Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Day Out with Thomas and Friends!

This past weekend we went to a Day out with Thomas
which was, by far, one of our most successful "fieldtrips" with Aaron. 
We've done zoos and pools and play areas, 
but this was by far both Aaron's favorite AND our favorite. 

To back up a little, 
let me first talk about Thomas. 
If you didn't know already, Thomas & Friends is an animated British TV show about talking trains and the lessons they learn on a day-to-day basis. 
Thomas has been on TV for 30 years now (since 1984), 
so while I never watched it myself 
(Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers all the way...)
I do remember it from my teenagers babysitting days.

Adam, Aaron, and I started watching Thomas after our nephew's Thomas-themed 2nd birthday party, where (at the request of my sister-in-law) all of our gifts were part of the Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway set.  
If you haven't seen the show, I bet you've at least seen the train sets. 

Like most parents, I'm well aware of the dangers of TV on little minds. 
I do like Thomas because they are 11 minute episodes, with no frenetic activity. 
Basically, its a perfect small dose of TV. 
(Unfortunately, Aaron will only watch it on our laps... 
so while it gives me 11 quality minutes with my iPhone, 
what I'd really like is 11 quality minutes cleaning the kitchen!)

Moving on... 

Of course, because Adam and I are MATURE adults with Totally Appropriate Humor, 
we have our own interpretation of Thomas:
Thomas and his friends are a bunch of fuck-ups. 
Every day they are given a task, and somehow fuck it up. 
They then learn their lesson, and are magically able to "make it right."

Sir Topham Hat, an obese balding dude, manages the railway.
At first, we thought he was a micromanaging jerk of a boss, 
but then we realized he has to be a micromanager 
because his engines are a bunch of morons. 

For example...
One episode, the firefighter train Flynn finds out that Sir Topham Hat's shed is on fire, 
but because Flynn is down and out that day, 
he takes his jolly good time getting to the shed because he doesn't think he's special. 
Finally he gets to the shed and realizes the crowd is cheering for him as a hero
With a renewed sense of purpose, Flynn puts out the fire. YAY. 

For the record, that shed should be in ashes by now. 
If I was Sir Topham Hat, Flynn would be in the scrapyard 
and I'd use my shed insurance money to buy a new firefighting engine.

All of the engines have their own personalities. 
There's dozens of engines (an entire wall at Toys R Us), 
but as a smattering example...

Gordon is a pompous asshole who pulls the Express (he is also our favorite). 
Emily is a know-it-all with a superiority complex (sounds like they named her right)
Caitlin is a new high speed steam engine with severe ADD. 
Ferdinand is a "logging loco" train who probably has brain damage. 
Percy is Thomas' best friend and a little bitch. He's such a whiner. 
Percy was also in attendance at the traveling Thomas show:

So that's the Mature Adult Rendition. 

Back to a Day Out with Thomas... 
Thomas tours around the nation throughout the year, 
including 3 stops at Strasburg Railroad
about an hour+ outside of Philadelphia near Lancaster. 
I found out, after posting our photos to facebook, that many people drive upwards of 4+ hours to this event. So yeah, it's a big deal. 

For $21/person (ages 2 and up), you have a 22-minute train ride on Thomas, a painted fully-functioning steam engine.  It's not cheap, but its pretty cool. 

In addition, they have dozens of activities, food, and - of course - merchandise. 

Now, thanks to my awesome narration, 
I know you are PSYCHED to get to the events of the day. 

Waiting in line. 
Thomas is pulling up!

Walking to the car... 

Aaron wanted to walk up the steps ALL BY HIMSELF. 

In our seats and staring out the open window. 
Aaron was MESMERIZED. 
He didn't move a muscle the entire 22 minute train ride. 
He would point at the horses (its Lancaster county, after all), 
but he didn't say a thing until the train came to a stop and we started to get out...
"More!  More!  More!  More!"

But we moved on to other activities, 
like riding a miniature-gauge steam engine, 
temporary tattoos (ok, we didn't, but Adam REALLY wanted to), 
eating soft pretzels, 
sending Adam back to the car to find my iPhone because I was certain it dropped out of my pocket... yup, I'm that wife. 

Now that each one of my faithful readers (assuming I have more than one, which is a lofty assumption) is racing to buy tickets to the nearest Day Out with Thomas, 
I should also add in my personal tips/hints

1. For Strasburg, tickets sold out a week in advance. I was surprised at this!
2. Timing is key. In Strasburg, parking is extremely limited so if you're part of the later trains, you will have to shuttle bus (via school buses) from a satellite lot. Strasburg recommends arriving an hour before ticketed time to ensure shuttle time. 

3. However, in Strasburg, activities start only 15 minutes prior to first train.  So on Sunday, the first train was 10:15, so all the activities started at 10.  So don't get there an hour before the first train or else your kid will be B.O.R.E.D. and you will be in hell. 

4. Knowing all of the above, we chose tickets for 2nd train time of the day (10:45). We got there at 10, right as activities were starting, but there were still spaces in the adjacent lot.  We will most certainly do this again. 

5. If you're with a big group (like we plan to do in the future), line up as soon as you can for your train departure.  There are no assigned seats, so if you want to sit together, you need to be among the first to find space to sit together. 

6. What to do with kids in line for 20 minutes?  FOOD. 
A soft pretzel entertained Aaron for 15 minutes, and then we boarded. 

7. Bring ear-plugs if you're going to ride Percy. 
Percy is a fake-steam-engine (IMPOSTER!) and Percy's train is actually pulled by a diesel engine, which is quite loud.  Aaron didn't mind the noise, but some kids do. 


Overall, a great experience. 
All the way home, Aaron repeated: 
"Riiiidde.  Riiiddde.  More.  More."
I later found out that one of my NYC facebook friends
(you know, that single fabulous friend that we all live vicariously through...) 
works at the agency that does all the PR for Thomas. 
My only suggestion? 
Mimosas for the moms. 

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