Children and train buffs love McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park (7301 E. Indian Bend Rd., 480/312-2312, www.therailroadpark.com , open daily, closed Thanksgiving and Christmas), a popular city park near Paradise Valley that began as the personal ranch of Anne and Fowler McCormick, a grandson of John D. Rockefeller.
Today, visitors can ride a scale reproduction of a Colorado narrow-gauge railroad that Anne’s son, Guy Stillman, donated to the park (rumor has it Walt Disney tried to buy the railroad for one of his parks). The train carries passengers on a one-mile loop through a desert Xeriscape arboretum.
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park has an air of Old Americana meets Old West to it, with a general store selling hand-dipped ice cream and an adobe-style playground. The beautifully restored carousel and shaded ramadas make it a popular spot for parties, concerts, and events throughout the year.
Antique engines and train cars dot the property, including a Pullman car that was used by every president from Herbert Hoover to Dwight Eisenhower. Be sure to check out the “Merci Train,” one of 49 boxcars donated by France to thank Americans for their aid after World War II. The cars were originally loaded with personal belongings that ranged from wooden shoes and toys to wedding dresses and war medals from dead soldiers.
Admission to McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is free, with $1 tickets required to ride the train and carousel and to visit the museum exhibition. The train and carousel schedules vary per month. Check the website for detailed information on hours.