Published on June 23rd, 2013 | by Manoj
My Day Out With Thomas And Friends
If you’ve been following some of my posts, you’re probably aware of my son’s deepening love affair with trains. It’s an affair I’m quite in favor of and, admittedly, one that I seem to be gravitating towards as well. Of course, his fascination with locomotives had a beginning which, as you might have guessed, is the Thomas and Friends television show which airs on several different standard television channels throughout the country, as well as on the Sprout channel on cable or satellite television.
Each year, the companies that manage the Thomas franchise hold an event called Day Out With Thomas. My wife and I have speculated til now that this event would be tantamount to the Super Bowl for my son. Now that he’s nearing 2 years of age, we thought he was old enough to appreciate the trip, so we got ourselves tickets and took a drive down to the event in Strasburg, PA, in Lancaster County’s Amish farm country.
My son had a great time and so did we, but for different reasons.
The highlight of the event is being able to ride on a fully functional life-size Thomas train. The ride itself is a bit short, but that doesn’t take away from the experience for kids. Just the simple fact that they see and ride on Thomas is exciting enough for the kids. And judging by the reaction of the children around us on the train, this assessment is not just applicable to my son. We decided to attend the event on a Thursday morning, which I’m glad we did given the volume of people we saw filling in later in the day. I would imagine going on a weekend would be a bit of a nightmare in terms of lines and being able to move around the venue.
Outside of the train ride, there were some other activities that you would expect to see at a fair. Food stands, gift shops, fake tattoo parlors, musicians and people wearing incredible t-shirts to name a few. They did give kids the opportunity to meet a (larger than) life-size Sir Topham Hatt – the fictitious boss of the fictitious trains who, I’m guessing, was knighted by the queen at some point in the past. It was here that we discovered my son’s fear of puffy-faced versions of his favorite characters. I’m sure the person inside the Sir Topham Hatt suit cringed at the sound of my son’s bloodcurdling cry when he approached. We passed on the chance to have our photo taken with the owner of the Sodor railroads and quickly scurried out of the tent he was sitting in. I should point out that most kids seemed to love the chance to meet the fat controller of the railroad.
We entered another tent where all sorts of Thomas inspired toys were set on play tables for the kids to use. We watched as my son’s eyes momentarily popped out of their little sockets as he took in the sight of so many toys. It was a treat to see his reaction, but also a little hard as we saw some of the larger/older children elbow him out of the way to move around the tables or reach for a toy. I held my tongue and stood my ground – I believe my son needs to learn to fend for himself and that the world is not always a nice place. Of course I’d intervene if another child were to be too aggressive with him, but that didn’t happen so I was happy to see my son learn some subtle life lessons from the experience. But a word to the wise – keep an eye on your little ones at these play tables because some parents do not watch their children (even though they should be).
After spending some time in a Thomas store tent, I realized I was in Thomas overload (though my son couldn’t seem to get enough). We thought it was a good time to walk across the street from the event grounds and check out the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. This was a real treat for me. If you’re into history and things mechanical, you’ll enjoy this museum. They have several real locomotives from several different points in American history parked within its walls. Walking through them, I suddenly felt a lot like my son – looking at trains all wide-eyed and full of wonder. These trains make the commuter trains we see these days look insignificant and uninspired. At the risk of sounding like a Jeep commercial, I looked at these awesome creations and wondered where American craftsmanship went. It seems to me that we used to be able to infuse artistry with technology and reliability. Why did we let it die? Can we bring it back? I won’t wax philosophical too much now and leave it at this – the trains were amazingly cool. My son thoroughly enjoyed these as well.
Yes, seeing my son enjoy the Thomas and Friends activities made my experience wonderful. And yes, the museum added to the wonderfulness of the experience as well. But what made this day trip extra wonderful for me and my wife was the drive through the stunningly beautiful Amish farm country of Lancaster County. Winding roads through countrysides swathed in natural beauty, quaint farm houses nestled in acres of planted earth, cattle and horses grazing under a big open blue sky – the drive through this region was a feast for our eyes and a treat for our senses. With each hill we climbed and open field we rolled through, my pickup truck seemed to feel more and more ‘at home’. It reminded me that of all the creations we saw – works of fiction like Thomas and Friends, or awesome feats of engineering like the steam engines in the museum – the creations that are most incredible of all are the earth beneath our feet, the waters we gaze upon, and the skies above our heads.
Go check out the Day Out With Thomas event in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania.