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The Holiday Train Show

I’ve lived in the New York area for 25 years now. In all that time, I kept hearing about the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll go some day.” Well, folks—some day has arrived and, boy, am I sorry I waited so long to get there!

It’s truly an amazing vision—all these cool, garden-gauge trains (bigger than the toy trains I had as a kid) flying around a half-mile of track over bridges made out of twigs, through tunnels hollowed out of logs, and past 140 handmade structures. Each structure is a New York landmark composed of material. There’s everything from a replica of the ubiquitous brownstone to Yankee Stadium to Rockefeller Center. New this year is the TWA Flight Center at JFK.

Okay—so those are the stats, but what they doesn’t tell you is how exquisite it all is. The details are simply mind-boggling. The whole thing is set in the Conservatory—you know, the building you always see when people talk about the Garden. It’s warm and lush with plants galore. Each structure is nestled in yet more plants and there are even a few waterfalls. You could visit every day for a week and still not see everything. It’s not a huge exhibit, just really detailed. Young and old alike were there marveling at every little site.

Maisie had a ball simply running through the Garden to get to the Conservatory. What a great way to burn off a kid’s excess energy. Be forewarned: it’s a five-minute walk or so from the front gates. When we went, it was cold outside, so dress appropriately. Once inside, you can’t bring your stroller, but you can park it inside a big tent, just outside the doors. That meant I had to wear Hudson and chase Maisie. What fun!

Poor Maisie! She dissolved into tears when we first walked in the doors. She thought the trains would be just inside, but they aren’t in the main rotunda—they’re in one of the “arms”. So when she didn’t see a train right off, she wailed. As soon as she made it to the exhibit, everything was back to normal. Ah... to be two.

Both my kids were enthralled. Hudson just stared, smiling and laughing at everything. Maisie ran all over the place screaming, “Train! Train! Choo choo! Choo choo!” “Thomas!” “Red train!” You name it, she yelled it. She may have been the most exuberant, but all the other toddlers were doing the same and nobody cared. Each kid’s enthusiasm was greeted with smiles. What a lovely thing! It was a perfect way to entertain a two-year-old on a cold day. Truth be told, bigger kids were doing the same thing (though perhaps not yelling quite as loudly). It was really fun watching everybody’s faces as they discovered yet another cool part of the display.

The Garden also has Gingerbread Adventures, which we didn’t see this year. Maisie was too tired from all her dashing about. I hear it’s a pretty amazing thing, too. There are lots of gingerbread houses on display, and kids can touch, taste, and smell the spices used to make gingerbread. They can even decorate gingersnaps. Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t make it there. The holidays are not very friendly to us new moms still losing baby weight!

Here are a couple of things you need to know: the tickets are sold for admission times in 15-minute intervals so as to prevent it from getting too crowded. Once you’re in, you can stay as long as you like.

There are also some theatrical performances that we missed. One is “Tootle” and the other is “The Little Engine that Could” puppet show. “Thomas the Tank Engine” is also going to visit several times after the first of the year.

The show runs from now through January 9. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for kids. Kids under two are admitted free. BUT, during the “peak weeks” of December 21 through January 2, the prices go up by five bucks! So visit early.

Now, if you fall in love with trains and decide you simply must have your own, good news: The Great Westchester Toy & Train Show will be held right here at the Westchester County Center on December 12 and also January 30. It’s the biggest such show in the Northeast. Wahoo!
 

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