Thomas the Train is coming to town as part of his annual Day Out with Thomas tour. How do I know? The commercials have started airing on PBS, and Farmboy asks to go every time he sees one. He literally spends the entire year anticipating Thomas’ visit, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise since we’ve gone every year since he was 1. Consequently, his birthday parties have been Thomas themed for the last 2 years.
Farmboy comes by his love of trains honestly. Granted, I don’t know very many young boys who don’t go through a Thomas phase for at least a little while, but my husband has been obsessed with steam trains since long before Farmboy was even a thought. He used to drive the steam engine at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and one of his life goals is to own a working steam engine on about a mile of track. Lucky for him, I’m ok with that since he’ll need about a 100 acres of land for that mile of track. Somewhere in the depths of our storage room, aka office, are boxes with Hubby’s Lionel train collection. Someday, Farmboy will be old enough and we’ll have enough space for Hubby to bring them out and
play with set them up.
I don’t remember exactly when Farmboy got his first train, and I only vaguely remember Hubby bringing home the train table and tracks that he found on craigslist, but it has literally consumed our home and our lives. Only this year has the train table finally been moved out of the living room and into the kids’ room. Around the same time that the obsession began, we learned about Day Out with Thomas at the Florida Railway Museum in Parrish, Florida. Our first trip was in 2012. Farmboy was only 19 months old, but he was running from place to place as fast as his short little legs could carry him. There was a tractor pulling wagons that looked like train cars, an Imagination Station with toy trains and arts & crafts, storytelling and video viewing, temporary tattoos of Island of Sodor friends, an inflatable slide, bubbles, music, real train engines, and of course Thomas.
When you purchase your tickets, you select a time for your ride on Thomas, but you can actually arrive any time during the day. Day Out with Thomas at the Florida Railway Museum is open 9am to 4pm, but times may vary based on your location. We tend to book our train tickets for later in the day so that it’s our last stop of the day. It also gives us the flexibility to get there a few hours early for all of the other activities on site. Farmboy would happily get there when they open and stay all day, but he’s usually pretty wiped out after a few hours. There is certainly plenty to keep him busy all day, he would spend several hours in the Imagination Station alone. They have toy trains, arts, and crafts. It also changes a little bit each year. This is the first year with Fisher Price as a sponsor, so I’m curious to see what new additions we’ll find.
When we first arrive, Farmboy receives a map of the activities. For each stop on the map, he gets a stamp. Stops usually include the activity tent, Sir Topham Hat, the story tent, the gift shop and Thomas. The line for Sir Topham Hat fills up very quickly, so I recommend getting in any time you see it has gone down, even if he’s on break. When Farmboy completes his map, we can take it back to the front for him to get a gift. The gift is a little different each year, so we aren’t getting the same thing every year.
There are also other activities depending upon your location. At the Florida Railway Museum, there is usually a display from a local model train club, other steam and diesel engines, inflatable slide and bounce house, and a small train that kids can enjoy as many times as they like. Farmboy usually goes on the small train at least twice. The bounce house and slide are pretty much non-stop until I drag him away. Hubby enjoys exploring the steam and diesel engines and talking to the volunteers who are there to help with the displays. Every year, he leaves talking about volunteering there and driving the trains on the weekends. His work and our farm schedule haven’t actually allowed it to happen yet, but he never gives up hope.
The ride on Thomas is a scenic 25 minute ride down the track and back through rural Florida. The kids are asked a few questions about trains, and are given honorary conductor certificates at the end of the ride. The Florida Railway Museum has several cars that the kids can sit in as well as a snack car. There is an open car with wood bench seats directly behind Thomas that is always very popular. I recommend getting in line at least 30-45 minutes before your train ride if you want to sit in that car. We did it our first year, but Farmboy didn’t want to stay there. It wasn’t long before we were walking the length of the train so he could sit in the comfy leather seats of the older cars. The passenger cars have some history to them, so be sure to ask the conductor about them while you’re on your ride.
At the end of the ride, you’ll get a chance to go up to the front of Thomas for a photo. How can you go see Thomas without a photo? We’ve purchased a photo almost every year that we’ve gone. It’s a great way to remember our day, plus it’s fun to see how Farmboy has grown through the years. This will be our first year taking Cowgirl, so the photo will be even more special as our family grows.
Then of course, there is the gift store tent with every Thomas & Friends toy you could possibly imagine. Yes, Farmboy usually ends up with a new train every year. How can you say “No” to a kid who gets this excited about trains? At least I know the toy will be played with. A couple years ago, we were there at the end of the day on Sunday when they were tearing down. One of the workers let Farmboy have the balloons they were going to throw away. His day was made.
This will be the first year that Day Out With Thomas at the Florida Railway Museum will be held for 3 days each weekend. If your schedule allows, try to go on a Friday because it will be much less crowded than Saturday or Sunday. The dates are March 11, 12 & 13 and 18, 19 & 20. Train rides leave every 45 minutes from 9am to 3:45pm. Book in advance because peak times sell out quickly. Tickets for Day Out with Thomas at the Florida Railway Museum can be purchased on www.ticketweb.com/dowt.
Day Out with Thomas Tips:
- Buy your tickets in advance. Seriously, this event just gets more popular every year. You don’t want to get all the way there and find out all of the times for the rest of the day are sold out. You’ll also avoid a long line at the gate.
- Arrive at least an hour before your scheduled departure time. Parking fills very quickly and you may need to park across the street. You also need to allow time to pick up your tickets and get through the front gate. If you miss your departure time, you won’t get to ride Thomas.
- Bring a water bottle if your location allows it. The Florida Railway Museum allows outside food and drink, so we usually bring a water bottle and some snacks. There is food on site, but lines can be long at peak times. You’ll at least want water handy because it can get hot and you’ll be doing a lot of walking.
- Bring sunscreen and re-apply often. I always forget that second part. Hubby and Farmboy just turn brown. I come home looking like a lobster.
- Babywear or have a stroller that’s good “off-roading” if you have small children. The entire site at the Florida Railway Museum is unpaved, so it can be difficult to navigate with a regular stroller. We find it’s just easier to get around if we babywear.
- Read the FAQs for more information.
- Have fun!
Don’t live near west central Florida? Don’t worry, Thomas is probably coming to a city near you.
Now for the fun part, I have 4 tickets to Day Out with Thomas to give to one special reader. Do you live near the Florida Railway Museum? Are you free Friday, March 18 at 3pm? Then enter below.
Just a couple guidelines:
- Please do not enter if you are not available for the 3pm departure time on Friday, March 18th. This time cannot be changed and these tickets are non-transferable. Remember, gates open at 9am and you are free to enjoy the other activities on site prior to your 3pm departure.
- Tickets will be picked up at the event at the Will Call table. Photo identification will be required to pick up the tickets, so the name given must match your photo identification.
- I will send a confirmation email to the winner as soon as the giveaway closes to confirm their name for Will Call and that they are still available to attend. Please check your emails and confirm with me ASAP if you are the winner. I have a very short turnaround for this giveaway and need to have enough time to redraw a winner if you cannot attend for any reason.
- As a reminder, these tickets are only for Day Out with Thomas at the Florida Railway Museum in Parrish, Florida. If you need tickets for a different location, they can be purchased at www.ticketweb.com/dowt
- This giveaway will end at
6pm on Thursday, March 3, 2016. Extended to 8am on Friday, March 4, 2016.
- Open to Florida residents 18 or older.