As Brightline, Florida’s new express passenger rail service, prepares to celebrate the opening of its Miami station this weekend, I thought it was time for me to finally get my act together and share our experience riding the rails earlier this year.

During this past Spring Break our family enjoyed what is sometimes referred to as a “staycation,” which is really just parent code for “we didn’t go anywhere because we spent all our travel money on family weddings this year.” There were only so many days I could fill with TV and video games before I began to feel guilty about my parenting skills, so I tried to come up with inexpensive but fun ways to explore the area. We went to the beach. We went to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. We went to Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

Trying Something New

It was fun but the kids were definitely giving off a Been There, Done That vibe and that’s when I decided to try out the new Brightline train from West Palm to Ft. Lauderdale. They were offering discounted rates (at the time of publication they are still offering discounts although different ones than we used) and the Museum of Discovery and Science is less than a block from the station. So we invited some friends to join us and we headed to West Palm.

Using Brightline Station at West Palm Beach

Getting to the West Palm Station was fairly easy. There was a lot of construction right at the parking garage entrance but Brightline had people all around directing traffic and giving information for newbies. Parking was free and there were lots of people inside the station to help us get our tickets and direct us where to go. We arrived with time to spare which was great because the station waiting area is very nice. When I say very nice, I mean, like unbelievably nice. Brand spanking new and everything was spotless. The kids LOVED the play area and the adult waiting area (right next to the kids) was smartly equipped with plenty of outlets and charging stations.

Brightline Station Waiting Area

The Train Ride

The announcement was made that our train had arrived (on time) and that we had about 10 minutes to board. We didn’t have any luggage beyond backpacks but some travelers had strollers and such with them. They boarded with all of that (larger luggage can be checked when you get your ticket) and we were off.

There are two options for seats: Select and Smart. The Select option is slightly more expensive and apparently comes with free beverages and more space. As you can see from our video, we had more than enough space in the Smart section. In fact, the younger girls were beyond thrilled with the fact that they could spread their toys out and play at the table and my older child was happy to have a plug for her phone. For the grown-ups, not driving down to Ft. Lauderdale was a big perk.

When You Get to Ft. Lauderdale

When we arrived we asked for directions to the museum and were told it was right around the corner. In fact, you can see it from the station but that doesn’t mean it’s across the street. We actually found it slightly awkward to get there and at one point we were walking through an alley and then around a not awesome* street corner.  Luckily we were there at a time of day that made it acceptable, but be ready because by virtue of the newness of the station, there are still some parts around it that need to be built up.

As advertised, the Museum of Discovery and Science is very close and a great place for kids to explore. Pro-tip: If you have a family membership to the South Florida Science Museum you can show them your card for two free tickets. Although there do appear to be other options, getting to the airport or other parts of Ft. Lauderdale are probably best done with a Lyft or Uber.

*On our way back there was a man who appeared to be mentally ill and definitely drunk who was yelling at everyone from the street corner. We were obviously fine and this is something children who are used to larger cities probably wouldn’t even notice but my country bumpkins were shook 🙂 

 

9.0
Score

Pros

  • Sparkling Clean Facilities
  • Free Parking
  • Discounted Fares
  • Spacious Seating
  • On Time and Courteous Service

Cons

  • Not everything is finished
  • Tickets can be cheaper at station than online
  • Will need to use second form of transportation for most destinations
Convenience
8
Facilities
10
Novelty
9
Kid-Friendly Entertainment Value
9

Final Verdict

We had a great time and will definitely go again. Riding this train often could get expensive but we'll be happy to take advantage of the discounts for as long as they are offering, enjoying this "hidden" treasure for as long as we can before everyone discovers it!