Celebrate the holidays with Thomas the Tank Engine at Holi-Day Out With Thomas

This weekend was crazy-busy for us: on both Saturday and Sunday, The Pea performed in The Nutcracker, the boys had soccer team tryouts, and we still had stuff to do for our kitchen renovation! But I'm so glad we were able to squeeze out a couple of hours from our busy schedule and enjoy a beautiful, sunny afternoon at The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with one of our favorite characters, Thomas the Tank Engine. We received tickets to Holi-Day Out With Thomas, and although my kids are not exactly the target age for this kind of event, we were all excited to go, because we had so much fun at this August's Day Out With Thomas, because we love the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk -- and because we couldn't pass up the chance to play a game of Laser Tag!

The Basics
Here's more information about the event:

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Roaring Camp Railroads are pleased to announce a very special holiday event - Holiday Out With Thomas! This year's Holiday Out With Thomas marks the first time everyone's favorite Number 1 engine rolls into the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

$28.00 per person (ages 2 & up) -- Ticket price includes:
  • A twenty-five minute round-trip Thomas train ride departing from the Boardwalk featuring Santa and his elves, candy canes, holiday carols and a souvenir song book
  • A ride on the historic Boardwalk Carousel
  • Boardwalk attraction ticket good for choice of mini-golf, laser tag, or 12 arcade tokens
  • "Make and take" Thomas ornament
  • Photo opportunities with Sir Topham Hatt & Thomas the Tank Engine
  • Other fun activities including face painting, temporary tattoos, bounce houses, Linkand activity tables

The Bongga
What a fun day out for the family! Here's what I loved most about the event:

* It's every little kid's dream to ride the rails with Thomas the Tank, and once he sees this life-sized Thomas engine, the look of wonder on his face will be a sight to behold.

(Shhh, don't tell him, but the real work is actually done at the other end, by this bad boy. This Big Trees & Pacific Train is pretty cool: it makes regular runs between Roaring Camp Railroad and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and on December evenings, the Thomas Train actually turns into the Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train).

* All the cars on the train (and Thomas, too!) are decked out for the holidays, and it really gets you into the holiday spirit. Some cars have lights, some have wreaths, our have swags of greenery and ribbons. All throughout the 25-minute journey, carolers dressed in period clothing, or as elves, make the rounds throughout the cars, ringing bells and singing carols. Santa Claus also walks through the train and poses for photos, but unfortunately he didn't have time to get to our car :(

* Even the wall decorations are all dressed up for the holidays!

* My kids' favorite part of the train ride was the karaoke! The car in front of us had a guitar player singing carols, and his music was broadcasted throughout the train. Everyone was given a songbook with carols so they could sing along, and kids could walk up to the guitar player and sing on the mike.

3Po and Jammy were only too happy to sing We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and I think they did pretty well!

* There are plenty of activities for young Thomas fans, even after their train ride is over. There are several tables with train tracks and Thomas trains, so they can reenact their favorite scenes from the Island of Sodor. A few track layouts even have battery-operated trains, so they can watch Thomas and Percy chugging along, and operate the track switches to make them go different ways. They can get their faces painted, or get their hands or cheeks done with Thomas train tattoos. They can color a paper Thomas ornament, jump in a bouncy house, and pose for photos with Percy, Thomas, and Sir Topham Hatt!

* It's off-season at the Beach Boardwalk, so there are no crowds! You can actually stroll through the area without bumping into people every second, and you can walk on the beach without having to dodge frisbees and sandcastles. We were very lucky that the weather was gorgeous -- it was a warm, sunny day, so we had a wonderful time walking around.

* I loved that the ticket price includes a ride on the Loof Carousel and your choice of a game of mini-golf, laser tag or arcade tokens. It's a great way to get older siblings excited about coming to the event, so it can truly be a family outing. We really enjoyed our game of laser tag, and riding the Loof Carousel is so much fun, even for older kids, because it's quite a challenge to grab one of the small iron rings and throw them into the clown's mouth as your carousel horse spins around!

The Blah
My kids and I really enjoyed our Day Out With Thomas in August, so we had very high expectations for Holi-Day Out With Thomas -- and there were a few things that left us feeling a bit Scrooge-like:

* The train ride through the streets of Santa Cruz is not very exciting. It's very slow, and all you see are houses (albeit very nice ones in the bungalow and Victorian style -- although kids wouldn't really appreciate that, I'm sure they'd rather see holiday lights or pine trees!).

* Unless you are riding in the first or second car and can actually see Thomas, there is nothing that makes you feel like you are riding a train pulled by Thomas. Day Out With Thomas had Thomas's voice singing Thomas songs and talking to the kids from speakers, so the connection to Thomas was more apparent, even if you were riding in a car that was far away from the Thomas engine.

* Santa did not get around to our car at all! Not getting to see Santa was not a big deal for my kids, but younger children may be really disappointed if they don't get to say hi to Santa, so for the ticket price people pay, I think Santa should make it a point to visit all the train cars during the 25-minute ride. If that's not enough time, I think Sir Topham Hatt should also be making the rounds on the train cars that Santa can't get to, because obviously there can't be 2 Santas on a train, can there?!

The Bottom Line
I'm a big fan of the Day Out With Thomas event, but I'm kind of on the fence about whether Holi-Day Out With Thomas is worth the $28 price tag. It's a wonderful event, but I'd be much more eager if they lowered the cost to $20 per person. Of course, the carousel ride is worth $3 and the laser tag/mini golf/ arcade games are worth $5, which means the train ride and activities are only costing you $20.

If your child is under 5, and is a big Thomas fan, I'd say it may be worth the splurge -- especially if you plan to spend the day at Santa Cruz and do all the activities. And hey, you can't put a price tag on getting to meet Thomas and go for a ride on the rails with him!

Holi-Day Out With Thomas runs every weekend from December 3-18. I would buy my tickets early if I were you, because you get to choose the train car you ride in, and the early-bird ticket buyers get to reserve seats in the cars nearest to Thomas the Tank engine!

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to this event. Event information was taken from the event website and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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