Man, this was an awesome day! I am surprised that the boys' heads didn't explode. They were just in heaven.
We didn't tell the boys where we were going - it was a surprise. An easy drive 1 hour north to Spencer and as we pulled in to the North Carolina Transportation Museum the pictures of Thomas and Percy become more noticeable to the guys, and while they are as stoic as their dad, you can see that they know something exciting is about to happen.
When we get out of the car the boys can see train tracks (which is almost exciting enough) but after a quick walk they are face to face with Thomas and their disbelief is just adorable. It's Thomas! Their current favorite character - and for two 3 year olds this is a big deal. We explain to them we are going for a ride on the train and they are beside themselves. Once on the train it is only a 20 minute trip around the grounds, but along the way we cross paths with Percy, who is staged in another part of the museum. Again excitement levels peak. The look on there faces is just priceless. At 3, they can't really express themselves greatly, but you know that everything that is going on in their heads is all good.
After the ride, there are opportunities to have a picture near the train, needless to say it was hard to keep them away. The Museum itself is a great spot (though God knows how I'll be able to come back here with the boys without them expecting Thomas and Percy). We wandered the grounds, saw a lot of model railroads as well as the shed loaded with great old trains, right by a turntable (Tidmouth Sheds as far as the boys we concerned). As well we lunched in the abundant grasslands and let the boys play on a fire engine from Spencer, there for the occasion.
The boys watch Thomas go by with Mom
While walking back from the sheds we did run the gauntlet by going into the merchandise hall. Yeah we spent some money, but it could've been a whole lot worse - thankfully the boys aren't demanding in that way and are more than content with what they get. Outside there was an photo opportunity with Sir Topham Hatt. We waited in line for about 25 minutes and when we finally got to the front the boys were a bit freaked out by the character and decided just to see him from a distance (again inheriting some of dad's traits)
As we were about to leave, Amy realized she had lost her phone somewhere, so while she went over where we had been, I took the boys over to Percy's station and let them get up close and have some photos with him.
Percy & The Boys
Overall I can't fault this event. A ticketed event with a timed departure for the train (which went smoothly - but we were there early). Photo opportunities that gave you the option of taking your own or having professional ones done. Perfect weather. It was a day that made me feel great to be a parent. To give this gift to my kids and see their whole world light up was all those things I'd heard other parents talk about that I'd once dismissed (Can't be that good). I get it now.