toter Blog (that’s me :))
The Hocking Hills Caboose is an authentic 1950s train caboose! Originally a part of the Seaboard Air Line train systems, the Caboose was used in service until the 1980s.
This caboose ended up in a railyard in Columbus until it was purchased by the Hocking Valley Railway and then renovated for overnight stays! However, the Caboose has new owners and was completely overhauled in 2016- there’s new flooring, decor, as well as new plumbing, heating, and cooling. This makes for hot showers and cool air-conditioning!
The Hocking Hills Caboose has bedding for five! There are two twin beds in one bedroom and 3 single beds (2 top bunks) in the central area of the caboose. The Hocking Hills Caboose has a corner sink, a full-sized toilet, and square shower. It was spacious enough for me to fit in the bathroom with one of our children while helping them shower. Do note that there is no tub.
The caboose offers an efficiency kitchen with fridge, microwave, toaster, and coffee pot. Our families’ favorite area was the outdoor space! A huge deck leads to a firepit area and a small hiking trail.
Hocking Hills is the go-to Ohio destination for hiking and outdoor adventure. And The Hocking Hills Caboose is located only 2 miles from Ash Cave, one of the area’s most visited attractions.
Maybe the best part of the Hocking Hills Caboose? There is no Wifi or data connection! This allows the perfect opportunity for families to disconnect and make eye contact!
Cell phone service is also spotty throughout the Hocking Hills, so this is truly a getaway.
*I was hosted at the Hocking Hills Caboose, but all opinions are my own.
Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown Union Station – Indianapolis, IN
Reviewed by Yoder Toter Blog
The Crowne Plaza Indianapolis is housed in part of Indy’s historic Union Station.
The station was the first Union Station to be constructed in the US in 1888. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower were just a few of the VIPs that walked through Union Station. Now, the station has been fully converted to a hotel and event space. You can learn more about the history HERE.
What makes the Crowne Plaza even more unique is the ability to sleep in one of 26 Pullman cars situated on a track INSIDE of the hotel! Yes, it’s a train car AND depot hotel! While the hotel also offers standard hotel rooms, we chose to sleep in the restored train car! The train car rooms are a little smaller than your standard hotel room but have a decent sized bathroom with tub.
The hotel also offers a swimming pool and an on-site restaurant. Adding to the ambiance (and like The Depot in Minneapolis) are numerous statues showing what travelers may have passed through Union Station during its prime.
This train car lodging is sure to evoke thoughts of a bygone era — or help little minds to imagine a different time and lifestyle!
Camping Caboose – Two Rivers State Park, Waterloo, NE
Reviewed by Well Traveled Nebraskan
If you love camping and you love trains, you will love this caboose cabin! Located at Two Rivers State Park in Southeast Nebraska, about 30 minutes outside of Omaha, is an underrated state park that has the most unique lodging: Train Cabooses!
Staying in these train cars is a bit like camping, or even more appropriate, closer to “glamping.”
You can comfortably sleep up to 6 people per caboose. Each caboose comes with simple amenities like air conditioning, a (very) small kitchenette, a tiny bathroom and shower, outdoor seating area/ deck and a grill! Bedding is not provided.
Whether your toddler loves trains or you just want a really unique experience, you can’t go wrong with train camping at Two Rivers!
Northern Rail Car Inn & Suites – Two Harbors, MN
Reviewed by The Walking Tourists
Northern Rail TrainCar Inn is located on 160 acres of woodlands, about a twenty-five-minute drive north of Duluth on the famous North Shore scenic route. It is a train lovers dream.
This unique lodging option consists of authentic train boxcars turned into comfortable accommodations. While the exterior looks like a metal box, the inside is transformed into a modern hotel room with all of the expected amenities.
There are 16 total rooms with a variety of configurations and themes catering to couples or families. As you wake for the day with the sounds and sights of nature around you including deer and birds, the Northern Rail Car Inn and Suites provides a complimentary continental breakfast in a common space. While you may be in the middle of nature, wi-fi is available and provided. A lending library of books, games, and movies is also available to keep you entertained.
If there on a Friday or Saturday, don’t miss an evening by the campfire for S’mores and stories. This location also makes for a great base for making a trip along the gorgeous North Shore Scenic Highway, which runs from Duluth to the Canadian border. The highway is home to impressive attractions, such as waterfalls, lakes, and Split Rock Lighthouse.
Which train lodging or depot hotel would you most like to visit? I’d love to hear!
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