PA’s Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant – Fandom Spots Review

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As a single mom, I find it difficult to juggle all that I am and all that I do. I found myself tuckered out from being sick, working multiple jobs, raising a kid, and volunteering. I concluded that I had earned myself a vacation. And, with my birthday on the horizon, it felt like the co-sign I needed to book that trip! I decided that I wanted an experience that was opposite from life in the city but felt unique like myself and the things I enjoy.  After some research, I followed my fandom to the Red Caboose Motel and Restaurant.

The Red Caboose Motel and Restaurant in Lancaster County, PA is a motel that has taken old  25-ton N-5 cabooses and converted them into comfortable motel rooms. It’s like if all the cars on a train were comfortable modern sleeper cars! This gave me visions of being a student on my way to Hogwarts, being an excited child on the Polar Express, riding into Westworld looking for scandalous adventure, or escaping my landlord like the two sisters from a White Christmas.  I convinced my family to take the trip with me to this creative fandom destination in the middle of PA Amish Country.


After spending 3 days and 2 nights at the Red Caboose I’m going to give you my review of the place.  Similar to my last destination review, I’ll break it down to the good, the bad, and the meh. So, all aboard for a fun review of a Fandom Spot!

~The Good~

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The Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant perfectly executed its inventive theme.  The moment you step on the property you feel instantly transported to a different time and place, you are in the world of your favorite fandom!  The air is clean and the sky is so blue you can hardly believe it is real.  Each train car is different, they feature different locations on the outside. Some cars will take you to Alaska, Central Maine, the Canadian Pacific, or the Northern Pacific Railway. The sleeping cars themselves are small but cozy, remember you are sleeping in a real train car. The Red Caboose can accommodate a romantic night for 2, a girls trip for 4, or a family of 6! If sleeping on a train is not your thing, honestly you have to experience it, there is more traditional lodging.

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Hotel Shady Rest has the essence of a time long ago that’s because it is the real deal. This authentic colonial-style hotel is perfect for larger families or those needing more space. Shady Rest is conveniently located on the property right next to my favorite part…the petting zoo!

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The petting zoo is a free activity at the Red Caboose Motel. At the petting zoo, you’ll meet pigs, mini horses, goats, and a beautiful alpaca! The animal feed costs 25 cents for a handful and all the animals are aware of the sound the feed machine makes.  So, be prepared to be every animal’s new best friend. The animals are all friendly, cute, and greedy. Since these are animals living on a farm, you will get dirty. You’ll want to bring hand wipes and hand sanitizer with you. Also, wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.

Next on the list of good things is the restaurant! Casey Jones is the onsite restaurant at the Red Caboose Motel. Casey Jones is designed to look like an old fashion dining car! Similar to ones you may have seen in “The Murder on the Orient Express.”  The menu offers classic diner fare that is made with quality ingredients and love. My family and I went for lunch and we all felt we got a bang for our bucks! The chocolate chip french toast was decadent and filling.  The restaurant also serves lunch and dinner, and they host special dinners during the holidays. As you can tell from some of the other photos, The Red Caboose is transitioning to its Christmas decor! This makes it a great destination for the holidays to give little ones the Polar Express experience.

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The last thing on our good list is the shopping! Not only does the Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant has a great gift shop, but the area it is located also has every major retailer you could wish for! You are about 20 minutes away from the Park City Mall and 15 minutes away from the Tanger Outlets. Lancaster County has many Amish shops featuring delicious foods and desserts, and their expert furniture making.  And, it is not an understatement when I say they have a cornucopia of eateries to select from in the area.  They have everything from fast food to cafes and fine dining establishments.  Between you and me, I did a lot of damage shopping.  At least I got all my Christmas shopping done!

~The Bad~ 

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At night it gets extremely dark! There is not very much outside lighting which creates an eerie atmosphere. I don’t believe this is something the motel is completely responsible for, but it’s not easy to locate this place at night.  Another not-so-great aspect is that everything closes early and quiet time starts at 10 PM EST.  This isn’t just for the motel itself but all the nearby stores close early too. I’m not sure if one thing is the cause of the other but if you’re looking for more late-night fun or to party in your caboose, the Red Caboose may not be for you. Then again, this is an establishment more suited for families and those looking for a simple experience. so, this issue doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the motel but more so on one’s expectations.

Still, the lack of lighting can be dangerous. Especially to those with disabilities involving motor function or guests suffering from phobias related to darkness.

~The Meh~

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My only meh is that besides the petting zoo, there are not many activities to do on the property.  Again, I’m aware that this is a motel and not a resort, but I’m just sharing my experience. The Red Caboose does have horse and buggy rides, a small shed they are calling an “arcade,” a set of low swings, and a train museum a few feet away. These are all fine but nothing that makes you say, “I don’t have to leave the property! I have everything here.” There are going to be some guests looking for that “all-inclusive” experience for cheap and some who enjoy the luxury of not having to drive during a vacation.

It’s also easier for those traveling with children to have a location that can provide all their vacation needs.  That says more about expectations and less about the motel, but the motel may want to consider adding a bit more to do.  Then again if you’re looking for more excitement you can drive 40 minutes to Hershey Park.

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I give the Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Not only did I enjoy my experience, so did my family. The trip was relaxing, fun, and at times healing. We enjoyed the slower pace but indulged in the faster pace when we needed to. The staff was pleasant, the caboose created a unique sleeping experience. Honestly, some of the best sleep I have ever had! The food was scrumptious. The animals were cute and friendly. And my family assisted and let me live out my Hogwarts fantasy.

House Slytherin, Baby! 

If you are looking for a unique experience that helps you break away from your fast-paced reality, I highly recommend the Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant.  For more information on this Fandom Spot check out the motel’s website!

About Yali Perez

When she's not writing about pop culture for Fandom Spotlite, curating social media for the*gameHERS, or helping to produce the DB4L podcast, she is a single mom to the coolest kid in the world. In Yali's free time she likes to bake, exercise, watch horror films, and play Mario Kart. Yali's goal as a writer is to share her nontraditional and colorful view of the world with readers everywhere.

View all posts by Yali Perez

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