One of the best gifts my dad has given our boys is a membership to the B&O Railroad Museum. We can go to either the Baltimore or Ellicott City station, though so far we have only frequented the Baltimore museum. What a hidden treasure this place is!
Our oldest son, James, has been infatuated with trains for the past year and a half. I relish the way he lights up when we walk through those doors into the historic Roundhouse, with its beautiful high domed ceiling and restored train engines and other railroad artifacts. Everything there is so hands-on, it’s a moms dream come true. There’s numerous interactive areas and visitors can walk right up onto several of the trains. Kids can flip lights on, hear realistic train sounds, open and close doors — all the things toddlers live for. Mine loves to just run up and down the ramp leading onto the train.
There’s an area inside just for toddlers that has a little shed with dress ups, numerous stocked train tables, a carpeted spot for building Lego train tracks, a coloring area, chalkboards, book nook and even baby-friendly activities for little hands along the wall. And the best part? It’s ‘fenced in’ with two gates that can be closed. I loved that I could grab a seat in one of their rocking chairs and nurse my baby while knowing that if my toddler made a break for it, he wasn’t getting far.
In warm weather, there is an awesome courtyard with an impressive miniature train village setup with numerous trains running along the tracks, in and out of tunnels and over bridges. There’s also a carousel, mini train ride and little “Happy Train” carnival ride that kids can go on for an additional cost. A cute little train-themed playground is also perfect for toddlers.
There is also an actual train ride called the “Mile One Express” that is fun for the kids. We don’t do it every time (even though it’s included with our membership) because James prefers to play inside on the train tables which clears out when everyone else is taking the train ride. Smart kid.
Their Toddler Story time is one of the best I’ve been to. They have the kids sit in front of a screen which projects the pictures of the book being read. There are also songs, a craft and always some cool little activity or experiment setup. Plus each kid gets a free ticket for the mini train ride. Score! Sometimes there’s an appearance from their mascot, “Choo Choo Blue,” who like most costumed mascots, freaks me out a little bit.
And don’t get me started on the awesome holiday events at the museum. Their Halloween story time and parade/trick-or-treating through the Roundhouse made my list of annual ‘must do’s’ primarily because they gave out little toys instead of candy. There’s Breakfast with the Easter Bunny and Christmastime is just the best. They also have other special events during the year like “Day out with Thomas” and “Choo Choo Soul.”
We hit this place up at least once or twice a month. Every time we go, I see something I didn’t see before. There’s another building full of restored diesel and electric trains on display that we haven’t even been into!
And if the kids weren’t so exhausted from all the awesomeness of this place, I’d consider hopping over to the Inner Harbor afterward for lunch and a tour on one of the historic ships there. Maybe one day, when I’m feeling extra adventurous and optimistically naive. Until then, I’m going to kick back, let my boys fight over who gets to use the Thomas train, and enjoy this rocking chair.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 2-year-old James and almost 1-year-old Luke.