I have to say, I think this year’s Day Out with Thomas was the biggest and best in the four years we’ve been attending this event. Honestly, I wasn’t sure going into it. My daughter is barely one year old, and my son is five, so there was that chance that he’d be bored and she’d be overwhelmed. After all, my son has attended Day Out with Thomas almost every year that he’s been alive. Would he really be interested in doing the same things again for another year? And how much would there be to keep a one year old entertained?
Well first of all, I don’t know what I had to be worried about. I mean, these are my kids after all. They’re happy as long as we’re outside, added bonus if there are trains involved. My son could barely contain himself the whole way there, and my daughter has a tendency to feed off of his energy. Getting there, I was a little nervous because there were cars parked all the way back to the light at 97th St. when we turned onto SR 301 where The Florida Rail Road Museum is located. My husband, stubborn man that he is, ignored the parked cars and walking patrons to go on to the grassy parking lot across the street from the museum. Lucky for him, there were spots available. Otherwise, he would have faced a long day of “I told you so.”
I’m not going to lie, there was a decent crowd. Good news is that there were twice as many activities as in years prior, so there was still plenty to do. However, there were some lines, so I’d advise bringing a healthy dose of patience. I also recommend water because, as always, it was HOT!
Fisher Price was the sponsor this year, which seemed to equal an “Imagination Station” that had doubled in size. It was two tents this year, instead of the one of previous years. This meant taller tables with Trackmaster sets for the older kids, and shorter tables with wooden sets for the younger kids. They also had shorter tables for drawing and crafts. The sand tables and wooded trains were both a big draw for my daughter, while my son bounced around and tried his hand at everything. As usual, there weren’t enough trains for all of the kids who wanted to play with them, but that was in part to a limited amount of track space and in part to some kids trying to keep all of the trains for themselves. Again, patience is key. Most of the kids don’t stay at the tables for very long, so I placated my kids by either making them wait their turns or finding another activity until after some kids had left. I also had to play bodyguard a little bit when my kids did get a train to make sure it wasn’t snatched from them, sometimes right out of their hands. Overall, everything went pretty well.
Of course, the main attraction was Thomas himself. My daughter was so excited to see him coming down the track. At The Florida Rail Road Museum, there is an open car with outward facing bench seats as the first car behind Thomas. This car has the biggest draw because it’s right behind Thomas and has pretty awesome views. It also had the longest line, uncomfortable wooden bench seats, and everyone is packed in like sardines. Good news is my kids prefer the nice comfy leather seats in the air conditioned passenger cars. I have very smart, sensible children. 🙂
Now, I want to point something out, and perhaps provide a reality check for some parents… The Thomas engine is a caboose; he is not a working steam engine. Let’s think about the show for a minute, Thomas is a very small engine who can barely handle Annie and Clarabel. Do you remember the episode where he tried to pull Gordon’s Express and had to drop half of the passengers off in the quarry because the train was too heavy? (we watch a lot of Thomas) Well, this scenario isn’t much different. Thomas is much too small of an engine to pull all of these passenger cars, even if he was a working steam engine. At The Florida Rail Road Museum, there is a diesel engine at the end of the passenger cars that is actually pulling all of the cars up and down the track. Good news is that it’s far enough back that the kids don’t notice it, and it still appears as though Thomas is pulling into the station when he comes back from each of his trips. The kids don’t seem to notice or mind, so don’t get all worked up over something that is really a non-issue.
The train ride was fun, as always. Twenty minutes may not seem like a long ride, but it’s perfect for two young kids. We go down the track and the conductors on board tell us about the train cars, the museum, and upcoming special events. Parrish is still fairly undeveloped, so we get to see open fields of cows and produce. We also run down to the snack car for some soda and chips (another added bonus to being in one of the back passenger cars). Then we’re back at the station, and it’s time for our photo with Thomas.
As usual, we planned our train ride for the end of the day. Lines for photos have died down by that point and most of the exhibits are closing down by the time we get off of the train. It makes it easier to get two hot, tired, mildly-cranky kids out the gate and to the car, then they sleep the whole way home. Hubby and I stopped for coffee, otherwise we may have fallen asleep on the way home too.
I was really impressed with how Day Out with Thomas had grown this year. While some things like the bounce houses and Sir Topham Hatt had long lines, there seemed to be enough food and drink vendors that those lines went quickly. Other lines like the tractor rides seemed to ebb and flow, so we would wait until they were shorter to jump in. And I’m happy to see so many people come out to support The Florida Rail Road Museum and continue to show their love for our favorite #1 steam engine.