For most people, there are some things in their hometown that sound fun and exciting, but for some reason, they’ve never done. Sometimes I think it’s harder to do things in your own town than it is on vacation. When you’re somewhere else you know your days are limited and so you take advantage of every opportunity, but when it’s something back home, you know you have all the time in the world. But somehow years go by and you never actually take the time to try that new thing.
That has been the case for my sister, Katie, and me over the past few years. We have a handful of things that we keep talking about doing, but that we’ve never actually made time for. So this year, we decided that we were going to start checking things off our ‘Idaho bucket list.’ First item: take a ride on the Thunder Mountain Line from Horseshoe Bend to Banks.
The Thunder Mountain Line has been around for over 100 years. It was originally used for mining gold and ore as the roads at the time couldn’t handle the incoming freight. Over the years as the line expanded there were several turf wars between different railroad tycoons. After a few years it became apparent that railroads were also needed for the timber industry. As gold mining died out, they continued to use the railroad for freight, mail, and passengers that wanted to access the mountain lakes and rivers. The railroad continued to be supported by the timber industry until recently.
The Thunder Mountain Line now has several themed rides throughout the year. My sister, Katie, and I were very excited to try out the Ghost Dinner ride. Here’s the description from their website: Guests will be greeted in Horseshoe Bend by teams of paranormal investigators from the International Paranormal Research Group and assigned to cars. Guests will be served dinner on the train up to Banks with readings of historical stories being told. Upon arrival at Banks, groups will be led through 4 stations on the premises: Tour with EVP readings of site, analyze readings and sessions from prior investigation and EVP readings in house. Each train ride is 3.5 hours (round trip) to Banks with a Spaghetti Dinner served during the train ride. Unfortunately, it turned out that they weren’t offering the Ghost Dinner ride this year.
Instead we decided to do the Haunted Dinner described as: You are traveling on a train to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but also of mind. A Journey into a wonderous land whose boundaries are that of the imagination. Come ride the Thunder Mountain Line and tour the haunted forest for this adventure! Each train ride is 3.5 hours (round trip) to Banks with a Spaghetti Dinner served during the train ride. We were very excited about our ride and hoping that it would be a truly haunting.
We showed up 45 minutes prior to departure as requested. We took a couple photos of the train, station, and holiday decorations prior to boarding.
Check in/Gift shop:
Train Christmas ornaments:
There are three different classes on the train: Standard, First and Executive. Katie and I decided that we would splurge on the Executive car which included lounge style booths. It was also supposed to come with access to a private open air car, but it was closed for the evening.
The train ride included dinner. When we walked into the car and took our seats, there was already salad and an appetizer of meats, cheeses, crackers and grapes on our table. Each table got a bottle of local wine with the meal. The main course was spaghetti and meatballs. They weren’t chintzy on the servings either. We got a full plate of spaghetti and two pieces of garlic bread. The food was really good and Katie and I both left very full.
After we were seated, we quickly became aware that our expectations for the evening were somewhat off. Based on the description above and the title of the ride, we thought we would be experiencing something with a haunting feel or at least a haunted forest. However, the description was a little misleading, as it turned out that we were in for an evening of dinner theater. The storyline was of John Baptiste and the Bayou in Louisiana after the Civil War. There was a gypsy woman who was looking for a man to help protect her from her son, who had been turned into a swamp monster after falling in love with a beautiful woman.
The River City Entertainment actors were good and even put up with two couples in our car that were having a great time due to how much they drank, but who weren’t really paying attention to the show. During the first couple scenes, they almost ruined the show twice by their lack of listening and rude ignorance. Fortunately, the woman playing the gypsy was no amateur and handled both situations with grace while staying in character.
When we arrived in Banks, everyone on the train disembarked and there was one final scene with the swamp monster, magical chants (The Monster Mash and Love Shack) and a conclusion where the gypsy mother is able to bring love back to her son’s heart. After the show we had the opportunity to take pictures with the actors. This brief stop in Banks gave everyone a chance to stretch their legs and breathe in some fresh air before our return ride to Horseshoe Bend.
Since the show ended in Banks, the return ride on the train had no entertainment, aside from the music they played in the individual cars. They served dessert: cheesecake with a chocolate and caramel sauce, and people were able to walk around the train. Katie and I decided to spend most of the return trip on the shared open air car. It was nice to enjoy the cool breeze since it had been 90 degrees that day. Since it was dark, you could only see the outline of the trees and the river, but it was very peaceful to stand outside and breathe in nature.
Overall, we had an enjoyable evening, but I must admit that I was a little disappointed, simply because it wasn’t what I had expected. The actors were wonderful, the food was great, and I think that it was a really good value for everything that you got for your money. However, I think we would have liked it a bit more if we had known what to expect. One thing’s for sure, if they ever bring back the Ghost Dinner ride, we’re totally buying tickets.
For more information about Thunder Mountain: http://www.thundermountainline.com/
For more information about River City Entertainment: http://rivrcity.com/