All aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad!
Looking for something different to do this summer? How about taking a ride into yesteryear on a real passenger train?
The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is one of the oldest tourist excursion railways in the country, and is becoming more popular than ever. The train, complete with characteristic whistle blows, runs through the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, stretching 33,000 acres of land.
There is history here, too. This railroad has been operating since 1880, and for years, transported coal to Cleveland, Akron, and Canton from the Tuscarawas River Valley. After a decade of operation, the Valley Railway became part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The passenger trains often provided rides for those wishing to escape the hardships of urban industrial life.
These days, it’s all about having fun. You can ride the rails and enjoy the sights as you take in the beauty of Ohio’s only national park. Choose your trip from Wednesday through Sunday throughout summer and fall. The train stops at smaller stations along the way, and there are several trips available. Anywhere from a short (just under an hour) ride, to an all-day excursion. An all-day pass allows you to hop on and off the train to sightsee.
Megan Butcher, a Kent State University student from Akron is a ticket seller there. “I decided to work there because it’s a recreation/tourist activity, so I thought it would be fun, and it is! I answer questions that help visitors plan their trips and get the kids excited about the ride.”
While on board, you can wear headphones and listen to the stories and sounds of the Cuyahoga Valley through the Voices of the Valley audio tour. Learn about the earliest settlement of the Valley. Find out about the Ohio & Erie Canal and Valley Railway, the ultimate creation of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and its wildlife. On weekends, hop on for breakfast, brunch or lunch.
Another great way to enjoy this adventure is to bike or hike the Towpath Trail in one direction and hop on the train to ride back to your car. “The bike aboard program is my favorite event they offer,” says Butcher. “It’s a cheap, fun and a unique way to get exercise. I go from Akron to the Rockside station because it’s all downhill, which makes it a little easier.”
CVSR offers a variety of programs, including education days and special events. Perhaps the most renowned railroad trip here is the wintertime Polar Express. If you have children, this is highly recommended by all who have experienced it. The ride includes hot chocolate, Santa, and other forms of entertainment. Butcher fondly recalls teaching riders on one car the song, “Frosty the Snowman,” in sign language. “I love seeing the adults trying to create magic for their children and getting in touch with their own inner child,” she says.
While the kids get to enjoy the magic and excitement of riding a real train, adults can enjoy that, and more. There are two adult excursions that take place several times throughout the year –– The Grape Escape Wine-Tasting Excursion, and Ales on Rails.
While on board this unique excursion, you’ll be introduced to five different wines, and learn of each one’s characteristics, such as the body, aroma, bouquet and finish. The wines are served with chef-prepared hors d'oeuvres. Those with special dietary needs, such as vegetarian or gluten free, are welcome to bring their own food on board. Participants also receive a CVSR commemorative tasting glass. The trip lasts approximately two-and-one-half to three hours long.
Ales on Rails is similar to the wine excursion, but caters to beer lovers.
For more information, see www.cvsr.com. To purchase tickets or gift certificates, visit the customer service office from 9 am–4 pm Monday through Friday, located at the Peninsula Depot, 1630 West Mill Street in Peninsula. Or call 1-800-468-4070, ext. 1.