(This is a long post, but don't miss the giveaway at the end!)
Last weekend the kids got to do something they could only dream of when they were little: meet Thomas the Tank Engine and get to ride on him! We received tickets to a Day Out With Thomas event at Roaring Camp Railroad in Felton, CA, on July 30, and we all had a great time. I was somewhat worried they'd be bored and start rolling their eyes at such a "kiddie" event, but I could not have been more wrong. Families with children ages 2 through 5 will get the most out the event, because they are young enough to feel the magic, but I highly recommend it for kids of any age, especially steam train lovers and Thomas the Tank Engine fans.
Day Out With Thomas events are held at railroad museums throughout the country. These museums usually have train rides for visitors, but a Day Out With Thomas event is special because it isn't just any ordinary steam engine pulling the cars, it's everyone's favorite blue engine, Thomas!
Thomas pulled ten cars, all filled with happy, excited kids and their camera-toting parents. Some cars were open (i.e. in the sun), some had a canvas roof, and others were fully enclosed cars with old-fashioned theater-style seats and windows. When you buy your event tickets, you specify which car you want to ride on. Naturally, the cars closest to the Thomas engine fill up quickly, since you can actually see Thomas while you're riding. We were in the second-to-last car, so we couldn't see Thomas at all, and it was just like a regular train ride -- except that throughout the 30-minute train ride, Thomas music was piped into all the cars via speakers. Little kids will enjoy listening to favorites like Don't Give Up and Oh Yes, It's Great to be an Engine, and hearing Thomas' voice as he greets them and asks them questions.
So if you're not one of the lucky (or early) families to get tickets for cars #1, 2 or 3, is it really worth going to a Day Out With Thomas? The answer is a resounding YES. Day Out With Thomas is so much more than just a train ride. There are so many Thomas-themed activities and exhibits, I'd recommend getting to the event at least 2 hours before (or staying at least 2 hours after) your scheduled train ride. It's possible that the kinds of events will vary, depending on the location, but the activities will be similar to the ones we enjoyed:
* A huge souvenir store, with every kind of Thomas toy and memorabilia imaginable, including toy trains, Thomas Mega Blok sets, bags, engineer caps, shirts, train whistles and more.
* Magic and juggling shows
* Photo taking alongside Thomas (for about 15 minutes, while families board for the next train ride)
* Photo taking alongside a life-sized inflatable Percy
* Photo taking alongside the various colorful posters decorating the area
* Appearances by Sir Topham Hatt
* Art stations with Thomas character coloring pages, crayons, markers, and all sorts of Thomas the tank stamps
* Face painting (kids can choose from the standard hearts and rainbows, or engines like Thomas, Percy, James and Rosie)
* Temporary Tattoo Stations (with the cutest Thomas character tattoos!)
* Bubble stations
* Train track display layouts with battery-powered Thomas and Friends engines, alongside bins filled with wooden tracks so kids could make their own track layouts (note: trains were in scarce supply, so bring a couple of your own, and make sure they are clearly labeled with your child's name!!)
* Train tables with Thomas playsets (I love the fact that they provided several train tables, so lots of kids could play without it getting too crowded. Once again, bring your own engines to play with and make sure they're labeled).
* A treasure hunt of sorts where kids are given a sheet of paper and told to get it stamped at each of four activity stations. Once they collect all four stamps, they can turn the paper in and get a nifty little prize to take home. My kids received a Thomas poster, shaped like a circular cardboard engine "turntable" (I have an extra poster to give to one lucky Bonggamom Finds reader! To see what it looks like, check out the photo in the giveaway section below), which shows every engine in the Thomas world.
You can bring your own picnic lunch and eat on a bench or picnic table, or you can purchase food there (Roaring Camp Railroad sells burgers, hot dogs, snow cones, fries, drinks, candy, etc... as well as a heavenly-smelling barbecued pork lunch). Despite their "advanced" ages, my kids had so much fun, and they all said they would do a Day Out With Thomas again in a heartbeat. We were so glad we attended!
More about Day Out With Thomas:
Pulling out of the station for its 16th consecutive ride on the rails, the Day Out With Thomas: Leader of the Track Tour 2011 will visit more than 45 cities in the United States and Canada . Day Out With Thomas is the only place for families to take a ride with a 15-ton replica of everybody’s favorite No. 1 engine, Thomas the Tank Engine, and enjoy Thomas-themed activities at the Imagination Station, including stamps, temporary tattoos and hands-on arts and crafts. Each year the tour grows, traveling to new destinations, adding new activities and welcoming new visitors.
You can search to see which cities Thomas is visiting and purchase tickets on Ticketweb. Thomas is visiting over 45 cities through mid-November.
Thomas Coloring Crafts
Here are 2 Thomas crafts I picked up at Day Out With Thomas. I've scanned them and posted them here so you can download them and enjoy with your child!
Win a Thomas Poster
I picked up an extra cardboard poster/turntable at Day Out With Thomas -- if you want it, leave a comment on this post and tell me your favorite Thomas character. If more than 1 person leaves a comment, I'll draw a comment randomly on August 22 and mail it to the winner (US addresses only).
Disclosure: I received 4 complimentary tickets to a Day Out With Thomas event, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. Event information is provided by DKC PR and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my ow