Friday, March 23, 2012

A Day Riding the Rails

Spring break, three grandsons, a grandma and papa and one very fun day riding the rails describes the very special outing we recently took with our grandsons in a nutshell.

If you live near Phoenix, Arizona or plan to visit the area the Metro Light Rail System is one way to fill a full day of new adventures for anyone of any age. Papa and I planned our day around what we thought three of our grandsons who are ages 10, 8, and 5 would really enjoy.

It was a new adventure for all of us. Papa and I were as excited to share it with the boys as they were to experience it for themselves. Our drive from Casa Grande, Arizona to catch the far East end of the light rail route (The Sycamore and Main Street Station) was a forty-five minute drive. To help keep the boys busy during the ride we printed out a  light rail activity packet for each of the boys that we found online. I put them on clip boards and packed some crayons for the ride. The boys worked together to complete the activities.

We also spent some time talking about light rail safety and before we knew it we had arrived to the free park and ride parking location.

Purchasing our tickets was an exciting moment for the boys.

We went with the all-day ticket option so that we could get on and off of the train as we wished. As a heads up our two adult all-day tickets had to be purchased separately from the boys reduced fare  tickets at the kiosk. Our youngest grandson was free because he was under six years old. Our party of five was able to purchase all-day rail passes for just over ten dollars. What a deal!

We were really puzzled on how to board the train. While standing back thinking we had to wait for the doors to open to board we noticed a passenger just walk up and touch the center of the door. Like magic the door opened and he walked on board with the door quickly closing behind him. The shiny glass doors have touch screen buttons to open the door. The boys thought that was way cool! This little tip just might save you some of the embarrassment that papa and I experienced.

Choosing our seats was a no brainer! Our one grandson that always stays very close to his papa whenever he has the chance grabbed the seat right next to his papa and the oldest and youngest brothers grabbed the coveted seat of any technology minded little boy. They were lucky enough to get the very best view of the drivers seat, the drivers view, all of the buttons, switches, screens, lights, and gadgets!

photo from bridgeandtunnelclub

Papa and I had pre-planned our route so we were able to tell the boys which stop we would be exiting the rail. The stops are posted above the doors. The boys were able to read, watch, and listen to the verbal announcements as they were made to help us be ready to get off. The stops are only about 20 seconds long! We first exited the train at the 3rd Street and Mill station in Tempe.

This stop gave us a short walk down Mill Avenue to the Tempe Town Lake Park. The walk gave us a great view of the big "A" on the mountain for ASU. Papa was able to share the story of the rivalry between ASU and the UofA and how that big "A" is guarded around the clock when the two teams are going to play one another to keep the UofA fans from painting the "A" with their own school color. The boys decided that they would like to hike up to the ASU "A" one day.

On our way to the Tempe Town Lake my grandson spotted his name on a historical Mill Avenue building.

This landmark and district has a personal story that we shared with our grandsons. When their mother was a teenager she took a day trip much like we were enjoying with my brother, her uncle. The two of them shared a special bond and an interest in photography. The bridges, the Hayden Flour Mill, the Salt River bed (before the Tempe Town Lake), and other historical sites in the area were photographed by both of them while their mother was nurtured and taught photography skills by her uncle. The memory that was created that day and the time spent with her uncle is deeply treasured by their mother.  She lost her very loved and respected uncle a few years later to cancer.

Once we hit the wide open space of the park the boys, well, were boys! They ran, they climbed, they threw rocks, they checked out all of the bridges, and they so wanted to rent a boat. Papa and I told them we would save that for another day. 

As secretly planned, what they did do was work up a good appetite. 
Next on our agenda was lunch.

The boys had picked up a map of the Mill Avenue District. Papa showed them on the map where we planned to eat lunch. The boys were able to help us find our way using the map.

The boys found interest and learning in many things. Such as:

Parking meters, corner news stands with piles of free printed materials, the street performers, crosswalks with lights, Taxi's, and more.

When we arrived to our lunch destination we were treated to a very unexpected surprise.

Even the boys took out their camera's to take a picture of this sign at Five Guys Burgers. What's the significance you may ask? Blackfoot, ID is well known to the boys. That is where their daddy grew up, where their other Nana and Papa live, where their great-grandmas live and where one of their great uncles farms potatoes! 

The high tech soda machine was a big hit too!

As were those yummy Blackfoot fries!
After lunch we headed back to the light rail station.

We couldn't pass up this perfect photo op.

I love that they brought their own cameras.

On the lookout for our train. 
I can't wait to share what exciting things
we did at our next stop.

We are just getting started....

Tips: We packed a backpack for our day trip. Our supplies included a few snacks, water bottles, juice boxes, band-aids, hand sanitizer, kleenex and some pain reliever for papa and I in case we developed any aches and pains while keeping up with the boys. (By the way, there is no eating or drinking allowed on the train.)

If you prefer not having the cost of eating out a sack lunch at the park could be a great option.


  1. What a great adventure! I'll be back to read the rest. Maybe I should think about taking Amara on a train trip...

  2. This sounds like such fun! I could do the same thing with my grands. It's about a 40-minute drive for me to reach a rail line, and the zoo and several museums are right on the line. Thanks for the idea!