Last year everything was falling in place to make the Great MN Train Expo the perfect outing . I have two little boys who adore trains, Grandma and Grandpa were in town, and it was Jack’s birthday. Of course, we had to go. There was no way around it. After much planning, Grandma and Mama–that’s me–decided to make this an outing for the boys. So early in the morning, we hopped into the van, drove down the rode, turned around because I forgot my discounted admission ticket, drove back down the rode, and got on the freeway to head to Eagan.
When we arrived, the place was crawling. It reminded me of an anthill. Within the two days of the expo, 4050 little people and big people were weaving their ways in and out of cars to enter the expo. It took us some time, but we were finally able to park about three blocks away at the nearby library.
As we parked, I announced to the boys and to Grandma and to myself, “Put your busy hats on! This is going to be crazy!”
We took a short hike to the Civic Arena and stood in line outside the main doors to pay. It wasn’t a long wait, but as we waited, a man came barreling out of the door next to me with a wailing toddler, shouting, “I wouldn’t go in there. It’s not worth it.”
Well, maybe it wasn’t worth it for him, but I thought My youngest is now three. I’m pretty sure we can handle this.
After we had paid our admission fee (for Grandma and Mama), we proceeded into the arena itself. We were greeted with
They were everywhere. There was plenty of room to move around, but looking at all the layouts and displays created the illusion that there was no way to move. Thanks to the GRVS club a total of eighteen layouts representing the scales of Z, N, HO, HOn3, S, and G were displayed.
Choo Choo Bob had set up its store in the corner of the arena next to representatives who were there to buy and sell model train pieces.
And there was a small area for the Choo Choo Bob Live Show that performed a handful of times each of the days of the expo. It was so small you can’t even really call it a stage. More like a pathway big enough for them to put a drumset.
Oh, the show. Choo Choo Bob was accompanied by Engineer Emily and Engineer Paul and a nameless drummer. (Why is he nameless? Because he wasn’t Richard Kornbelt and I don’t remember how Choo Choo Bob introduced him. Sorry, nameless drummer!) The highlight of the show we watched was that Choo Choo Bob and the gang sang Happy Birthday to Jack. He was trying to start the show when I ran down and said, “Choo Choo Bob? There’s a birthday.”
Being the great friend that Choo Choo Bob is, he asked for all the vital information and then led the crowd in a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. Jack was pretty excited!
I was completely impressed with Choo Choo Bob. He remembered Jack’s name (he’s real name is very unique) and how old he was. A 1/2 hour later when we met him in the photoline, he called Jack by name and was wishing him a happy birthday.
The train expo was full of all kinds of things for train enthusiasts to enjoy. There were train tables for the youngest hearts, and 15 train layouts to enjoy.
And a complicated puzzle to solve.
Even though, concessions were offered, we decided to leave for lunch. We wanted to be able to sit at a table and spread out a little. When we came back at 2:00, the frenzy had died down. There were parking spots available in the arena’s actual lot. We were able to meander around the room and take time to enjoy each layout.
And that’s just what we did.
By the time, we got home, Grandma and Mama were exhausted. Utterly pooped out. The boys? They were so excited they were bouncing off the walls and babbling on and on incoherently. Honestly, I don’t know what that scowling dad with the wailing child was expecting. It was everything we expected and even better.
Maybe he hadn’t put on his busy hat.
- The Choo Choo Bob Show is always a lot of fun especially when it’s live. And the kids always have a great time meeting the cast. The three that were there this time were my favorite three I think. AND Choo Choo Bob has earned as many brownie points he can. Don’t be afraid to approach him to say hi, but remember that he is busy with lots of responsibilities.
- There was so much for the kids to do. With puzzles to solve and trains to touch and toys to use, it was a train mecca for your train lover. And for you, too! It is crowded, but everyone was so kind and willing to be patient. (Well, all except for Jack at times)
- I love seeing the serious model trainers interact with kids. You can tell that this is extremely important to them and they don’t want it ruined. However, it’s so good for them to be reminded of the joy they used to have as a child watching the models. Yes, they are determined to make everything absolutely perfect, but they need to be in the midst of the crazy kid chaos as much as the kids need to be there.
- Parking was difficult in the morning. The easiest way to avoid that is go after lunch. This goes against everything I have ever believed about arriving early to beat the crowds. In this case, I recommend waiting for the crowds to go home for naps!
- While there was an opportunity to buy hot dogs and such, there wasn’t really a great place to sit at a table (that I saw anyway). In a way it was good to leave, though. We need to sit and spread out. When we came back after lunch, we had a second wind and were able to enjoy it even more.
Bob Medcraft, the founder of Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store, knows what he is doing. He is amazing at putting trains together with kids.
The Great Minnesota Train Expo is totally worth the price.
Just remember to put on your busy hat and to roll with the punches!
Head on over to the Expo as soon as you can. You will be glad you did!
Great Minnesota Train Expo
Eagan Civic Arena
March 22-23, 2013
Saturday 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Sunday 9:00 am-3:00 pm
$5, free for those under 8
Gianna Kordatzky is a co-founder of Family Fun Twin Cities.