Thanks to the Essex Steam Train for providing our families with tickets to this event. All opinions are 100% my own.
Last year, Mandy and I were lucky enough to be invited to attend the 2013 Day Out with Thomas event at the Essex Steam Train in Essex, CT. Boo had a blast, but he was only just beginning to be interested in Thomas & Friends. This year, however, he is totally Thomas-obsessed! So I was doubly excited to be able to take him down to Essex for this year’s Day Out with Thomas: The Thrill of the Ride Tour 2014.
Happily, many of the logistics remained the same from last year so A: I actually knew what I was doing for a change, and B: I can refer you to last year’s post for some of those nitty gritty details and I can focus on the fun stuff here.
We headed to Essex this past Saturday for our visit with the Number One Tank Engine himself. Unfortunately, the day was a little cold and rainy. But it definitely didn’t spoil the fun!
It is recommended that you arrive at least an hour before your scheduled train ride time. This is partly so that you can have plenty of time to wait for the Percy Shuttle train to bring you from the off-site parking area, and partly because when you walk in the entrance gates the kiddos are going to go gaga for the perfectly pint-sized amusement park rides that you will have to pass by on your way to cross the tracks (and get over to where the train boarding area is located). If you arrive a little early, you can have a few extra minutes to check out the kiddie rides before catching your train.
As usual, I was running about a half hour late, which meant we’d be cutting it close just to make the train (hubby likes to joke that I need to take the amount of time I think it will take me to do anything, and multiply it by three to get the real time it will take–I think I’m ready to admit he is right. Shhh. Don’t tell!). As it turned out, we were able to park on-site. I think the rain maybe kept some people away that day (plus, we had a pretty early train time–9:45 a.m.). At first I was really bummed because it meant missing out on the Percy Shuttle from the off-site parking area (a bonus train ride!), and I seriously thought about riding the shuttle with Boo out to the parking lot and back on a roundtrip later just for fun. But I got over it 🙂 And it meant we didn’t have to worry about possibly missing our scheduled train time. Lucky!(Please don’t be like me; get there early so you don’t have to stress.)
So anyway, we had time to snap a few photos with one of the large engines 🙂
I had also really wanted Boo to see Thomas pulling the train into the station before we got on for our ride (I hadn’t been able to coordinate that properly last year–probably because I was running late!) so he could actually see that Thomas would be “pulling” the train we were about to board. I knew he would freak out! 🙂 So we waited on the amusement park side of the tracks until the train pulled back into the station (the train seemed to arrive back about 15/20 minutes before the next scheduled departure, so if you’re trying to catch a pre-ride Thomas sighting, you can plan accordingly) so we could get a good long look at Thomas and watch the rest of the coaches go by as well. You can also wait on the other side of the tracks up near the food tent, and you’ll get a good viewing of Thomas as he steams in.
I think Boo was in shock!
After we watched Thomas roll by, we headed across the tracks to the train boarding area. You’ll have to show your tickets again here, so don’t be like me and stuff them down into the bottom of your bag and have to stand there pulling things out like Mary Poppins with her magical carpet bag until you find the tickets 🙂
The ride lasts about 25 minutes and there’s music and dialogue (Thomas even does some talking this year!). The whole experience of being on one of these historic trains is just so neat. I think it’s fun for grown-ups too!
I’d say this little boy was enjoying himself, right?!
Don’t forget to wave at everyone as you go by!
Boo was so excited to get his Junior Engineer certificate (as a bonus activity, we colored it when we got home). He is still telling everyone that Thomas made him a Junior Engineer. So cute!
One of the great things about this event is that the price of your ticket includes all the other activities, including the indoor areas, the shows, and the rides (food is not included). This makes everything super convenient.
After the ride, we decided to head over to the gift shop where Sir Topham Hatt was posing for pictures (this year he was there all the time, save for an occasional five-minute break). You can also pose for pictures with Thomas himself. That takes place outside by the tracks, of course. Just follow the signs to the “Photo Area.” At both places, there are professional photographers taking pictures that will be available for purchase later, but you are also welcome to take your own pictures.
Of course, since we were in the gift shop we had to browse.
I know all that merchandising can drive you nuts sometimes, but there are actually some really neat items here. Thomas & Friends trains that I haven’t see available elsewhere, Thomas Mega Bloks sets. You may even be able to pick out some future birthday or holiday gifts if you can manage to distract the kiddos for a few minutes with this awesome train layout–featuring Thomas, of course– in the back of the room (not a hard task).
After the gift shop, we headed down to Imagination Station. This is where you’ll find train tables galore, as well as the movie showing/storytelling area, face painting, temporary tattoos, and the stage for the live music and magic shows. (P.S. if you only do one other thing besides the Thomas train ride, go see the live music show; we love them!)
Then we checked out the Deep River fire truck.
Unfortunately, it was starting to drizzle again, so we high-tailed it over to the amusement park side of the tracks to try out some of Boo’s favorite kiddie rides. But not before we watched that monster of a steam engine pull the latest group of little engineers out of the station. That thing is massive! And heads up: it’s also VERY loud. And with that puff of steam, well, monster is a fitting metaphor if you catch my drift. If you have small children, I would recommend keeping a bit of distance between you and the chuffing locomotive. But make sure you get a chance to see it. It’s really cool!
After a few turns on the rides, the rain started to come down heavier so we nixed our picnic plans (although, there is a covered picnic area that would totally keep you dry if need be), and decided to head for the car.
Even though the weather wasn’t ideal, we still had a great time. So many of the activities are indoors anyway, so it really is an event designed for rain or shine.
Oh, and don’t forget to pick up the prize for the little ones on your way out. What is it, you ask? Well, I can’t tell you everything. Where would the fun in that be? 🙂
I hope you’ve found this post to be really useful 🙂
Enjoy your Thomas adventure!
Thanks to the Essex Steam Train for providing our families with tickets to this event. All opinions are 100% my own.
Essex Steam Train’s Day Out with Thomas: The Thrill of the Ride Tour 2014
Essex Steam Train
Phone: (860) 767-0103
Main website: http://www.essexsteamtrain.com/
DOWT Website: http://www.essexsteamtrain.com/dowt/index.html
- Day Out With Thomas is being held on three weekends in 2014: April 19, April 26-27, and May 3-4. The event will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please note that you need to purchase tickets for a specific departure time.
- $23/person (ages 2 and up)
- Tickets are for specific ride times (9:00 a.m. through 3:45 p.m., every 45 minutes; train ride is approximately 25 minutes), and also include all the other attractions at the event (and parking).
- Tickets are on sale now. You can purchase them online or by calling toll-free 866.468.7630. For more information and directions, contact the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat at 1-800-377-3987 or www.essexsteamtrain.com
- Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended as they often sell out the day of.
- No refunds or exchanges.
- Stroller Friendly: YES, but be prepared to leave your stroller outside of the buildings and, obviously, you can’t bring it on the train. There is a designated “Stroller Parking” area, but just be aware that it’s not secured in any way. You may find it handy to bring a wearable baby carrier either instead of or in addition to your stroller to tote your littlest one around in places where it doesn’t make sense to bring a stroller.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: YES. Hubby brought in his Dunkin Donuts coffee and no one seemed to mind 🙂
- Baby Changing Station: YES! There is a designated baby changing/nursing tent; it consists of two changing/nursing areas each with a folding-type table (but plenty steady for baby) and an upright back chair. There is also a changing station in the restroom (but it can be hard to access it when the restroom is crowded because it is in the same area with the sinks and the hand dryers).
- Restrooms: YES! There are real restrooms located in the yellow station building that is between the tracks and the larger building where the gift shop and indoor activities are housed. There is a ramp up to the restroom and a big-ish handicapped accessible stall, so you could take a small stroller in there with you if you really need to (although I would not encourage it; it’s tight in there!).
- Parking: FREE parking in a satellite parking lot includes a free train ride from the parking lot to the event site (one of the best parts!); onsite handicapped-accessible parking available. If needed, you can also drop off people at the event site and then go park your car. If the event is really not crowded, there might be some spots at the event site; plentiful signage and a parking attendant will point you in the right direction. Also, there are some non-affiliated businesses that offer nearby parking on their grounds for a (exorbitant!) fee (so not worth it! ride the train!).
- Food for Sale: YES. There are stands selling carnival food like cotton candy, nachos, fried dough, etc. and also a tent run by a local organization selling burgers, fries, etc. There are also healthier snacks available for purchase like fruit squeeze pouches, crackers, fruit juice boxes, (I think I saw Goldfish), etc.
- Outside Food Allowed: YES. We have brought in snacks, etc for the kids both years and no one seemed to mind. I’ve heard of folks brining a picnic lunch with them too. Of course, my motto is usually: if I don’t have to bring food, I don’t bother–my diaper bag is filled to the brim already! 🙂 Plenty of food options for the kids there; not terribly over-priced (especially at the Essex Lions Club tent). Just sayin’.
- Cash Required: YES. Major credit cards are accepted at the gift shop, but the food stands are all cash. There is an ATM located in the gift shop though, so don’t worry if you forget.
- Dress Code: Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes that you are not going to cry over if they get a little dirty because there is a lot of ground to cover and it’s not paved. If it’s rained recently, rubber boots are not a bad choice. The ground is dirt and gravel, so it can get a little squishy when wet (or last year, it was really dry and dusty). Lots of kids come in train-themed gear (engineer hats, etc.).
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES. This event takes place over 3 weekends in April/May.
Tips & Things to Bring
- Try to arrive about an hour before your scheduled train ride so you have plenty of time to park, ride the shuttle, and maybe see some of the attractions before you board the train.
- Strollers are welcome, but a wearable baby carrier might be more convenient for you.
- Be aware that most likely you will park at an off-site parking lot and take a shuttle train to the event grounds. It will not be easy for you to get back to your car, so make sure you pack in such a way that you can carry all your necessities for the day with you.
- When you enter the event, you will get a map showing you where all the activities are taking place and also the show times for the live entertainment. If you get the map stamped at all the locations indicated, you will get a prize as you exit the event. Well, actually, they will give it to you anyway, but this makes it fun for the kiddos 🙂
- Click here to see some other FAQ’s about the Day Out with Thomas event.
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