The other day my 5-year-old son said to me, “Ooh Mom, I can’t wait until Christmas morning when Santa puts the train under the tree!”
On Christmas Eve it’s a tradition for Santa to set up a special “Holiday Express” train under the Christmas tree when he brings all of the presents. It makes the morning so magical to see the kids’ little faces light up as soon as they come downstairs and hear the sound of the train chugging around the tree. So of course, visiting train gardens is a must during the holiday season.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Clayville Railroad Outdoor Train Garden, Pasadena
This is definitely our favorite train garden for so many reasons. Jim Smith and his grandson, Steve Pinnix, do a wonderful job putting it together each year. The outdoor G-scale train garden is full of amazing details including ponds, lights and even a Halloween town display. In addition to the trains, kids can enjoy a bonfire, moon bounce, interactive games, holiday music and visits from Santa every Saturday night.
The train garden is free and includes plenty of parking, but donations are accepted and to go toward a different family in need every year. This year, proceeds will go to the Knight family to help with medical costs for there son who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. What a great way to experience an authentic outdoor train garden while helping give back to those in need right here in our community.
8269 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd.
Open Dec.1-18t, Thursdays-Sundays, 4-9 p.m.
Free, but donations are accepted
Train Garden at Marley Station Mall, Glen Burnie
This train garden is located in a storefront on the second level of Marley Station Mall, near Macy’s. For the past two years we’ve thoroughly enjoyed taking our boys because they can easily look through the plexiglas surrounding the display, push buttons to make things move and light up, and even race remote control cars on a small race track. We can easily spend an hour or more at this place, wandering around peering in at all the unique details. My boys especially like the Lego® displays that accompany the trains.
Since it gets crowded in on the weekends, we try to visit during the week. We also have a tradition of visiting on New Year’s Eve before driving the boys to see Christmas lights and usually we’re the only ones there. The display is run by Emmanuel Lutheran Church and all proceeds go to the North County Emergency Outreach.
7900 Ritchie Hwy.
Open Nov. 19-Dec. 31 during regular mall hours (Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m., with varying holiday hours)
Free, but donations are accepted
Holiday Train Display at Homestead Gardens, Davidsonville
This indoor display is located near the back of the store, conveniently next to their little coffee shop, and is a great place to take the kids while doing some holiday shopping. We love walking through the store “oohing” and “ahhing” at all the beautifully decorated trees, light displays, decorations and whimsical ornaments (though keeping little hands from grabbing the ornaments is always a challenge).
Once at the train display, I can grab a coffee, sit at a table, and enjoy watching my boys wander around the display. The employees are very nice and even switched out some of the trains that were running per my child’s request. There are also three antique looking ride-on toys that my kids adore for a quarter a ride. I’ve never visited on a weekend since I assume it gets crowded with the scheduled Santa visiting hours, but it’s great during the week. It’s also great at night when the outdoor lights are on.
743 W Central Ave
Open during regular store hours during the holiday season. (Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat., 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sun. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Model Train Layout at the B&O Railroad Museum
We have frequented B&O Railroad Museum for almost five years now. There’s so much to love about this place, but it takes on a whole new awesomeness at Christmas time! The entire Roundhouse is beautifully decorated with lights, giant wrapped gifts, toy soldiers and more. There are various model train layouts setup all throughout the museum, ranging from small to large-scale. Every weekend they put on a special event such as “North Pole Adventures,” “Winter Royal Adventures,” “Frosty Fest Weekend” and more.
Santa, Mrs Claus, Frosty the Snowman, and various characters from the movie Frozen all have guest appearances, and kids love the crafts, activities and indoor carousel rides. Some weekends feature live performances by different dance groups and choirs. For an additional cost, you can also take a short train ride or participate in themed breakfasts and story times. Tickets to these events can sell out quickly, so visit the B&O website (www.borail.org) for more information. I find it’s well worth the admission price since we can spend almost an entire day enjoying all the holiday train festivities!
901 West Pratt St.
Open Dec. 3-31 and Jan. 2 during regular museum hours (Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Admission is $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $12 for children ages 2-12. Some weekends require purchasing special tickets in advance for their holiday events, which tend to sell out quickly.
Click here for more local train gardens in the area.
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, 5-year-old James and 3-year-old Luke.