Railroads & Locomotives Tourist Railroad Profiles What to expect at a Day Out With Thomas event

What to expect at a Day Out With Thomas event

By Nastassia Putz | February 27, 2024

Glee-filled children running about, Thomas the Tank Engine nearby, and still many other things to consider on the day of your event

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Day Out with Thomas event

Day Out With Thomas event: The Color Tour (2023). See Thomas like never before. Mattel

What to expect

Fun in the sun. This is an outdoor festival of sorts. The Day Out With Thomas theme changes annually to keep families coming back year after year. Each event location will vary, offering different attractions like live entertainment, lawn games, carnival rides, museum access, train rides, photo opportunities, and more. Activities will vary based on the ever-changing theme.

“Our goal is to create unforgettable memories and give kids the opportunity to see and ride-along with a life-sized version of their favorite character, Thomas,” says a Mattel spokesperson. “To be able to bring the No. 1 blue engine to life and see the joy on little ones’ faces is what it’s all about.”

Most of Mattel’s railroad partners have been hosting this event for 20 plus years. Marcus Neubacher, director of administration for the North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation, notes that the museum has been participating in the Day Out With Thomas since the very beginning (roughly late 1996) — for more than 25 years.

At N.C. Transportation Museum, Day Out With Thomas is an all-day event. They have Thomas the Tank Engine and Percy pulling separate trains for ticket holders. Note: not all locations feature Percy.

“We hope families will arrive early, stay late, and enjoy a full Day Out With Thomas,” says Neubacher. Additional entertainment includes music, a hay bale maze, large inflatable characters, games, model trains, bubbles, crafts, and a gift shop full of exclusive Thomas merchandise along with museum souvenirs. Tour the museum’s collection of railroad, automobile, trucking, and aviation exhibits as well. This venue’s event is indoors and outdoors.

Day Out With Thomas events offer hours of entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. Mattel

Ticket holder’s checklist:

No matter which tourist railroad or museum you are visiting for a Day Out With Thomas, be prepared for plenty of fun.

  • Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended — events sell out fast.
  • Check the weather prior to event and dress accordingly — rain or shine the show must go on (sunscreen, poncho, etc.).
  • Check your email for pre-event information which will include train departure time, when gates open, event schedule, event map, safety guidelines, and other venue-specific details.
  • Checking in: Arrive at least an hour prior to your train departure. Check in at the entrance, find parking, get food, use bathroom, and get familiar with the lay of the land.
    Note: some venues may have wrist bands to pick up.
  • Hold on to printed or mobile tickets for boarding train and be in line 20 minutes prior to departure. Seating is first-come first-served. Larger parties will want to wait in line together.
  • Strollers cannot go on trains and must be parked in designated area.
  • Snacks/drinks can be brought in or bought at venue.
  • Wear comfortable shoes for walking
  • Free parking available at most locations.
  • ADA accessible with wheelchair lift available on a designated car on each train (depending on venue).
  • Diaper changing area available.
  • Gift shop full of toys and souvenirs.
  • Be prepared for a long day. Remember: there are enough activities at your Day Out With Thomas venue to fill the entire day. Plan plenty of extra time, beyond what it will take for your train ride.
  • Again, activities and accommodations will vary by location.

Support local events

Neubacher says the Mattel team is very supportive and great to work with. They are also in it for the long haul.

“We work closely with Mattel in planning, marketing, and executing the event,” he says. “Mattel sends one of their event managers to our location each year who works closely with our team to provide a fun-filled experience for families.”

Each event, depending on its size and plethora of activities, will need a staff of around 20-40 people (usually comprised of volunteers). Another important aspect of A Day Out With Thomas is that the events support the historical railroad preservation and educational activities of participating heritage railroads.

“The Day Out With Thomas tickets help support their mission and can be one of the largest fundraisers of the year to maintain their museums, collections, restorations and staff,” says a Mattel spokesperson. “In 2023, we are hosting 25 Day Out With Thomas events which equals approximately 260 event days.”

Unlike at the start of COVID-19, in which most, if not all, live events were canceled, rescheduled, made virtual, and/or closed due to limited staff, the rail community is seeing attendance numbers rising, which is something to be proud of.

“The resiliency of our staff and volunteers to work through these challenges has been very rewarding as we get back to some normalcy,” says a Mattel spokesperson. “Being able to see generations of families come out and have a fun-filled day, while also supporting the mission of our partner railroads, is the best outcome we could ever see.”

Day Out With Thomas helps support their worldwide heritage railroad partners to preserve railroad history and education for generations to come. Mattel

For a current list of locations, visit Day Out With Thomas’ train rides: Bubble Tour (2024).

One thought on “What to expect at a Day Out With Thomas event

  1. The Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA has a “Day with Thomas” event once a year. The Traveltown Museum here in L.A. has a “Thomas Day” once a month, where they drag out a LOT of Thomas engines & cars, and a LOAD of track, and set it up outside the gift shop. The Traveltown even is FREE, by the way…

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