This post was written in 2013, so some information may be out-of-date. Please be sure to check their website for the latest event details.
It’s no secret that Boo looooooooves trains. Big trains. Small trains. ALL trains. He loves them here and here and here and here and probably a dozen other places I’ve yet to blog about. So, we just couldn’t miss the Holiday Toy Train Display at Amato’s Toy Store in Middletown, CT!
First, let me start out by saying how much I love visiting Middletown. It’s a pleasant, scenic 20 minute drive for us from Glastonbury (plus we get to go over that spectacular bridge and that always makes Boo’s day) and it is just filled with fun things for the whole family. Eclectic restaurants, unique shops, a lovely Main Street for strolling, and of course, KidCity (hello!). And tucked into the charming street-scape is an independent toy store called Amato’s.
Even on a normal day this is a place that will dazzle your kiddos. A real old fashioned toy store (founded circa 1940) stuffed to the gills with all kinds of treasures. And it looks even more magical all dressed up in its holiday finery 🙂
All year round they have this great little play area in the front with train tables and other fun activities, including a working model train layout.
Did I mention there is plenty of street parking all up and down Main Street? And although it is metered parking, it’s very convenient since you can even use a credit card at the meters. (BTW- yes, you have to feed these meters on Saturdays.)
We happened to be there on a Saturday when the town had some special festivities planned as part of their annual Holiday on Main Street series, which ran for three consecutive Saturdays (and one Friday) in November/December (sorry, it’s over now; but remember it for next year!). These included FREE horse-drawn cart rides, FREE pictures with Santa, carolers, a mobile petting zoo, a kiddie train ride, and lots more.
Now, the train exhibit is actually downstairs, so once you enter the store, head immediately to your right. You’ll find the stairs in the front right corner of the store, along with a big sign that says “Train Exhibit.”
Now, there are a few things to note before we go any further. One, you’re not allowed to use a stroller down there (actually, there’s not even a way for you to get a stroller down there, unless you carry it). I didn’t even think about that, and I happily snapped the little guy into my much-beloved snap-and-go-style stroller for the walk over to the toy store. I should have thought to throw the BabyBjorn in the basket underneath just in case. Oops. Not to mention that the little guy was not at all dressed for the chilly weather. I had just assumed he’d stay snuggled in his Bundle Me the whole time. Double oops. So not bringing the car sear carrier was not an option and poor hubby had to tote around our 17-pound 4-month old and his car seat carrier the whole time. Luckily, the snap and go stroller folds up easily and is super lightweight to carry and there was a place downstairs where I could leave it right in the room where the train display is located. But there is also this little hallway outside the room where you could leave something a little bulkier if you needed to.
Second thing to know, although this is advertised as a “free” event, it is highly encouraged (read as: necessary) to either bring with you a nonperishable food donation (please don’t be stingy and just show up with one can of peas or something; make it a nice donation 🙂 ) or you can donate cash (suggested donation is $5) to another charity. There will actually be someone standing there at the top of the stairs watching to see that everyone makes some kind of donation, so make sure you don’t forget yours.
I love any opportunity to make a food donation. It’s so quick and easy, and it makes such a big difference in someone’s life. I think it’s wonderful that Amato’s uses this event as a food drive. If really reflects the true spirit of the holidays.
So after we placed our donation in the bin, we headed down the stairs and into the train display room, which is actually two rooms that are separated by a wall in the middle. Each side has its own giant train layout.
We probably spent about 30-40 minutes checking out the trains. These rooms are also filled with cases of model trains and other collectibles, so there is a lot to look at. Then we headed upstairs to let Boo play with the toy trains in the play area I mentioned earlier.
While hubby supervised, I went to check out the restroom situation, of course. There is a family style restroom located directly on the other side of the wall with all the Thomas & Friends toys on it (head for that purple wall there).
You’ll need to get the key from the front desk. I had hoped to check out the inside, but apparently there was a line for the key. So instead I just asked about a changing station. I was told that although there is no changing station, there is a large space near the sink. That sounds like it would do the trick. Oh, and if you don’t have a receptacle for your dirty diaper, they will be happy to give you a plastic bag at the front desk. It’s a small restroom, and dirty diapers not disposed of properly have a way of making a small space not so pleasant 🙂
If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can combine this little outing with something else fun in the area. Like a visit to KidCity for example. Or maybe you’ve got some last minute holiday shopping to do. Or you can just grab a bite to eat. We actually picked up some subs at nearby Nardelli’s to take home with us (just be warned that they are not open on most Sundays, although they do have special hours for the holiday season–call first).
So crank up the holiday tunes, take a lovely drive, and enjoy a festive event that benefits those in need. If you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit, Amato’s Holiday Train Display will certainly put you on the right track 🙂
ph. (860) 347-1893
Hours & Admission:
Holiday Train Display Hours (2013 season):
November 23, 2013-December 31, 2013
Click here for full schedule.
Remaining dates are:
Sat. 12/21 & Sun. 12/22 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Tues. 12/24 11:00 am to 2:00 pm
Thurs. 12/26 & Fri. 12/27 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Sat. 12/28 & Sun. 12/29 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Tues. 12/31 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm (special showing in the dark)
FREE with nonperishable food donation or cash donation ($5)
Tips & Things to Bring:
- Plenty of metered street parking (meters accept credit cards–Visa/MasterCard/Discover); 3-hour time limit; enforced10:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday-Saturday (Sundays & holidays exempt).
- Don’t forget either a nonperishable food donation (they ask for a bag of food, but I would say 5-6 items will be acceptable; please bring more if you can though) or at least $5 cash to donate to an alternate charity.
- You will not be able to use a stroller in the train display room. Plan accordingly.
- There is some space to stash your stroller if you can carry it down the stairs, so if you want to be able to go for a stroll before or after the exhibit, bring a lightweight folding stroller.
- Wearable baby carriers work great because baby will be right at train height 🙂
- There are step stools around for kids to hop up on and get a better look at the trains, but be prepared to do a little lifting as well.
- Hands-on play area for the kids upstairs.
- Family restroom with changing area.
- There’s a Dunkin Donuts just steps down the block if you’re looking to warm up with a hot chocolate (or get a caffeine fix).
- Don’t forget to check out the annual Holiday on Main Street events next year!
Meet Our Sponsors!
- The Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School – AFM offers children ages three to twelve years old a free, public Montessori education implemented to the highest standards set by Association Montessori Internationale.
- The Independent Day School – Located on a rural campus in Middlefield, CT is a private pre-school, elementary and middle school, serving families from over 20 communities.
- Kathryn Deane Photography – Kathryn is a natural light photographer specializing in maternity, newborn, child, family, and senior portrait photography.
Are you interested in becoming an Out and About Mom sponsor? Click here for more info.
Want to keep up with all our Out and About Mom adventures?
Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we dish up more Momsense for getting out and about with your little ones. Don’t have time to check back in? Let us send you an automatic notification of new posts straight to your email inbox by signing up here. Also, you can like us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest posts and get some extra tidbits we share only through those sites.