My girls and I have never ridden a train before, and when they opportunity to do so presented I jumped at the chance.
The Whitewater Valley Railroad is a non-profit, volunteer run, historic railroad that operates out of Connersville, IN, and is absolutely worth a visit.
Whitewater Valley Railroad offers a number of excursions and special events during the summer, fall and winter months. One of the railroad’s most popular excursions is a round-trip ride from Connersville to the historic town of Metamora, IN.
The adventure begins at the very well-kept train station in downtown Connersville, which also serves as a small history museum of the local railroad. In addition to selling and picking up tickets, the station houses a souvenir shop that also sells an assortment of snacks and treats. We packed a backpack with some snacks, card games, coloring books and lots of water. This is a good time to mention that the train does not have a bathroom, and the station offers your last opportunity for a potty break before arriving in Metamora.
The conductor called all passengers to board promptly at noon. The train pulls several, open windowed passenger cars that are made up of rows of leather, bench seats, with two seats facing one another. The girls and I had ample room for the 3 of us, our backpack, and my camera bag. Keep in mind that the cars are not temperature controlled, and you’ll need to be sure to dress accordingly.
The hour and a half ride through the Whitewater River Valley is gorgeous and serene. A constant mix of woods, farmland, and peeks of the Whitewater River throughout. I was concerned about the girls growing restless during the ride, but the three of us spent most of the trip just watching the scenery roll by, with occasional card games to balance out the trip. It certainly helps that the conductor, who made several rounds through the passenger cars, was friendly and absolutely delightful with all the kids on the train.
Metamora is a historic canal town and home to many shops, restaurants, and B&Bs. With two hours to spend in town it’s good idea to plan a bit ahead to try and maximize your time there (check out the town website). I highly recommend the horse-drawn canal boat ride. It’s a 25 minute ride on a converted freight vessel that now ferries passengers up and down the canal. The ride is very leisurely and towed by two large, draft horses. The cost is reasonable, and the experience of riding on a boat drawn by horses is really unique.
After cruising up and down the canal, I highly recommend visiting Grannies Cook Jar & Ice Cream. The shop is recognized as the Guinness World Record holder for the most cookie jars in a collection. As the name suggests, they also serve some genuinely good ice cream in delicious handmade waffle cones.
At the other end of town is the working grist mill. The mill is water powered and is open free to the public. You can even purchase some of the corn meal and flour produced by the mill. It’s a fun experience, and has the added benefit of being indoors for those moments when your kiddos want a reprieve from the elements.
We finished out our time in Metamora by walking through the town and taking in all the unique shops and friendly locals. The only disappointment was that our time was so short. There is definitely a day trip to be had in Metamora, and getting a two hour sample was enough to pique my interest in a return visit!
At around 4 pm the train sounded four horns, meaning it was time to board for our return trip to Connersville. The ride back was just as relaxing, if not more so, after a long day spent exploring. We had a wonderful experience on the Whitewater River Valley Railroad. It’s a unique, local experience that is easy to recommend as a family-friendly way to spend a Saturday or Sunday.