Craft drinks and train travel might seem like an unlikely pair, especially in Texas.
But, the Texas State Railroad combines vintage train travel with craft beer and Texas wines to make for an unforgettable East Texas experience — one that all Texans should make a point of experiencing. On select evenings through August, lovebirds can put a new spin on “date night” aboard comfortably- appointed vintage train cars, surrounded by a beautiful piney woods forest with their Pints in the Pines.
Departing from the Palestine Depot at 6pm, Texas State Railroad’s evening excursions travel through the sunset into twilight, returning under the romance of twinkling stars. Guests can choose from five classes of cars, including the presidential car (every governor since 1967 has taken a ride) which features old timey buzzers for service. There’s also first class, the dome car, deluxe coach, open air or the caboose—-which seats a private party of eight.
Wine in the Pines features select vintages of wine — such as Miranda Lambert’s new Red55 wines — complemented by chocolate, merriment, and old-fashioned conversation. The wine selection mirrors the transition of day to night during the train ride, from light oaky whites to cocoa-rich dark reds.
During some of the journeys, passengers are pampered with a mouthwatering barbecue dinner midway through the ride at the Rusk depot, which was the original train station. The unique dinner is enhanced by white table linens and twinkling lights in the trees under a Texas sky.
Guests are then treated to more drinks and bites during the relaxing train ride back to the Palestine depot, about a three-to-four hour round trip.
During a typical ride, you’ll travel over 24 bridges and learn some trivia from your personable car host — like the fact that the Texas State Railroad and its tracks are featured in over a dozen major movies, or that a conductor is also referred to as a skipper.
The railroad is also known for its Polar Express rides, which this year run November 15 – December 28 four to six times per day. (Tickets are now on sale.) When the crew does dress rehearsals for their Polar Express events, they invite foster children and nursing home residents to experience the wonder as they give back.
Texans don’t typically get to experience the joys of train rides anymore. But, the Texas State Railroad is putting train travel back in fashion with a one-of-a-kind experience that you will remember for years to come.
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Cover photo courtesy Texas State Railroad
Marika Flatt is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine and the voice of the “Weekend Trip Tip” on NPR’s show, Texas Standard. She is also the founder of the book publicity firm, PR by the Book. Find Marika on Twitter and Instagram. Cullen Parker is an Agricultural Communications and Journalism student at Texas A&M University. He is an agricultural enthusiast, and you can often find him outdoors or playing a concert with his band in Austin or College Station.