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Wednesday, February 8, 2023
HomeBlogMommy DazeTrip to train town in Pennsylvania — Mommy Daze

Trip to train town in Pennsylvania — Mommy Daze

TrainTrip1Growing up in a family of just sisters, I never thought I’d be this excited about a 2-day family trip to a train town.

Justin, the boys and I headed to Strasburg, Penn., only about 2 hours from the Annapolis area, along with my dad and my 12-year-old niece who was visiting from California. The two days that followed were truly a great time.

Read on for some highlights in case you find yourself wandering in Amish country toting along train-loving children.

“Day Out with Thomas” at the Strasburg Railroad Station

The pros

  • Ride a train pulled by Thomas the Tank engine who talks and whose face and eyes move. My niece was thoroughly creeped out but my boys were mesmerized.
  • The Percy train (Thomas’s whiny co-dependent BFF) is also available for rides and pictures, along with a costumed Sir Topham Hatt.
  • Find everything Thomas. There is a huge store, fully-stocked train tables, a little battery-operated train ride area, temporary tattoos, iPad viewing station and various posters around with favorite Thomas characters.
  • A live musician the kids could interact with by singing onstage or playing one of the numerous instruments available.
  • Free access to the regular amenities of the Strasburg Station. There are little hand-carts kids can ride, a miniature steam engine train that parents and kids can both ride (warning: its whistle is piercingly loud), old-time photos and probably a bunch of other stuff I missed.

The Cons

  • It can be costly, as admission is about $20-$25 per person over 2 years old and they really push the merchandise, photos, and concessions.
  • You’ll be hearing the Thomas theme song in your head for days afterward

Railroad Museum of PennsylvaniaTrainTrip2

The pros

  • Over 100 preserved locomotives and cars from the 19th and 20th centuries all in one massive warehouse-like building.
  • Many of the trains were open to climb into and interact on.
  • One train was open underneath and had a staircase that led down so you could be under the train and look up at it’s intricate parts and wheels.

The cons

  • It is a massive place. We wandered around for over an hour and barely got to see a glimpse of what the museum has to offer.
  • Not very toddler friendly, as the whole place is up on platforms
  • Despite being across the street from Strasburg Train Station, it’s an additional cost to enter the museum.

Choo Choo Barn

The pros

  • Houses the most impressive model train display I’ve ever seen. James literally pooped his pants the first time he saw it (for real, I had to go out to the van and change him).
  • Trains are constantly zooming around, planes flying overhead and tons of little moving details like the giraffes in the zoo swaying back and fourth, the skiers coming down the hill, and even live fish swimming around in the ‘lakes.’
  • Every 10 minutes a “fire scene” takes place where a little fire truck puts out a burning building and also the lights will dim and the whole scene takes on a new perspective.
  • You can go around the display as many times as you want, and they change up the displays every couple months so there’s always something new.

The cons

  • It is fairly small and good for only a short visit.
  • You have to walk through a gift shop to actually enter the display area.

TrainTrip6Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant 

The pros

  • It has 40 historic train cars and cabooses that are pretty cool.
  • The front porch is covered in retro signs, decor and a couple of those coin-operated rides that kids lose their minds over.
  • The restaurant is a refurbished coach car that’s quite cozy and has an awesome view of the surrounding Amish country hills and fields.
  • The train tracks from Strasburg station go right past, so it was a thrill for James to look out the window and see Thomas puffing along.
  • There’s a unique gift shop which is a mish-mosh of random train paraphernalia, a model train display, arcade games and Amish butters.
  • Amish buggy rides are available in the parking lot (the driver even let my niece climb up front and steer the horses).

The cons

  • The food is mediocre.
  • The staff didn’t seem too thrilled with my overly energetic children (granted, James did knock his milk over twice.
  • Everything seemed quite aged and in need of some upgrades, so I probably wouldn’t lodge here (we just went for breakfast).

Fulton Steamboat InnTrainTrip5

The pros

  • Only about 5 minutes away from the train station and close to Lancaster outlets, Dutch Wonderland, and restaurants.
  • Great family atmosphere. The outside looks like a 19th century steamboat and there’s whimsical decor inside, and they have cookies & pink lemonade in the lobby
  • There are spacious, clean, comfortable rooms. Ours had a king bed and a bunk bed with a trundle under the bottom bunk.
  • The walls are thick. My Dad in the room next door never heard James tantrum or Luke’s 30-second scream fest at bedtime.
  • There’s an amazing huge pirate ship playground that would be great for any age.
  • A pond filled with Koi and a gazillion ducks (who would waddle on shore to eat the corn kernels the hotel generously provided us with). A moat also that encircled the hotel, giving you the illusion the whole place is floating on water.
  • The hotel’s restaurant, Huckleberry’s, is surprisingly kid-friendly despite it’s more grown up ambiance, and each of the kids got a free bowl of ice-cream just by wearing the little paper sailor hats provided to us at check-in.
  • An indoor heated pool is open to families until 10 p.m. then adult-only until midnight.
  • The entire grounds are smoke-free.

The cons

  • None! This place was great! And cheaper than all the other hotels in the area.

With my sleeping family snoring away behind me, I drove home smiling and already planning in my head another trip at Christmas time. Choo Choo!!

Click here to read more Mommy Daze.

MommyDazeFamW

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.

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