Today’s post is brought to you by The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts. Don’t miss their upcoming presentation that is perfect for your littlest theater goers: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood-LIVE! coming up on January 8, 2017 at 3:00pm.
Join Daniel Tiger and his friends as they hop aboard the trolley and explore their beloved Neighborhood of Make-Believe in this live theatrical production filled with singing, dancing, laughter and “grr-ific” surprises.
It’s an interactive musical adventure that will delight the young and the young at heart!
Purchase tickets or get more information about Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood LIVE here. VIP tickets include access to a post show Meet and Greet with Daniel and friends!
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I am super excited today. Do you want to know why? 🙂 I am super excited because today, my friend Audrey is here as a guest poster on the blog!
Audrey and I first met last winter in a mommy & me tumbling class through our town’s parks & rec department that we took with our little guys (both age 2 at the time). We spent many hours running after our teeny kiddos as they darted from corner to corner of the big gym
teetering precariously on bravely exploring the beam, the bars, the mats, the trampolines, the vault and occasionally the climbing rope. And let me tell you, I’m not sure who got a better workout– the kids or the grownups!
But somehow, we still managed to fit in some enjoyable conversations, and so pretty much since the moment I met Audrey, I have been trying to convince her to write for Out and About Mom. That’s because Audrey is sweet, smart, funny, witty, creative, adventurous, and just generally a delight to hang out with. I just knew all that would come through in a blog post (and I was right!).
It may have taken me almost a year, but I finally wore her down! And I am so thankful that she was up for taking her family on an Out and About holiday adventure. I hope you enjoy reading about Audrey’s visit to Santa’s Trolley Winter Wonderland at the The Shore Line Trolley Museum! It’s a magical holiday experience you won’t want to miss.
But first, a little bit more about our newest Out and About Mom…
Audrey Beatty is a work-at-home mom and proud CT native. Before becoming a mother, Audrey made her career working in marketing and development capacities at various notable nonprofits including The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts and Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network.
Audrey now works from home assisting with grant writing for CPBN. Additionally, she manages a direct sales business as a consultant for Norwex, helping create safe havens by sharing practical, cost-effective cleaning and personal care products that reduce household chemicals and waste. She also volunteers doing fundraising and volunteer recruitment for local arts-for-youth organization, Epoch Arts.
In her (incredibly precious) spare time, she loves birding with her husband, painting, and playing outside with her son. She is honored to be guest-writing a post for OAAM! And we’re honored to have her 🙂
Enjoy today’s post everyone!
The moment I heard about Santa’s Trolley Winter Wonderland at The Shore Line Trolley Museum, I knew it would be a big hit with my little guy (we’ll call him “Bug”). You see, my son not only bears a deep affinity for all things Christmas year-round but, fairly typical for a boy of three, he also enjoys pretty much anything with wheels, trolleys very much included. So on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my family of three packed it in and headed off to East Haven.
The Shore Line Trolley Museum is located just down the road from the East Haven town green, which was bustling with activity preparing for the town’s tree-lighting, and adjacent to some beautiful salt marshes. We opted to arrive on the early end, shortly after the museum opened for the day at 10:30 a.m., and were pleased to discover things were fairly quiet.
There’s a small, gravel parking lot behind the building and we were able to find a spot easily before heading inside to buy our tickets. The museum building is handicap accessible and has a ramp out front which makes it somewhat stroller-friendly, but you’ll be doing a lot of climbing in and out of trolleys so I’d opt for a carrier for the non-walking set.
The museum itself is adorable and has a few activities for kids in addition to a small gift shop, some snacks (chips, pretzels, etc.), a soda machine, and of course, a historical trolley exhibit. We were anxious to check out the holiday offerings, so we only breezed through the few things in the lobby before purchasing our tickets and decided to spend more time in the museum itself toward the end of our visit. The Chuggington train table just inside the museum entrance was, of course, deserving of immediate attention though. Priorities.
(Fair warning: they even had some Chuggington toys for sale in the gift shop.)
It is possible to purchase your tickets in advance online, but I wanted to partake in the authentic trolley experience, so we bought ours the old-fashioned way at the ticket window.
When we went there was absolutely no line for either purchasing “at the door” or online pick-up, so I think it’s probably a toss-up and depends largely on the time of day you plan on going. From what I gathered, mornings (like when we went) tend to be quieter.
The trolley arrived back at the station not long after we purchased our tickets, so we went outside and got ready to board. However, it’s important to note for kiddos in diapers and those recently potty-trained that the museum building is also where the only indoor bathrooms and changing tables are. Once you ride the trolley to Santa’s Winter Wonderland there are only porta potties (more on that later). If I’d realized that, I probably would have had Bug use the potty before we hurried onto the trolley. However, my husband and I were very pleased that there were changing tables in both the women’s and men’s restrooms in the main building. This destination is not only out and about mom friendly…it’s out and about dad friendly too! 😉
Anywho, like I was saying…after purchasing our tickets, we hustled outside to board the trolley. The trolley conductor did do the courtesy of making an announcement inside the museum that the trolley was about to depart, but this could also be because we came at a slow time of day.
Most of the seats comfortably fit two people, but there were a couple of bench seats near one end of the trolley that fit all three of us. Upon boarding the trolley, complete with charming vintage advertisements lining the car, I quickly learned there was much more in store for us than I originally realized. The conductor let us know that, at the end of about a five minute ride, we would arrive at “The North Pole,” where we would disembark and could then visit with Santa, grab a complimentary hot cocoa and a cookie, partake in some face-painting, or even jump on another trolley to enjoy a slightly longer (roughly 20 min round trip) ride through some salt marshes.
We, of course, immediately went to go see Santa in a stationary trolley directly across from the platform where we disembarked the trolley from the museum building. Because we went at what was decidedly a “non-peak” time, there was only one child in front of Bug visiting Santa, so the wait was very brief and we were able to have a quality chat with the man in red. Compared to other Santa experiences it was fairly mellow, which I consider a good thing. There was no pressure to sit on Santa’s lap, but after a handshake Bug decided he felt comfortable with it. There was not a professional photographer, but Bug did receive a cute gift from Santa (that is what is in the big red bin pictured below, for those wondering). I’ll keep it a surprise for anyone planning to make the trip themselves!
After visiting with Santa, it seemed only appropriate to head over and grab our allotted cocoa and a cookie at a small building right next to where we had gotten off of the trolley from the museum.
The woman doling out the refreshments was very nice and let us know that, for the kids’ sake, the “hot cocoa” was really “sort of warm cocoa” and she had extra hot water if adults would prefer their’s hotter. I thought that was a great and thoughtful consideration. It’s the little things! I also asked her if attendance that morning was fairly typical for the event and she did say that, as I had assumed, it tends to be much busier in the evenings when all of the twinkle lights are on.
With warm cocoa and cookie in hand, we found a place to sit and snack. There were at least a few benches in the vicinity, but we chose a pint-sized picnic table right near Santa Tigger.
After finishing up our cookie, we decided it would be fun to go for that scenic trolley ride. This second trolley trip boards right next to where the trolley back to the main museum building does.
If you choose to attend this event after dark there are loads of twinkle lights on display along this route, but while I do enjoy Christmas lights very much, I’m also a great lover of the outdoors and the views we got to enjoy because we went during the day were really lovely. I was so enthralled by them I didn’t even take a single picture, so you’ll have to go and see them yourself! I did, however, grab a picture of Bug sipping the remainder of his cocoa before we pulled away from the platform.
After enjoying a roughly 20 minute ride, round trip, we returned to “The North Pole” and decided it was time for a little face-painting. The only person Bug has ever allowed to paint his face is me, but we noticed a couple of other kids on the trolley had theirs done and they appeared to be airbrushed. I figured it would likely be very quick if he decided to do it, so we went and checked it out. Face-painting was being done in, you guessed it, another restored trolley!
And, surprise of surprises, the face-painting trolley also housed the station for writing letters to Santa! I loved that they had form letters available to fill out.
When we asked if he had been naughty or nice this year, Bug very frankly replied that he’d been naughty. Such humility. 😉 After finishing our letter, Bug visited with the face-painting lady and determined hand-painting sounded much more his speed. The face-painting was indeed airbrushed and there were several festive stencils to pick from, including some Frozen ones, and the choice of getting your selection in red, green or white. Bug chose a train stencil that was too long for his hand, so it sort of went on both:
After we let Bug’s new ink dry a bit, we set out to find “Barn 3” and the mail car so that we could mail our letter to Santa, as directed by a sign at the table with the printed form letters.
It’s illegible in this picture, but that white rectangle on the yellow pole does say “Barn 3.” Take my word for it. This building is right next to where the trolley from the main museum building pulls in. I have to admit, “mailing” our letter to Santa was perhaps one of my favorite parts of this trip. There was something kind of magical about going up to the old mail car, all decked out with holiday flare, and depositing Bug’s letter into a giant red Christmas stocking bound for Santa’s workshop.
Continuing through the barn, we noticed there were more trolleys to see and, at the very end, there was even a trolley that had been converted into a little theater with short informational videos about the history of mass transit.
It was around this point, over an hour into our visit, that Bug realized he needed to use the bathroom. And it was at this point that I simultaneously realized I had not seen a bathroom in a while. Fortunately, as I previously mentioned, they did have porta potties available in the North Pole area. There were one handicap and two regular units available and a pretty clever hand-washing station. I am never a huge fan of porta potties, especially with a toddler that feels compelled to touch everything, but this set-up wasn’t half bad.
After using the potty, we checked out more of the trolleys parked in the barns and we were even able to climb aboard a couple.
We then determined it was probably about time to head back to the main museum building, and went to wait for the trolley, which I was told runs about every 15-20 mins. It felt like much longer with a somewhat hungry and tired toddler in tow, but the trolley did return within about that time frame.
We had already had such a full and wonderful day at that point that I’ll admit we didn’t spend a lot of time in the museum, but there were some interactive exhibits that I’m sure would have been much more engaging if Bug’s attention span wasn’t starting to run short, including another small theater with a menu of short, historical videos to choose from.
As we were leaving we paused for one last photo op in the little red sleigh outside of the museum.
I couldn’t help pausing to marvel at just how much we’d done in about 1.5-2 hours. We had been moving along at a pretty good clip, but there was really so much to do and see. It was certainly a memorable way for our family to kick off the 2016 Christmas season!
You can also find them on Facebook.
Hours (remaining 2016 dates and times):
Friday Evening, Dec. 9, 16: 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM (last trolley leaves for Santa at 7:30PM)
Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 10-11, 17-18: 10:30 AM – 8:00 PM (last trolley leaves for Santa at 7:30PM)
Seniors (62+): $8.00
Children ages 2-15: $6.00
Infants under age 2: FREE
Stroller Friendly: Not really; you are probably better off with a wearable baby carrier for your non-walkers.
Coffee Mug Friendly: YES
Baby Changing Station: YES
Food for Sale: YES (snacks only)
Outside Food Allowed: NO (I’m sure snacks would be fine, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend bringing a picnic lunch.)
Cash Required: NO (though there is a tip jar for face-painting)
Dress Code: Dress warmly! The trolleys are enclosed and heated, but you will be going in and out of trolleys and buildings quite a bit.
Evening/Weekend Hours: YES
Discounts: Visit the Shoreline Trolley Museum’s discount page here.
Parties: YES (For information on trolley charters, parties, and rentals, visit Shoreline Trolley Museum’s website.)
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