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 TV, and my kids ask to go every time they see one. They literally spend the entire year anticipating Thomas’ visit, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise since we’ve gone every year since my son was 1. Consequently, two of his birthday parties have also been Thomas themed.
My kids come by their love of trains honestly. Granted, I don’t know very many young kids 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 my oldest 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, my son 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 my son 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. It was years before the train table finally 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. My son 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 5pm, 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. My kids would happily get there when they open and stay all day, but they’re usually pretty wiped out after a few hours. There is certainly plenty to keep them busy all day. They would spend several hours in the Imagination Station alone. They have toy trains, arts, and crafts. It also changes a little bit each year.
When we first arrive, the kids receive a map of the activities. For each stop on the map, they get 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 they complete their maps, we can take it back to the front for them 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. My kids usually go on the small train at least twice. The bounce house and slide are pretty much non-stop until I drag them 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 my son 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 the kids have grown through the years. This will be our first year taking our youngest, 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, my kids usually ends up with a new toy every year. How can you say “No” to kids who get this excited about trains? At least I know the toys will be played with. One year, we were there at the end of the day on Sunday when they were tearing down. One of the workers let my son have the balloons they were going to throw away. His day was made.
The second weekend of Day Out With Thomas at the Florida Railway Museum will be held for 3 days. If your schedule allows, try to go on Friday because it will be much less crowded than Saturday or Sunday. The dates this year are March 10, 11 & 16-18, 2018. Train rides leave every hour from 9am to 4pm. Book in advance because peak times sell out quickly. Tickets for Day Out with Thomas at the Florida Railway Museum can be purchased on https://www.ticketwebdowt.com/.
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 my son just turn brown. My daughter and I are less fortunate.
- 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.