Q I want to take my 10-year-old granddaughter to an interesting, non-commercial place that I can reach in a one-day train trip and preferably not need a car. I prefer New England, New York or perhaps eastern Canada.
AUnfortunately, Amtrak Vacations went belly up last fall and no replacement has been instituted. So you'll have to do a little planning -- but not too much. For Northeast travel, the train pulls up to a variety of spots that would delight any child. Bonnie Krezel, an Amtrak sales agent and mother, recommends Boston; Mystic, Conn.; and Lancaster, Pa.
Starting from the top: Boston is about a 7 1/2-hour ride from D.C. and offers such kid-friendly attractions as the Boston Children's Museum and Boston Harbor cruises, where you can go whale watching or speed down to Cape Cod. Info: Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, 888-SEE-BOSTON, www.bostonusa.com. Mystic, about six hours by rail, has similar water-oriented attractions, including its aquarium and Mystic Seaport. The Mystic Coast & Country Travel Industry Association (800-MY-COAST, www.mycoast.com) offers Family Fun Trail coupons for six nearby attractions. If you prefer pastures to ocean, Lancaster County has Amish buggy rides; Central Market, the country's oldest continuously operating farmers market; and the Lancaster Barmstormers, the local baseball team. The 2 1/2-hour trip requires a transfer in Philly. Info: Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-PA-DUTCH, www.padutchcountry.com.
At 10-plus hours, as well as a switch to Via Rail Canada, the cross-border option is a haul -- though, if you're up for it, Montreal and Toronto are the obvious choices. An alternative is Vermont: On Amtrak's Vermonter, you can ride to the end (St. Albans) and stop anywhere for 24 hours for no extra fee (when booking, ask for the North America Rail Pass). Amherst, Mass. (don't miss the exceptional Eric Carle Museum of Picture Art), and Brattleboro, Montpelier and Essex Junction, Vt., are all good stops.
Prices vary, but two children ages 2 to 15 ride for half-price with an adult. Also check for summer specials on family travel. Info: 800-USA-RAIL, www.amtrak.com. For more ideas on New England: Visit New England, www.visitnewengland.com.
Do you have info on barge trips on the Erie Canal in New York?