Today we have Tiffany back on the blog to share her latest adventure with Ace and Rex– Day Out With Thomas: The Friendship Tour 2017 at the Essex Steam Train!
But first, we’ve got some BIG news! Our OAAM team will be growing this fall 🙂 That’s right! Tiffany is expecting her 3rd child this September and we couldn’t be more excited! It’s been a long time since we’ve had a baby on the blog, and we can’t wait to break out the strollers and the Baby Bjorns and get back to some classic Out and About Mom adventures. So of course, I had to shamelessly embellish a photo to commemorate the occasion. Of course 🙂
Meanwhile, speaking of the old days, if you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know that we have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to check out this fantastic annual event for 5 years now (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and now 2017). And after attending with my family for 4 of those years, I was so excited to see a new perspective on DOWT from someone who had never been before!
Despite the rainy weather, Tiffany and her crew had a wonderful time meeting Thomas (and friends!) for the first time. And she is sharing her family’s TOP 5 list to help you plan your visit.
So if you’ve got tickets to this year’s event (or you are considering buying tickets–there are still some left, but hurry!), keep reading for our OAAM-style sneak peek of this beloved family-friendly tradition!
Thank you to the Essex Steam Train for providing me with complimentary tickets to this event for the purpose of writing this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
I have to say, we were more than a little excited when we were not only invited back to do another outing for Out and About Mom, but to find out the next adventure would be Day Out With Thomas, The Friendship Tour 2017 at Essex Steam Train! Do you want to know the very first thing I did to prepare for our outing (and I’m not just saying this) – I went to Out and About Mom to check out what they had to say about their previous visits. We had been to the Essex Steam Train and River Boat before, but we had never been to Day Out with Thomas. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew I wanted to be, at least somewhat, prepared! Since Mandy and Shawna have covered this event for the past several years (find links to those posts in the intro above), we figured there was no need to go through our entire visit like we normally would on a new outing. Instead, being my family’s first visit, I’d put together a list of the top 5 things we loved about Day Out With Thomas, The Friendship Tour 2017!
Like others, I’m sure, I had been checking the weather forecast all week so when Saturday ended up being a rainy day, I couldn’t have been the only one surprised! I swear I saw partly cloudy and warm. For anyone who doesn’t live in the area, I can tell you Saturday was more along the lines of rainy and chilly. We weren’t going to let anything ruin our exciting Day Out With Thomas, but we did have to put a little extra thought into our wardrobe for the day. Normally, I’d say you’d want to dress in comfy shoes and maybe bring a sweatshirt or jacket along since most of the activities are outside. For us, we got out our boots, sweatshirts and jackets, and luckily my husband remembered to grab the big umbrella! Yup – that’s how you would have found me on Saturday – under an umbrella!
So with all that being said – here is a little disclaimer – my little guy, Rex, he tends to not be the most cooperative with pictures to begin with, so factor in the rain and it being a little chilly… You’ll notice he doesn’t look too happy in most pictures, but I assure you, he had a great time! And we did our best to get lots of pictures, stay dry and of course, have LOTS of fun!
Top 5 Things We Loved About Day Out With Thomas, The Friendship Tour 2017
1. The Inside Attractions
I mean, maybe this is a given because of the rainy weather I was describing, ha, but aside from that factor – there were LOTS of really great indoor activities. Definitely something you should leave time for even if you aren’t looking to get out of the rain or sun! As we walked inside the main building we found the huge Thomas gift shop – I mean everything Thomas you could think of – from complete train sets, to t-shirts, Megabloks sets, booster seats, bath toys – you name it, they had it! Luckily for me, the boys checked it all out but we were able to make it out without buying anything. In a room just off of the gift shop area, there was a photo op with Sir Topham Hatt. In the same room were also some train tables and Megabloks photo cut outs.
Rex was immediately drawn to the train tables and opted out of the photo with Sir Topham Hatt but luckily, Ace was a better sport about saying hello and taking a photo!
After our photo we were about to head outside when we found some other fun stuff to check out like the biggest model train set up we had ever seen! The boys were happy to sit and check that out for a little bit too!
I wish I had done a better job reading the map we were handed when we walked in, but it wasn’t until later in the day that I realized downstairs in that same building there was lots of other entertainment going on – we missed out on the storytelling, the videos, arts & crafts and probably even some other cool stuff! On a nicer day we probably would have done a better job exploring! So make sure you don’t miss out!
2. The Petting Zoo
It didn’t take the boys long to spot the cute little animals in the petting zoo. To be honest, from a distance they may have thought it was a play area for them! These adorable little goats, donkey and alpacas had some toys that looked pretty similar to some around our house!
The boys were a little hesitant at first about actually feeding the goats but once they warmed up to the idea I was digging out every quarter I had to buy more and more goat food! Like everything else, the Petting Zoo is included in your cost of admission so there’s no need to have any money on hand, but if you plan to give the goats a little snack be sure to have at least a few quarters with you for the little “Goat Food” candy machines!
The Petting Zoo is also located under a tent which is great for hot (or rainy) days. The boys loved being able to be right up close with the animals, not only feeding but petting them too!
As you can imagine, feeding goats, although fun, can be a little bit messy. The boys (obviously) didn’t seem to mind at all, but I was happy to see not only the hand sanitizer stations but also a big hand washing station just outside the tent on either side. If you have any animal lovers in your family, you won’t want to miss passing through the Petting Zoo tent!
3. The Food
After checking out some of the previous posts about Day Out With Thomas, I was excited to see that there was reasonably priced food at this event! With little ones, (and a pregnant Mom) someone always seems to be hungry! It was great to not have to pack food and drinks with us. (We are currently enjoying our “not needing to bring a stroller” phase we are in – but I have to admit sometimes I miss the cup holder and storage basket – especially for things like snacks – that comes along with the stroller!)
The first thing you’ll need to do if you wanna get something to eat or drink, is to stop by one of the ticket stands. Tickets are sold for $1 each. Most of the food options, sold by the Lions Club, are under $5 or so. We were able to get a couple of hamburgers, hot dogs, a chicken sandwich, 2 bottles of water, 2 juice boxes, and I think a few bags of chips for less than $25 – I’d say compared to other fairs and carnival type settings the food was relatively inexpensive and everyone seemed to like it!
Check out Rex, doing his best to eat the entire hot dog – possibly in one bite?
We took the opportunity as we sat down under the tent (see, lots of tents – AKA- chances to stay out of the sun and rain) to wait for a shower to pass by and plan our next move. It always seems to serve us well when we stop for a little food & drink break. You can stay and play all day, so don’t hesitate to take a little break to refuel!
4. The Rides!!!
The exclamation marks are just so you understand exactly how exciting the rides were for my kids! As I mentioned before, all the rides are included with your admission, and the kids can ride the rides as many times as you’ll let them! My boys couldn’t wait to get on the rides, which worked out well since we arrived about 2 1/2 hours before our scheduled train ride. I’m assuming due to the weather there were hardly any lines for the rides, which was awesome.
The big hits of the day were definitely the merry-go-round, the flying elephants, and Ace couldn’t get enough the Sponge Bob Fun House! They were a little bummed the big Fun Slide was closed due to the weather, but it really was for the best….the bottom of it looked more like a water slide and that would not have been a FUN slide ride at all.
From Mom’s point of view, my favorite part about the rides was that they were all appropriate for all ages – AND – at least for my little guys (ages 3 and 6) they didn’t need an adult to ride with them. A lot of places we go Rex tends to be a little too short or rides require an adult to ride with him. It was nice to be able to watch them having fun and not have to get dizzy 🙂 Be sure to leave plenty of time for the rides – I’m sure the lines could get a little longer on nicer days and you’d not want to miss out on all that fun!
5. THOMAS AND PERCY!!
I think this one goes without saying – Of course our FAVORITE part of our day was meeting Thomas and Percy! I loved that we got to do both before actually taking our ride on Thomas’ train. Right through the main gates sat Percy just waiting to meet the children and take pictures with them. It was such a great way to start off the day. Not only were you able to take as many photos as you wanted with your own camera but they also had professional photographers on hand taking photos that could be purchased later in the day!
You can actually notice Rex in the picture with Percy looking to his right, that was because he spotted Thomas pulling into the station! Being at the event for a few hours before our train ride it was awesome to get to watch Thomas pull in and out of the station several times. I think it only got more and more exciting every time they saw, and heard him coming too!
I think Rex couldn’t believe that he was seeing the REAL, TALKING Thomas. I was pretty impressed myself. I knew it would be pretty cool from the pictures I had seen, but seeing it in person – watching the excitement in the boys’ eyes, was really awesome.
Once Thomas had pulled all the way in, we followed the signs to the Thomas Photo Op. There was a small, organized line forming for each family to get a turn to take a picture with Thomas. Just like Percy, you were able to use your own camera and had the opportunity to have a professional one taken as well. This photo op is only available between train rides for about 20 minutes so you’ll want to make sure you leave time for the photo after your train ride or before another train ride. Right before your train ride would not be the best time for this since you’ll want to get in line and be boarding while Thomas is posing for pictures 🙂 This really is your chance to get up close and personal with Thomas!
About 20 minutes before our scheduled train ride, we made our way over to the boarding area. We figured it wouldn’t hurt to be towards the front of the line, watch Thomas come into the station one last time, and be under the tent 🙂 While anxiously awaiting Thomas’ arrival the boys seemed to find one of the only puddles under the tent and really test out just how waterproof their boots were.
Luckily, it wasn’t long before we heard Thomas approaching the station and they were able to shift their focus that way, and welcome Thomas back to the station for our ride!
Finally, it was time for what we had been waiting for all day – Our ride on Thomas! Being at the front of the line we were among the first to board, although, there is plenty of room for everyone with tickets, so certainly don’t feel like you have to be first in line. Before long we were on our way. They have fun Thomas music playing and the kids (and Dad) were loving it!
Rex was having fun too, but like I said earlier, he was in a “no pictures” sort of mood by this point in the day.
The train ride lasted about 25 minutes – which seemed like the perfect amount of time to keep the kids engaged and excited. As we were heading back to the station, the conductor came around and personally handed each child a Junior Engineer Certificate on behalf of Sir Topham Hatt himself. It was really cute how special it made them feel!
The whole day was amazing, but hands down the ride on Thomas was the highlight! Given all the fun we had on a rainy day, I can only imagine how much fun it’ll be on a beautiful spring day!
Tiffany Wentworth is a regular contributor to Out and About Mom. Tiffany, her husband, and their two boys live in Bloomfield, Connecticut. In her spare time (ha!), Tiffany works in human resources and also has her own business as an airbrush makeup artist. You can read all of Tiffany’s posts here.
April 22nd & 23rd, April 29th & 30th, May 6th & 7th 2017
$24/Person, Children under two FREE; parking is FREE
Buy tickets HERE (Tickets must be purchased ahead of time; no tickets sold at the event.)
Essex Steam Train-Essex, CT
Phone: (860) 767-0103 | (800) 377-3987
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