Thomas and friends have chugged their way to Chicagoland with a stop at Illinois Railway Museum for the annual Day Out With Thomas: The Steam Team Tour 2019 presented by Mattel.. We visited this past weekend and have the inside scoop on thing that you need to know to prep you for your Day Out With Thomas.
What you should know about Day Out With Thomas:
- Buy tickets beforehand. To board Thomas or Percy you’ll need a time ticket. If you’re looking to ride Thomas early on the day, you will need to buy tickets ahead of time since the earlier time slots sell out. We went at 3 p.m. and although it was scorching hot, it was not as busy/crowded.
- Buy on the phone to save $$. If you call the museum at (815) 923-4391 EXT 452 you will NOT have to pay a service charge.
- ANOTHER TIP: You can also buy your tickets on the day of at the museum. I was told by a museum representative if you arrive before 2 p.m. on the day of, they will guarantee a ride that day. Plus, there’s no service charge either.
Getting ready for Day Out With Thomas
- Parking is free and plentiful. The gravel and grass parking lot opens at 7:30 a.m. and doors open at 9 a.m.
- Come early to enjoy. Come a few hours beforehand (or stay a few hours afterward) to enjoy the activities and museum.
- Once you check in, make sure to grab a map and a “Passport To Adventures”. Bring the passport with you to all of the 4 stamping stations then redeem your prize! It also happens to be a neat little activity book to keep the little ones busy
- Bring the strollers/wagons. While you can’t bring strollers on the train, they have stroller parking right outside. As one of the largest train museums around, there is a lot of ground to cover so if you have those with little feet you’ll want to give those little legs a rest.
Thomas the Train Ride
- Riding Thomas the Train is probably what you’ve been waiting for. If you don’t have time, make a right after checking in and head straight to the boarding station at your designated time. If you’re boarding earlier, I’d suggest getting there as early as you can since it is first come first serve. If you’re boarding at a later time, you don’t necessarily need to get there as early. We had a 3 p.m. slotted time and just arrived minutes before our boarding time. We basically just walked in with no queue at all.
- Do not sit close to Thomas. People will probably want to line up and sit in the first few train cars behind Thomas. My suggestion? Sit in the train cars towards the end. Not only will it be less crowded, but when he goes around the bend you can see him. We sat in the 4th train car behind Thomas and this was our view. For the best views, make sure you sit on the side facing the field/streetcars.
- Just remember, you will be riding a historic train aka no air conditioning. The twenty-minute train rides goes through the countryside and was pretty uneventful.
- Junior engineers will walk out with a certificate commemorating the event. Before you know it, we were back at the station.
You also have a chance to take a 20-minute train ride with Percy fo an additional $10. Note: You will need a Thomas ticket to purchase a Percy train ride ticket. Percy is located on the other side of the museum.
- Take a selfie with Thomas. When you’re all done with your ride, you can go ahead and stand in line to take pictures in front of Thomas.
Other fun things to do
Meet Thomas and Friends characters. Take a photo with the Controller of the Railway, Sir Topham Hatt. It also happens to be a stamp station! Purchasing the photos is totally optional.
- Head to the Thomas & Friends Imagination Station for all the fun activities. Steer the kids toward the Thomas & Friends Imagination Station, a lively area that’s especially appealing to kiddos five and under. It features stamps, temporary tattoos, arts and crafts, train tables and coloring activities. There’s also a Thomas ride-on, sand, and another Thomas inflatable.
- Trains, trains, and more trains. If you haven’t been to the Illinois Railway Museum, the largest railway museum in the U.S., you’re in for a real treat! Your train lover will be in heaven. Make sure you browse through the different barns where the historic trains reside. Best of all, some of their historic electric trolleys will be running. Rides are included in the admission.
- Play at the train-themed playground. My kids spotted the inflatables and bypassed the playground.
- For something quick and on the go, they have vendors that serve food.
- The museum also has a small diner (with A/C!)
- Bring your own food and drinks. Save your money for souvenirs (or ice cream)! The Illinois Railway Museum has plenty of grass and picnic tables so go ahead and bring a blanket and a picnic lunch.
- If you’re looking for fast food, you can hit up Huntley (Exit Rt. 47 off I-90). They have loads of options including Culvers and Beef Shack (my favorite!). Other food to try include the local favorite Dairy Mart serving burgers and ice cream. For exceptional gelato, you can’t miss Manny’s Gelato in downtown Huntley. Looking for coffee or donuts? Morkes Chocolate Huntley delivers. If you’re in the area and need a place to play you will absolutely love Diecke Park. It’s a local favorite!
Illinois Railway Museum, 7000 Olson Rd., Union, Illinois
July 20th and 21st, 2019. Thomas and Percy rides depart every 30 minutes, rain or shine. Departure times for Thomas begin at 10 am through 3 pm each day of the event. Percy rides start at 10:15 and leave every half hour till 3:15.
$21 plus tax for ages two and up. A $10 ticket is required for a ride behind Percy. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at www.dayoutwiththomas.com or by calling Ticketweb toll-free at 866.468.7630. For more information and directions, contact the Illinois Railway Museum at 800-BIG-RAIL, the THOMAS ticket desk at 815-923-4391, ext 452 or www.irm.org.