13th Annual Hutchinson Model Railroad Show
McLeod County Fairgrounds, Hutchinson, MN . http://luceline.tripod.com/
$3 adults, children free . Free parking . Stroller accessible . Easy restroom access . Concessions on-site.
We arrived shortly after the doors opened at 9 a.m. Although the kids’ admissions were free, we each received a ticket for the half-hourly door prize drawing. There were several model railroad setups for the kids to watch. Some were complete and some were still works-in-progress. Anna could see a few of the trains from her stroller, but many were higher so that she and the kids had a hard time seeing. Vendors selling model train sets, pieces, and memorabilia rounded out the show, billed as “one of the best in Minnesota.” The railroad operators were happy to talk to the kids and answer questions from Mom about getting started with a model railroad. We stayed long enough to have a snack and have one of our numbers drawn for the second door prize, which was our selection from a table of various items. The kids chose “Oh, No!,” a DVD of toy train bloopers, and were excited to have won a prize.
From the train show, we headed into the Twin Cities. Warning: there is no McDonald’s on Highway 7 between Hutchinson and Lake Street. (There is one in Excelsior but it required a few left turns that I was unwilling to make, thinking we’d find more convenient golden arches along the way.) We had a quick lunch at Subway, and then headed around Lakes Calhoun and Harriet to our next destination.
Minnesota Streetcar Museum
West shore of Lake Harriet at West 42nd St., Minneapolis, MN . http://www.trolleyride.org
$2 ages 4 and up; 3 and under free . Free street parking or $.50 pay lot adjacent to depot . Platform and depot/museum/store are stroller accessible but stroller had to be folded to board the streetcar . Restrooms and concessions may be available at nearby Lake Harriet bandshell area.
The kids were really excited to ride the streetcar. We paid our fare and boarded the antique streetcar, complete with vintage advertisements and uniformed personnel. Although the trip was only about 15 minutes long, we were given a brief history of streetcars in the Twin Cities and had some beautiful views of Lake Harriet. The kids enjoyed riding a real train, even if the trip was short.
From there, we headed around Lake Harriet and back to Lake Street, then across to Marshall Avenue in St. Paul for our next stop.
Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store
2050 Marshall Ave., St. Paul, MN . 651-646-5252 . http://www.choochoobobs.com/
Free . Free street parking; additional parking behind store. Stroller accessible. Restroom with changing table available in store.
We had read about Choo Choo Bob’s and its seven train tables for kids to play on in the store, but with a model setup running and one available for children to run plus ride-ons for the toddler set, we almost didn’t make it to the back of the store where the train tables were. Once there, however, it was a Thomas-loving kid’s dream. Train tables with plenty of trains to go around, benches for parents to sit and watch, and shelves lined with all things Thomas the Tank Engine, Brio, and other train brands for kids plus model railroad supplies. A birthday party room is also available. I almost felt guilty that we didn’t buy anything since the kids had so much fun in the store, but we’ll go back again and remember Choo Choo Bob’s when we need future train gifts.
Since we were in St. Paul, the kids asked to go to the State Capitol.
Minnesota State Capitol
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, St. Paul, MN . 651-296-2881 . http://www.mnhs.org/places/sites/msc/
Free admission. Metered parking. We had the stroller so had to be buzzed into the handicapped entrance under the main stairs. Restrooms available.
Our trip to the Capitol was short since arrived at 2:45 and didn’t realize it closed at 3:00 on Saturdays. We were there just long enough to admire the painted ceilings and elegant staircases and to look up at the rotunda. We’ll return for a longer visit another time.
Then to our last stop of the day . . .
8000 Ikea Way, Bloomington, MN . 952-858-8088 . www.ikea.com
Free. Free parking. Stroller accessible; carts with one child seat available. Family restrooms available. Restaurant on-site.
Usually I don’t consider a trip to the store to be part of an adventure, but a few places are unique enough to be added to the list. What makes Ikea special for our family is Smaaland, a supervised children’s play area, where I just happened to have three children who fit the size guidelines. So, while I shopped with just one child in the cart, the other three were playing, coloring, and watching movies in Smaaland. It was the perfect setup for them and for me, and not a bad way for them to run off the last of their energy before the ride home.
I really liked when we played with the Thomas trains and I liked looking around and watching the big model go around in a circle at Choo Choo Bob’s. I really liked it when we won our prize at the Railroad Show and it was “Oh No!” I think that’s what’s going to happen to my trains when I start collecting them.
I really liked the Hutchinson Model Railroad Show. I liked it when it went through the tunnel. I liked the streetcar when it went both ways and we parked by another streetcar.
I really liked watching the trains. It was fun.