Thomas the Train puffed into the station, in all of his steamy glory and with a smile on his metal face. It was a magnificent arrival! We got lucky and were the first on the platform for our ride time. Even the kids, who’d had a difficult day, were in awe.
I found out about Thomas the Train visiting Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan several months before tickets went on sale. I even remembered to return to the site and order them when they went on sale to the public. When the weekend came, we packed up our kids, dropped the animals off to be boarded, and we were on our way!
Taking two toddlers to another state was going to be easy. Right? Wrong.
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Road Construction Woes
We got into traffic around the halfway point, due to road construction. It also happened to be when my then 22 month old woke up and decided she was done being in the car. It seemed so long before we were able to stop, in reality, about 25 minutes.
When we got back on the road, the traffic wasn’t much better and we crawled most of the way to the Michigan line. We arrived at the hotel 2 hours later than we had planned. Note to self: Always, always, always allow extra time. You will stop far more often with kids along!
The hotel had a pool. This was a must for us, as pools are happy places for our kids. Other parents also strongly suggested this because swimming tires out their kids. Of course, one child (he was almost 3 at the time) tested his boundaries and went in without his floaties. I jumped in immediately after and was impressed that he held his breath (and had no lasting trauma).
Both kids threw up in the hotel room after being in the pool. Only one child would eat a reasonable amount of dinner. The husband fell asleep and left me to try to get both kids to sleep on my own*. I’m not sure how he can sleep through all of that commotion, but he can!
*This isn’t normally a problem, hotels are just sucky when trying to get toddlers to fall asleep.
Go, go, go Thomas!
The next morning, we were up early, as is our usual. We had breakfast and went to see Thomas!
I was the only one of the four of us who was excited. Though we were used to trips to the zoo and the local conservatory, our visit to Greenfield Village wasn’t going well. My expectations were far too high. Everyone was a little grumpy. Thankfully, we had both baby carriers and we each put a kid on our back and wandered around for awhile. My daughter fell asleep. A nap was a perfect thing for her at the time!
About the Thomas the Train Event
There are a lot of things to do during the Thomas the Train days at Greenfield Village. You can meet Sir Topham Hat. Be aware that it is a person inside a costume with a giant plastic mask/head. If I had a recommendation for the organizers of this event, it is to find a bald actor who resembles Sir Topham Hat! We have little friends who would be terrified of a person in that costume!
We didn’t do most of the activities that were offered. I think it would be better if we had waited a year. At ages 22 months and almost 3 years, the activities seem better suited to kids who were a little older. It may also be that our kids were really discombobulated by being out of our regular routine.
We took advantage of the playground, to let off some steam. Please remember it will be hectic on Thomas weekends. Our kids did enjoy it, though I felt like I had to watch them extra carefully during this busy event.
It’s Go Time. This is not a drill
Finally, our time to ride Thomas came around. This part was the highlight of everyone’s day and my kids enjoyed it immensely! Not every child will like it and I beg of you to be respectful to your child. One thing I learned from the weekend and parenting in general, is that children have feelings and they are big and real and we sometimes forget that children have those big emotions! It’s developmentally appropriate for them to have very little control over those big feelings, too. Adults do and often don’t act like it.
Children get scared! Threats don’t help a child overcome fear. If your child doesn’t enjoy an activity, it’s okay to stop doing the activity and change gears, even when money was spent. I get it, it sucks to waste money. If they do go and aren’t enjoying themselves, don’t tell them you’re going to take away all of their Thomas toys. It’s a crappy thing to say and to do (yes, I witnessed parents saying this to their child).
I am still thankful that we all liked riding Thomas the Train. Indeed, it really was the only part of the trip that everyone seemed to enjoy. When he pulls into the station, there’s a surprise in store for those waiting… he talks!
On traveling with toddlers
Traveling with little kids is a lot of work. Hotel rooms aren’t the easiest places to be with small ones. It’s boring fast and climbing the furniture is more fun than any toys that I’d brought. My husband and I weren’t mentally prepared for this trip. We each had our own expectations that weren’t met. Our visions were not what reality had in store.
The third morning of our trip, the kids finally settled into the new routine and were eating and happy. This was just in time to return home! It was mostly great to be home and we decided to postpone any travel desires for a little while.
It has been nearly a year since this trip and we are embarking on a long drive for a wedding in a few weeks. The kids have changed a lot in the past 11 months. I am ready! I’m ready for a 10+ hour drive. Okay, I *think* I’m ready.
Things I learned during our first trip
What went well: Riding on Thomas the Train, having a swimming pool on the hotel
What could be better: The actual event was well done. Possibly having a new and exciting toy or something like that would have bought us (the adults) a little down time. Waiting until the kids were a little older or doing the event that was closer to a friend’s home and attending it with them. Having an extra adult. Some things that aren’t always possible!
Celiac concerns: I didn’t have any issues finding food, even at the hotel’s continental breakfast. In the US, I do not expect to have any problems finding “safe” food. I packed various snacks for the kids that would also work for me, as needed. This is very easy to do for a road trip.
Details of seeing Thomas the Train
Thomas the Train events are held in various locations all over the country. There are events held in Cleveland, Ohio and Dearborn, Michigan. Both are usually held in May. Start looking for tickets and details in January/February.
Cost: More information at The Henry Ford Museum
Notes: Greenfield Village is a lot of fun, even without seeing Thomas. It’s a replica of an old-time town and there is a lot to learn and absorb.