Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day Out With Thomas

The boys are totally obsessed with trains--Jake in particular, but Alex is following right in his footsteps.  We have a massive collection of trains, train movies, train table and related accoutrement, and Jake is like a walking train encyclopedia.  So when I learned a few months ago about an event called "Day Out with Thomas," featuring everyone's favorite #1 Blue Tank Engine, I jumped at the tickets!  We invited Dan's parents to join us for the excitement, and I have been so looking forward to the event and the family fun ever since.  In our family, we don't usually tell our kids what we are doing with any advance warning--I've learned my lesson after having to calm distraught children when plans fall through or when the weather cancels the fun, and also after having to listen to, "Mommy, how many more days until ______?  I wanna go there NOW!!" eight hundred million times a day leading up to the planned event.  So the kids didn't know we were going to meet Sir Topham Hatt and ride on Thomas until we told them after Dan's parents arrived at our house this past Saturday morning.  To say they were excited is an understatement!  I was a little concerned about Abby's enthusiasm, given that trains are not typically a girly thing, but she was jumping up and down alongside her brothers--it was adorable.  We all piled into the van and began the few-hour trek to the Baltimore, MD, B&O Railroad Museum where the event was being held.  The weather was gorgeous, we made great time on the trip, and we tailgated a quick lunch before heading into the event.

I had read a few reviews of Day Out with Thomas, so I had a little idea of what to expect once we arrived--but I will say that I was totally unprepared for how enormous and awesome the old trains on display at the Railroad Museum were.  The museum itself is there year-round (the Thomas event only comes once a year), and right now, they have an interesting display about trains in the Civil War.  First, we walked through a large warehouse annex with old trains parked side-by-side--some of those trains were open, so we got to walk through them.  The kids got to see where the coal was kept and how it was shoveled into the fire box, and they could touch all the controls inside one of the engines--it was amazing!  Jake was in awe--he could have spent all day just in that warehouse.  We exited that warehouse and were directed toward a large building next door--which turned out to be a beautiful train roundhouse!  It used to be a real working roundhouse, but now, it houses display engines and the Civil War exhibit, as well as the museum gift shop (which has some great stuff in it--I would like to shop without the kids sometime!).

Jake and Alex with a train engine

It was really cool to see a roundhouse in person--the kids have one on their train table, but the size of it in person was incredible.  The engines parked inside year-round are beautiful--in really good shape, with viewing areas inside to see what passenger trains used to look like, an old mail train with a sorting station, and even old train bathrooms!  We all had fun walking through the displays.  A lot of Thomas things were set up inside the roundhouse--the kids enjoyed the "imagination station" with coloring pages, stamps, and a few train tables.  There was also a coin-operated train that I believe is in the museum year-round:

it moved like a bucking bronco!

The kids (and Dan) got their picture taken with Sir Topham Hatt:

Sir Topham Hatt is so dapper!

There was also a Thomas movie viewing area inside the roundhouse, with a Thomas story read on the hour by one of the staffers:

all lined up for story time--so cute!

Alex getting into the story--pointing out Cranky the Crane

They also had large screens hanging from some of the display engines, featuring pictures of the Thomas trains--the kids loved them!

with Percy, Thomas, and Rosie

Jake and Alex love the Diesel Engines!

Once we finished the activities inside the roundhouse (although honestly, we could have spent all day in there--but I knew there was fun stuff outside, too!), we headed outside to take in all the fun there before our scheduled train ride on Thomas.  There was a very large track set up right outside the roundhouse, with lots of trains running around the track--they had Thomas trains running for this event, but I imagine they run other model trains throughout the year.  The kids got a kick out of watching the different engines chug by!

here goes Percy, delivering the mail!

here comes Thomas!

One of my favorite parts of the day was this really fun train ride--it didn't look like much, but it went up and around in circles...first slow, then fast!  The kids were screaming and cheering, and Jake threw his arms up in the air like a roller coaster veteran.  :)  It was so cute--and the ride was totally free!  I don't know if they normally have this ride on site at the museum--I hope so, because if we go back, I'm sure the kids will want to ride it again.

all three kids having fun on the ride

Jake with his arms up, Alex sitting like a king on a throne

There was also a train carousel on site--I'm pretty sure that it is a permanent part of the museum.  Each ride was $2 per person, so Dan rode with the kids while I stayed off to take pictures.  The trains go up and down just like horses on a carousel, and the trains were in high demand--there are only 4 of them on the carousel!  Jake snagged one, and fortunately, the other two kids wanted horses.  :)

getting ready for the carousel to start

As a special part of the Day Out with Thomas festivities, a local farm had set up a petting zoo and pony rides!  I was totally shocked to find out that the pony rides were free--awesome!  Abby had her heart set on riding, so we all got into line--I hadn't asked the boys if they wanted to ride, but they had all ridden a pony at the pumpkin patch last fall, so I thought it might be something they all wanted to do.  While we were waiting, Alex looked at me and said in his best defiant, stubborn voice, "I don't wanna ride a pony!"  I said that he didn't have to ride if he didn't want to, and he just kept repeating that he didn't want to ride a pony.  I was about to hop out of line with him when he said, "I want to ride a horse!" in that same little stubborn voice of his.  I cracked up, as did the woman in front of us in line--she turned around and said, "Well, at least he knows what he wants!"  There were two ponies giving rides--one was a smaller white one, and one was a larger brown one.  Alex apparently chose the brown one because it was a horse, not a pony.  Check out how happy the kid was getting on the horse!
Alex's horse ride!

Jake got to ride the horse, too

Abby rode the pony!

The people from the local farm came up to me after Alex's ride and said he just made their day--the boy was absolutely thrilled with the whole thing, and you could just see it all over his face!  The two-year-old girl in front of us in line freaked out when it was her turn to ride, so Alex was one of the braver little ones.  :)

We took a break at this point to get a snack--they had concessions there, and we opted for a soft pretzel and cotton candy to share.  While we were snacking, the B&O Railroad Museum mascot came out to see the kids--his name is ChooChoo Blue, and Jake loved him!  He ran right up to him and they were dancing and jumping up and down together.

Jake with ChooChoo Blue

After our snack, it was time for our ride on Thomas!  We had tickets for the 4pm train, so we got in line about 3:45pm, and the loading was really easy.  We were in the front car, right behind Thomas, and the kids were really excited...and also really tired.  Abby laid down on the seat for a while!  Alex was being ornery while we waited for the train to depart (just a quick jaunt out of the station and then back--maybe 20 minutes?), and Jake was staring out the window at all the trains in the yard around us.

Jake and Dan, waiting to depart on the Thomas ride

Jake was so happy!

the "conductor" punched everyone's tickets

Alex getting his ticket punched

The kids also received "Jr. Train Engineer" certificates, which was a really nice touch--they were all excited about that.  After the train ride, we waited in a quick line to get a picture with the Thomas engine--I took this picture, but the professional one they took was even better because their photographer had the best angle.  I bought the professional one, too.

After our train ride, we went into the Thomas gift shop, on site only for this event.  Any Thomas item you might want was in there--it was a little overwhelming!  We got each kid a souvenir, and we got Jake a Thomas backpack and lunch box for possible preschool next year.  We also got a really awesome hardbound book of original Thomas stories--the kids have been enjoying that every day since we got home!

We had a wonderful family day at the Day Out with Thomas event--if your kid loves trains, I highly recommend it!  There was so much to do, and we probably could have spent even longer than the 5+ hours we spent there.  I want to go back to the B&O Railroad Museum again sometime, because I feel like there was a lot more we could have seen just in the roundhouse--and seeing the big trains and cars was one of the parts of the day the kids are still talking about.  Dan's parents had a great time watching the kids enjoy the festivities, and I had so much fun seeing the kids' excitement over everything.  Jake blew us all away at one point when we were walking by one of the museum exhibits and he casually said, "That's the Shay engine."  The placard in front confirmed the train name, but he doesn't know how to read...the child knows his trains like an encyclopedia, I'm telling you!  I'm so glad we decided to go and make a whole day of it--you know it was a good experience when Dan looks at me halfway through and says, "This was a really good idea!"  :)

our family and some trains  :)

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