Happy 20th, Irvine Park Railroad

The fam-sweet choo-choo marks a big anniversary in February.

Irvine Park Railroad

TWO DECADES ALONG: When does a kid-cute destination, one that's catered to area families over the years and through numerous holidays, become the kind of place that parents can claim that they, too, loved as a kid? It's all in the years the spot has logged. Historic theme parks like Knott's Berry Farm can make this particular claim, given its longevity, and natural wonders like Joshua Tree and Yosemite can say it, too. So when does a destination cross that mark, from "kids enjoy it" to "parents who enjoyed it as kids now take their kids"?

GIVE IT A COUPLE OF DECADES, at least, many would say, to reach that hallowed status. It's a loose science, and no firm number can apply, but since Irvine Park Railroad, that photo-fun, toddler-cute favorite in Orange is marking its 20th, you can bet that some parents who went as kids in 1996 are now returning with their own tots. It's auspicious occasion, the start of a new decade, and a third one at that. But the choo-choo, which is made for young'uns (and their grown-ups) is not charging new-decade-y prices in honor of its anniversary weekend, which rolls around on Saturday, Feb. 20 and Sunday, Feb. 21. It will, as it has done on other special weekends in the past, charge 1996-style admission, which was, if you recall when you were a kid riding the train, was only two bucks.

YOU'LL ALSO REMEMBER, from back in the day, that Irvine Park Railroad isn't just about the tracks and engine and cars but the other stuff to do, too, like the gold-panning and the face painting and the snacks and the sweet park setting, which has a bit of the feel of the Old West to it. It's a year-round favorite, even in the winter, and several holidays, including Easter, feature visits from famous holiday superstars (hello, big bunny). Ready to revisit 1996 with your kids? You don't need to get that haircut you had back when you were 9 or even where the rolled-up jeans or jelly shoes you favored; you only need to make for Orange and the longtime family favorite. (At 20 years, "longtime" can truly be used for a destination, another feather in its cap.)

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