My husband is such a big train enthusiast that even well before we had our first child, we would pull over whenever he saw a cool train and needed to get a better look. When I was pregnant with our son, it was a no-brainer that the theme of the nursery would be trains. And luckily, Henry has fully embraced his daddy’s love for everything related to trains. He went on his first train ride, a Christmas-themed excursion in Strasburg, at just two months. And at 4, he regularly tells us that he knows ALL about trains. He certainly knows more than I do, but since our bedtime reading now includes library picks such as “The History of the Pennsylvania Railroad,” my train knowledge has definitely expanded over the past few years!
Last week, I saw on Facebook that tickets went on sale that day for Day Out with Thomas at Strasburg Railroad. Within an hour, I had secured tickets for one of the June dates. If you have a Thomas fan in your family, you’ll definitely want to check out one of these events! This will be my 3rd Day Out With Thomas with the kids. To give you an idea of how much Henry (and Charlotte) enjoy these events (and how much I LOVE seeing their excitement), the last one we went to was just 2 days after I was released from the hospital after an emergency appendectomy! Last year’s was cancelled because of the pandemic, but we still had a great time when we attended the scaled back Thomas event in September 2020.
The 2021 Day Out with Thomas events look like they’ll be back to being ALMOST on par with the events of the past, with the obvious Covid restrictions in place – masks, limited tickets, etc. Your tickets includes a 45-minute steam train ride with Thomas the Tank Engine and photo ops with Thomas, Percy, Mavis, Rusty and Sir Topham Hatt. Plus, can ride the miniature steam locomotive and the cranky cars, and participate in other Thomas-themed activities. I will definitely post again after this year’s event to give a review and some tips. In the mean time, here are some train destinations that are within an hour or so from Bucks County.
301 Gap Road, Ronks, PA
In addition to being the only spot (relatively) near us that hosts Day Out with Thomas, Strasburg Railroad also hosts a number of other excursions throughout the year including the standard 45-minute rides plus other themed events like trivia, escape room, Christmas and Easter. There’s a playground and picnic groves (both are currently closed though), and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (reopened Fridays through Sundays as of April 30!) is just across the street.
We like to stop at Casey Jones’ Restaurant at The Red Caboose Motel either before or after our train ride for lunch. It’s just a few minutes from Strasburg Railroad, and you get to eat lunch in a renovated caboose! There are great views of the trains going by from inside the restaurant. Or, you can watch the trains outside. See below for a slideshow of Henry and Charlotte joyfully watching an approaching train during a visit with my dad this past September. Then as the train got closer and sounded its horn, they were TERRIFIED! (They got over it quickly, but made for some funny pics.)
New Hope Railroad
32 West Bridge Street, New Hope
If you’re ever been to New Hope, chances are good that you’ve stopped to check out the trains even if you haven’t gone for a ride. While the New Hope train station itself isn’t as much of a “destination” as the Strasburg Railroad, it has the benefit of being close to so many other fun local spots – including the shops and restaurants in New Hope and Lambertville. While we didn’t drive all the way out to Strasburg before kids, my husband and I DID take several train rides from New Hope just the two of us. They even have wine and cheese themed excursions reserved just for adults over 21! Kids will love the standard rides, or the themed excursions they host at Easter, Halloween and Christmas. We rode Santa’s Steam Spectacular on December 23, 2019 and it was definitely a HIGHLIGHT of our Christmas season. You can even have birthday parties aboard the New Hope Railroad!
Tip: The New Hope Railroad is just across the street from the Bucks County Children’s Museum. And Triumph Brewery’s outdoor seating overlooks the train tracks and station! Neither of those businesses are currently open, but it SOUNDS like they’ll be reopening soon. (Triumph recently posted on Facebook that they’re hiring!) We’ve enjoyed several “Family Days” visiting a combination of those 3 spots.
64 S. Washington Street, Boyertown
We’ve actually never been to the Colebrookdale Railroad, but it looks like a great spot if you’re looking for a longer excursion. Train rides are nearly 2 hours long, and they have themes such as The Secret Valley Expedition, Easter Bunny Express, Mimosa Brunch, Mudball Express (where you toss mudballs with seeds in them to encourage wildflower growth) and more. For now, 45 minutes seem to be our sweet spot, but maybe we’ll try Colebrookdale as the kids get a bit older!
Garden Railway at Longwood Gardens
1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square
(Only open during the fall and holiday season)
Longwood Gardens is beautiful during every season, but it’s especially magical at Christmas. For our family, one of the highlights is seeing the Garden Railway – complete with nearly 500 feet of track and dozens of miniature locomotives, steam engines, diesel engines and specialty engines. Plus – Thomas and friends! In Longwood fashion, the train tracks wind through a beautiful multi-layer garden area with lots of string lights giving it a festive glow at night.
Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum
100 E. Northwestern Avenue, Philadelphia
(Open late spring through early fall and again for the holidays)
The Garden Railway at Morris Arboretum features a quarter mile track with loops, tunnels, bridges and more. You’ll spot Philadelphia landmarks like the Museum of Art and Independence Hall, and all of the miniature buildings are made entirely out of natural materials such as bark, twigs, acorns, stones, etc. We’ve visited the Garden Railway twice during Christmas, and the kids will spend HOURS running skipping alongside the model trains, pointing out figures hidden within the plants, and watching Thomas make his loop. I only just recently found out that the Garden Railway isn’t JUST for the holidays! Now that I know it’ll be reopening at the end of May, I’ll be sure to bring the kids again when the warmer weather will make it nicer to walk around the rest of the grounds, too.
Whenever you visit, be sure to bring the kids over the
591 Durham Road (Route 413), Wrightstown
Carousel Village’s train and carousel are still currently closed because of the pandemic, but it’s so cute that I needed to include them in this list. Your family can take a short (approximately 10-15 minute) ride on an authentic half-size replica CP Huntington steam engine. The ride loops through the 45-acre Indian Walk Christmas Tree Farm, making stops to talk about (and feed) animals like alpacas, goats and ponies. While there, you can stop to get ice cream from Owow Cow and eat at Vince’s Pizzeria & Taproom just next door.
We hope the train is running again soon!
UP NEXT: I’m going to share some of our favorite train gear (plus a few extras I’ve found) to bring along when you’re on a local train adventure! While the gift shops at these places have some awesome stuff, I personally try to limit my time in them with the kids. At least at their ages, it can become incredibly stressful (and lead to meltdowns), so I like to come prepared with a few train surprises already packed and ready to give them. I’ll try to get that together to share soon! See that list HERE!