New Hampshire Bound for All Things Train
Story by Stephen Johnson
Photos by Sandra Garrido
My three-year old son, David, has many interests but one true passion – Thomas the Train. His morning normally begins playing with the Thomas trains and continues to do so until bedtime. When I found out that Thomas was making a visit to North Conway, New Hampshire, I knew it had to be part of our summer plans.
We packed up our Thomas bags and backpacks and headed down to New Hampshire. It is about an eight hour drive from Ottawa so we broke up the journey with an overnight stay in Burlington, Vermont.
The first pleasant surprise of the trip was the incredible scenery. North Conway is situated in the White Mountains. Between Burlington and North Conway, we took many unscheduled stops to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. As we pulled into North Conway, David caught his first glimpse of Thomas the Train. All of his toy trains and DVDs were transformed into a real steam engine that you could touch and actually pulled passenger cars. David was enthralled and immediately wanted to take the train. We had to assure him that Thomas was just going to sleep and would be there in the morning.
The next morning, you can imagine David woke up excited to finally be taking Thomas. He packed up his little Thomas backpack and was ready to go. Walking towards the train, it felt like we were attending a Thomas convention. Little kids were decked out in everything Thomas.
When we arrived at the station, David immediately wanted to take a ride on Thomas. We had about a two hour wait before our train was scheduled to depart. Luckily, there were many activities to keep parents and children entertained. A children’s singer sang railway songs providing the perfect musical mood. David was thrilled having his photo taken with Thomas characters like Sir Topham Hatt. We also visited a working locomotive and generally just enjoyed the festive atmosphere.
Finally, the big moment arrived and it was our turn to take a ride on Thomas. There are a few moments in a parent’s life where they can completely feel the joy of their child. David’s ride on
Thomas was one of those moments. From the instant the conductor said, “All aboard, tickets please,” to the train leaving the station, David was transported to another world. He seemed to be replaying all the Thomas adventures on DVD and placed himself in those stories.
The scenery was stunning as we passed by lush mountains in full summer colour, lakes and streams filled with vacationing families who waved as the train went by and charming small towns. The entire trip took about 25 minutes. As we returned to the station, the conductor presented every child a card certifying he or she had taken a ride on Thomas.
We had a brief lunch and then immediately hopped aboard another train. We had booked a scenic train ride aboard the Conway Scenic Railway. This trip was more about learning the fascinating history of the area. It provided a needed breather from all the Thomas activities. Upon our return from the scenic railway excursion, the crowds had started to thin. We headed towards the Thomas imagination station tent. There were a number of fun activities based around the Thomas theme. My son got his first tattoo of Thomas – thank goodness it was a removable, washable tattoo. David loved the Thomas the Train tables and did not want to leave when it was time to go. It was somehow comforting watching dozens of parents having the same dilemma as they tried to explain that Thomas would soon be closing. I’m sure security had a harder time getting hundreds of three-yearolds to leave Thomas than almost any other event!
We finished our perfect day with a couple of photos of David with Thomas the Tank Engine. He looked exhausted, but content.
The following day, we had a few extra hours before returning to Canada. We decided to go visit Storyland which is a themed amusement park. Many of the rides and attractions are based on wellknown children’s fables. It was only about 10 minutes from North Conway.
We were expecting to spend perhaps a couple of hours at the park but were blown away by all the attractions. All of the rides were geared towards younger children, thus it was perfect for our son. In keeping with all things train, David loved the miniature train that did a tour of the entire park.
Two hours quickly turned into four hours and we realized we needed to head back to Canada. It is not an understatement to say a family would need a full day to properly see Storyland. We did not have time to do all the rides or see all the shows, which included a circus.
Our drive back to Canada was very pleasant as we made numerous stops to enjoy the beautiful vistas of the White Mountains. David kept busy in the backseat with numerous toy trains and memories that he and us will enjoy for a long time.
We had a very relaxing stay at the Eastern Slopes Inn in North Conway, www.mtwashingtonvalleyaccommodations.com/eastern-slope-inn.
It should be noted that activities in North Conway do not only include infrequent visits by Thomas the Train. The town is situated in the heart of the White Mountains, thus there are numerous outdoor possibilities including hiking, biking and fishing. New Hampshire does not have any sales tax so many people know North Conway for the outlet stores. I did not visit any, but they appeared to be very busy as we were entering town.