Chances are if you have a kid, you will be interested in heading to a train show this holiday. Our favorite train show at the NY Botanical Gardens is back this weekend in all its splendor and the ongoing train show at the Lionel store is likely to have a Christmas theme this year as usual. There is also a nice, small train show at Grand Central that is sure to delight along with its nearby market for some amazing holiday shopping.
The New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show
November 17, 2012- January 13, 2013
The beloved Holiday Train Show at The New York Botanical Garden is celebrating its 21st season where you can view this year’s display of model trains chugging by more than 140 New York landmarks such as Penn Station, Yankee Stadium, the Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, and Radio City Music Hall – all of which are created from leaves, twigs, bark, berries, seeds, pine cones, nuts, and pods. A new structure will be added this year to the already expansive display: a replica of Macy’s flagship location.
What you should know: The gardens make you check your stroller in the tent outside the train show and only water is permitted inside. Depending on when you go, the line will either be short or long. I have been on a weekend and will never do that again, and on a weekday and will always do that again! We got there at 4 pm on a weekday, there were no lines for tickets or entry and it was magical in the gardens because the trees were lit up as well as the entire conservatory.
If you go during peak hours, you walk in and wait in a long line that eventually winds it way into the conservatory. As you make your way through the building, you get progressively warmer and there is no place to put your coats- let alone your children’s’ coats, bottles, etc. Last year I was weighed down by 3 coats, 2 bottles, an Ergo and an antsy kid. Be prepared. Layer, layer, layer and see if you can bring another adult with you. Strip down in the tent and pile all your coats on the stroller. I promise you that you will be plenty warm once you get inside the conservancy.
Tickets are available in 15-minute increments. When you purchase tickets online, you can choose your date and start time in advance. Once you enter the Conservatory you can take as much time as you want to view the show. It is truly the best train show in the country. I have also been to the famous one at the Chicago Botanical Gardens and liked it as well, but NY’s is truly large in scope. You’ll also salivate at the handcrafted gingerbread houses created by some of the city’s most imaginative bakers, and take an up-close tour of the spices used to make the houses. Save room for some samples—decorating gingersnaps is part of the fun.
And more you should know: One year I called in the morning of a school holiday to buy tickets to the train exhibit for the same day, but they said they weren’t available online or on the phone at such late notice. When I inquired about reserving a spot for that morning, they said, “Oh, just come in, there aren’t lines until 12:30 pm.” Well, you guessed it- bad advice! We got there at 11:30 am and couldn’t get tickets until an hour later. We messed around in the beautiful gardens (even in the winter) and went to see the gingerbread house. The house is cute and fun for the kids to run in and out of – but it’s not fabulous. We expected a really large construction with natural bounty decorating it.
And more: Once we got into the display the children were mesmerized. Trains zoomed overhead and through mysterious tunnels, they circled at every moment so if you happened to miss one, another one equally as fun chugged by. There were ladybug trains, high-speed trains, old-fashioned trains: it was magical. The sets were incredible. The only bummer is that you have to push by people if you want to go at a faster pace- and with children that is inevitably the case. My advice: don’t go on a weekend and if you do, plan to arrive earlier than 11:30 am. Try and go on a weekday and late afternoon so you catch the beautiful lights outside.
Additional activities to do after or before the train show:
The Little Engine That Could Puppet Show
Tuesdays–Thursdays, November 27–December 27 (except Tuesday, December 25), and Mondays, December 17 and 31, times vary.
The classic tale of The Little Engine That Could ™ is brought to life in an exciting presentation by New York City puppet master Ralph Lee. The whole family can join the fun to get the determined train over the mountain!
(©Penguin Group USA)
NEW! All Aboard with Thomas and Friends at the Holiday Train Show
January 1-27, times vary.
Thomas and Friends™ are pulling into the station! Join Thomas and Driver Sam on a fun-filled, sing-along, mini-performance adventure by helping Thomas find his way from Knapford Station to Brendam Docks using teamwork, friendship, and discovery. Bring your camera; each mini-performance includes a photo op with Thomas after the mini-performance.
Dates and times vary.
We enjoy this part of the holiday festival too as it is less crowded generally and the children love to explore the inside of a child-sized gingerbread playhouse. Kids can and also decorate a gingersnap cookie with frosting and candies. All ages will enjoy viewing a display of gingerbread houses made by New York City-area bakers.
The Artist’s Studio
Returning this year is the Artist’s Studio where visitors can also get a insider’s look at how the trains are created through tools, photos, and panels to show kids how it the magic comes together. New this year: two botanically inspired trolleys and a train, each running on their own separate tracks. Also, check out the designers’ Applied Imagination’s other creations, including replicas of national and international sites and landmarks such as the Sphinx, Route 66 Diner, the Parthenon, and the Boston Harbor Lighthouse
The New York Botanical Garden
Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
Bronx River Parkway (Exit 7W) at Fordham Road
Bronx, New York
Children 2-12: $10
Children under 2: Free
The hours are Tuesday – Sunday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Closed most Mondays.
Holiday Train Show Hours
- Weekdays: Tuesday–Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
- Weekends: 10 a.m.–7 p.m., including Friday, November 23 (day after Thanksgiving)
- Holiday Weeks (Monday, December 17–Tuesday, January 1): 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
- Early closings: December 14 and 24; 3 p.m.
- Closed: November 22 (Thanksgiving) and December 25 (Christmas)
Grand Central Holiday Train Show and Market
November 12, 2012- December 24, 2012 (market)
November 21, 2012- February 12, 2013 (train show)
Grand Central Terminal turns 100 in 2013 is celebrating my creating a brand new layout built by Lionel. In this free show at New York City Transit Museum Annex, the model Metro-North and New York Central trains depart from a miniature Grand Central on their way North. Vintage model trains from the Museum’s collection will also be on display joined by New York Central railroad posters harkening back to Grand Central’s heyday as the nexus of long distance and commuter train travel. This free train show is especially fun as it takes place in a real train station: Grand Central.
What you should know: This is free, easy and, in general, no lines. It’s very small so don’t talk it up to your kids: it’s just a nice, side diversion to a day trip of going to Grand Central for both their holiday market and train show. The holiday market is in Vanderbilt Hall too: Grand Central Holiday Fair. This is a holiday fair that is on a lot of people’s lists. They have quality high-end vendors in the classy Vanderbilt Hall. The Holiday Fair hours are: Monday – Friday 7am – 9pm; Saturday from 10 am- 7 pm and Sunday from 11am – 6pm. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve- it is open from 10 am- 6 pm. Click here for the Holiday Fair directory. Details: For additional information about the Grand Central Holiday Train Show, please visit: www.grandcentralterminal.com. Details: Grand Central Station is located at 42nd St between Vanderbilt and Lexington.
Lionel Train Store’s Sales and Train Display
This is technically a store’s holiday train display, but in the past is was a great display to check out. We aren’t sure if it will continue this year, but I suspect it probably will. Either check back here or call the store. The store has operating trains whizzing through the store along with a Christmas tree to get you in the spirit. Don’t forget to get a Magnolia Bakery cupcake while you are nearby. They are the best! Store hours are 10 am – 9 pm weekdays and 11 am – 7 pm weekends, but will often have extended hours for special events and celebrations. Details: The Lionel Store is at 30 Rockefeller Plaza- 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue. For additional information, please visit: http://www.lionelstore.com/