5 Things to Do in Missoula with a Toddler in Tow

Last year, as many of you know, we embarked on our biggest trip to date with BattleKid. It was a two-week USA road trip taking in the stunning Yellowstone National Park, smoky Missoula in Montana and the hip and vibrant city of Portland. Missoula is a place not many people will have heard of, us included before our trip, but is definitely worth a visit. And today I’m going to share with you 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow, should you be visiting yourself with a toddler or young kids.Missoula with a toddler - blog graphic

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Now, we chose Missoula, which is in the state of Montana, as it was roughly the halfway point between Yellowstone and Portland. Stopping there would enable us to break up the driving and have some down time with BattleKid during our road trip. We also chose it because there was a town called Lolo right beside it and also Lolo National Forest. Lolo is the nickname my Dad got from his first grandson and it stuck. So naturally we needed to visit the town that shares his name.

We also intended to visit Lolo National Forest but alas it was not to be. Montana was cloaked in smoke due to widespread forest fires, some of which had reached Lolo National Forest, causing it to be closed to the public for safety. But it gives us a reason to return. With the forest no longer an option, we needed to find things to do in Missoula with kids.

Our first port of call was Google. We searched for things to do with kids in Missoula. These had to include fun activities for kids as we had BattleKid with us. We were also fortunate that our AirBnB host had left a few magazines in the apartment one of which had articles about things to do in Montana with kids. The articles proved so useful to us. They not only showed what to do with kids in Missoula and the wider Montana area, they also gave some ideas of free things to do in Missoula.

Armed with as much information as possible, we set out to discover Missoula and other nearby things that we otherwise would have missed had the forest been open. And as a result, I am able to share with you 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow. All of these are fun things to do in Missoula and the slightly wider areas around it.

5 Things to Do in Missoula with a Toddler in Tow

Have a Picnic in Caras Park Missoula

Caras Park is located in Downtown Missoula along the Clark Fort River. It is a lovely area and the Park Pavilion plays host to a variety of events throughout the year including music concerts, festivals and even a type of Oktoberfest, which was being set up the day we had our picnic in the park.

We visited one day during our time in Missoula after being in the wider Montana area, and I had packed a picnic. We found some picnic benches near the Pavilion and enjoyed our lunch in the sun. Other families soon joined us on the adjacent benches for their own picnics. And if you don’t want to sit on the benches there are plenty of lovely grassy areas for picnic blankets too. Afterwards, you can enjoy one of the following two things.

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Picnic time in Missoula

Have a Ride on the Carousel for Missoula

Located in Caras Park, the Carousel for Missoula was opened in 1995 and was the culmination of the labour of many volunteers and over 100,000 construction hours. Featuring 38 hand-carved ponies, two chariots, 14 gargoyles, mirror frames and the largest band organ in continuous use in America, it is somewhere kids, young and old, can enjoy. You need a token per ride, which costs just 75c, and if you, as a parent, want to ride and share a pony with your child (as I did), it will cost you two tokens.

There is also a chance to win free rides by collecting rings from a chute as you pass by, but you need to be on an outside pony to try your luck. BattleKid and I enjoyed two rides together and he didn’t want to get off. The Carousel for Missoula is really one of the fun things to do in Missoula with kids that shouldn’t be missed. It is open 364 days of the year between 11 and 5.30.

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One the Carousel for Missoula

Let your toddler run wild in the Dragon Hollow Playground

Also located in Caras Park, right beside the Carousel for Missoula, the Dragon Hollow playground is a brilliant place to visit with toddlers and kids. It was designed by artists and consultants after getting advice and ideas from local school children. It is a very safe playground which is enclosed by a picket fence and has chip bark flooring. Featuring a huge Dragon themed play house with tunnels, stairs and slides, BattleKid had a great time weaving his way through to the biggest slide he could find!

There are also swings, musical play features and an area for smaller children. It is suitable for kids from 18 months to 12 years of age, is open all year round and is free to use. There are seats around the playground for parents to take a breather. One thing I will point out is that once your child enters the dragon, you cannot easily see them until they emerge from a slide. So just be cautious. But it is one of the best wooden playhouses I have ever come across and BattleKid thoroughly enjoyed himself here.things to do in missoula with a toddler in tow - visit dragon hollow playground

Visit the National Bison Range

Established in 1908 as a sanctuary for the American bison, the National Bison Range is located approximately an hour north of Missoula. It was one of the places featured in the magazines that our AirBnB host had left in the apartment and somewhere we might have missed. It is home to a herd of between 350 and 500 bison but is also home to other animals such as coyote, black bear, elk, bighorn sheep and pronghorn deer.

There are two routes you can drive at the Bison Range. The short Prairie Drive is open all-year round while the longer Red Sleep Mountain Drive is only open from mid-May to early October. We did the Red Sleep Mountain Drive and it was challenging. It has sharp switch-backs and steep declines and I’d recommend you do this in a 4×4 car due to the roughness of the road. Note, this drive is closed during the winter months.

Although we had seen bison in Yellowstone, we were hoping to see other animals and saw elk and pronghorn deer during our visit. A day pass costs just $5 (you can get an annual oass valid from your first visit for just $15), and the gates are generally open from 7am to 7pm. The visitor’s centre, where you pay, has plenty of information about the range and also has toilets too. Although we only spent a few hours there it was worth the drive from Missoula.

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Visiting the National Bison Range, Montana

Visit Ewam Buddha Garden, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

This was one of the most surprising places we visited in Montana. Situated in Arlee, about 40 minutes north of Missoula, the Ewam Buddha Garden has to be one of the most peaceful and tranquil places we’ve ever visited.

In the centre of the garden lies a 24-foot tall statue of Yum Chenmo. One thousand Montana-made images of Buddha are arranged in the shape of an eight-spoked Dharma wheel, which encircle Yum Chenmo. 1000 additional stupas surmount the two exterior throne walls, creating the outer rim of the Dharma wheel. And it is a mesmorising sight to see.

5 things to do in missoula with a toddler in tow - visit the Ewam Buddha Garden
A view of the Ewam Buddha Garden from the hill of prayer flags. See how smokey it is!

The gardens also have a small lake hosting fish and surrounded by large Buddha statues. The garden is open all year round from dawn until dusk and is free to visit (with donation boxes at various points throughout the garden). It was designed for people to enjoy the space, flowers and serene surroundings. Guided tours are available and there is also a gift shop and ample parking.

Once we found out about the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas we knew we had to visit it. A dear friend of ours in Wales introduced us to Buddhism. BattleKid enjoyed our walk around the garden, stopping here and there to admire certain Buddha statues and to say hello to the fish. I’m just sorry we didn’t know there was a prayer flag mount there before we went, or we would have created our own to add. You wouldn’t think this is a place to visit with kids but BattleKid really enjoyed it, so I’m sure your kids would too. And as it is on the same route as the Bison Range you could visit both in one day.

5 things to do in missoula with a toddler in tow - visit the garden of one thousand buddhas
The central buddha in the Ewam Buddha Garden.

Missoula with a toddler - Facebook graphic

I can hand-on-heart say we enjoyed each and every one of these activities in Missoula and Montana. And in hindsight the forest fires and resulting smoke were a blessing in disguise. We might not have visited any of these sights had it not been for the fact that Lolo National Forest, our original reason for visiting Missoula, was closed. Our sudden change of plans worked out for the best and we got to visit places even BattleKid enjoyed.

So, if you are wondering what to do in Missoula and Montana with toddlers and young children, I hope I’ve given you some ideas of both paid and free things to do with my 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow.

And if you are considering visiting the USA with kids and not sure what there is to do with them in certain cities, these posts might help decide for you!

20 Things to do  in Oklahoma City with kids (or without) – Parenthood and Passports

How to do a weekend trip to Sarasota, Florida with kids – Our Globetrotters

My perfect 24 hours in San Francisco with kids: itinerary – Learning Escapes

5 Things to do in New York with a Toddler in Tow – BattleMum

Cath x

Missoula with a toddler - pinterest graphic Missoula with a toddler - twitter graphic

Holiday Diaries 2018

This post is a little late being published this year but none-the-less, here it is. Now, 2017 was a fantastic year for holidays for the Battle Family. I have no idea how we are going to beat it. But, as wanderlusters we will strive to enjoy whatever holidays we have planned. And so far we have three booked.

As for last year, we started the year with a scouting mission to Portugal in readiness for our permanent move here. Then, after what felt like a very long wait, we were finally on our 2-week USA road trip. And what a trip that turned out to be. Only a few weeks after we returned from the States, we were back in the UK to experience a mid-week stay in Bluestone as part of their Bluestone Bloggers Programme. And we ended the year in style by visiting Disneyland Paris in December. BattleKid keeps asking to go back to the castle every time we watch a Disney film.Photo collage of holiday destinations visited by the Battle Family in 2017

So, what do we have planned so far for this year I hear you ask? Well, firstly, BattleKid and I are off to Ireland over Easter for a 10-day trip. We are starting with a 7-day road trip in the southern half of the country where we will take in places like the Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle and Fota Wildlife Park. After our mini road trip, we’ll be heading up to Dublin to visit family and to also spend a day being a tourist in Dublin, thanks to an amazing collaboration with a tourism company (more on that to come). I’m really looking forward to our trip to Ireland, which is only a matter of a few weeks away now.

The next trip we have booked is a long weekend as a family in Barcelona at the beginning of July. BattleDad is going to see Guns and Roses in concert there. When I discovered we can get a direct flight from Faro to Barcelona, I asked could BattleKid and I tag along. We’re going for four and a half days, and I’m looking forward to visiting this famous Spanish city. 

And last but not least, we have an awesome trip mostly planned for December. We’re going to visit Santa in Lapland, and we’ll also spend a few days in Helsinki as well. And this is the trip that has me most excited. I am literally hopping with excitement. We have our flights to Helsinki booked, and are finalising our accommodation. We will also need to sort our transfers from the capital to Lapland nearer the time but I know it’s going to be amazing. There are a few final details we need to sort out with family we’ll be joining there, but for now, it’s shaping up nicely. 

The three trips we have planned so far are going to be wonderful, but I don’t think we’re done yet. We are weighing up options for another trip at the end of the summer and it’s between two options. Both will entail a road trip, as we’ve really been bitten by the road trip bug since our epic time in America last year. It will very much depend on BattleDad’s work commitments and whether we can take one or two weeks. I’m really hoping we can stretch to the two weeks as I have something in mind for that. But if not, we’ll plan the one week in the coming month or two. So watch this space for updates.

That’s our travel plans so far for 2018. I’ll update this post if we plan and book that road trip, and also if anything suddenly appears on the horizon.

Have you got any trips planned for this year, and if so, where are you going? Inspire me!

Cath x

Twitter graphic for Holiday dairies 2018 plan post by BattleMum

 

Wanderlust Kids #10

Wow, 2017 was a quick year. And I can’t believe we already a month into 2018. How did that happen? We didn’t have a Wanderlust Kids linky last month as Christmas was a busy time but it’s back for 2018 for all your kids-based travel posts. A huge thank you to all my regular linkees, I hope to see more from you this year. And if this is your first time joining us, welcome. I hope I’ll be reading lots from you this year. 

Without further ado, let me tell you December’s featured and special mentioned posts.

December’s Featured Wanderlust Kids Post

I had never before thought India was a country to visit with kids. It always worried me how they would get on with the heat, food and possibly busy areas. However, Jenny from Travelynn Family linked up her post about top things to do in Jaipur with Kids and it’s completely changed my thinking. Not only does it look like an amazing part of India, but she also shared lots of tips for visiting some of the various sights with kids. The Pink City looks stunning and that sunset at Nahargarh Fort looks amazing. Please pop over for a read of her blog post if you haven’t caught it already.

December’s Special Mention Wanderlust Kids Post

The other post which really caught my attention last month was posted by Nicky of Go Live Young. She shared her post about Camping with Kids in Wadi Rum in Jordan. It’s another thing I wouldn’t have thought possible with kids but it sounds amazing. The rock bridge looks scary and their picture of the Milky Way is just spectacular. Why not pop over and check it out.

December’s Other Great Posts

From Toddler to Traveler shared their post comparing Carnival and Disney cruises with toddlers. Which one came out on top? You’ll have to pop over and find out!

Lisa of Baby Loves Travel shared her post about visiting London Zoo with a toddler. We’d love to visit this zoo one day.

Lydia from Hollidaze and Hellidaze linked up her post about why the Angsana Lang Co is a brilliant luxurious family resort in Central Vietnam. It really does look pure luzury.

Truly Madly Kids shared their post about why kids love Brighton. With things like the BA I360 pod (like the London Eye) and the pier, it’s easy to see why.

I really enjoyed reading everyone’s posts last month and cannot wait to see what is linked up this month. I must say a big thank you again to everyone joining in with Wanderlust Kids.

This month I’m linking up my post Tips for Visiting Disneyland Paris: The Ultimate How to Guide. We visited Disneyland Paris in December for the first time as a family and had a great time. So I thought I’d share as many hints and tips about visiting Disneyland Paris as I could. It was my longest blog post to date too, so feel free to just pin it for future reference!

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My ‘Wanderlust Kids’ linky will open from the 1st of each month for you to link up a post, old or new, which involves travelling with kids. It can be a day out, a family holiday, a travel review, somewhere new your children have discovered or a post with hints and tips about travelling with kids. As long as it features kids and is travel based it can be linked up. The following month I will write a synopsis of the posts linked up by everyone, and I’ll be featuring my favourite one, linking back to everyone’s blog.

So, if you’d like to join in, just grab the badge below, add it to your post and link up your post via the link up button below. Please make sure you visit a few other posts that have linked up and leave a comment. Alternatively, if you’d prefer not to add the badge, simply link back to this post.

Don’t forget that throughout the month you can use the #WanderlustKids on your Instagram photos which involve travelling with kids. These photos can be abroad, home or days out, so long as they feature your children and have a travel theme attached to it. Each fortnight I will pick my favourites to showcase. I cannot believe how well this little community is growing and appreciate everyone who has adopted the #wanderlustkids on Instagram.

And last but not least, I’ve created a Wanderlust Kids group on Facebook. The idea behind it was that not everyone who travels with their kids will have a blog. So, by creating the group we can share our posts and travel tips with non-bloggers, and maybe even help each other out by sharing advice or ideas about travelling with your kids. I don’t know if the group will go anywhere but I’d love it if you could join up, and add anyone you think might benefit from the group. Feel free to share your travel blog posts there too!

I look forward to reading your posts, maybe gaining some inspiration. And if you’re wondering about what types of posts have been linked up before, check them out under my Wanderlust Kids Section.

WanderlustKids

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Trialmotor: The BEST way to introduce your kids to motorbikes

Last October we drove to the northern half of Portugal to visit a place called Trialmotor run by Filipe Paiva. It was a chance to see if BattleKid could handle a mini motorbike and, to see if he would listen to instructions. The idea being that if he did, on both accounts, Father Christmas might bring him his first motorbike. Today I want to share with you why I believe Trialmotor is the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes, especially if you are living in Portugal.trialmotor - the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes - blog graphic

Now, if you haven’t guessed by now, we are a biking family. Motorbikes that is. BattleDad got his motorbike licence over ten years ago and bought his first proper motorbike while we were living in Wales, a Yamaha FZ6. Since then he’s had many different bikes, and I’ve enjoyed riding pillion. When BattleKid was less than 18 months old, he was introduced to MotoGP one Sunday and his love for motorbikes was born. We never pushed it onto him, it happened quite naturally. We would watch MotoGP most Sunday afternoons when it was on, and he would be in the living room with us.

He soon got into motorbikes, and at aged 2, he got a balance bike, which he renamed his ‘motorbike’. Aged 3 saw Father Christmas bring a peddle bike and within six months, BattleKid was cycling independently on his ‘motorbike’. BattleDad wanted to progress him to a kid’s motorbike and he started doing a lot of research. He realised that trials bikes might be the way forward and he eventually happened upon Trialmotor, run by Filipe.

Trialmotor, based out of Lousã, in northern Portugal is the passion and commitment of Filipe. After doing a Master’s Degree in Pre-Historic Archaeology and Rock Art, during which time he would ride his trials bikes into the mountains to do some of his research, Filipe started an online business (www.trialmotor.com) for trials bikes and equipment, and it became successful, very quickly.

As well as having a successful online business, Filipe also became a very success trials rider, competing in competitions throughout Europe and becoming the Portuguese Trials National team rider and captain. He opened his training school and academy at his home in Lousã, where riders of all ages and experience can be introduced to trials bikes and receive coaching from him. And it was for this reason we headed north.

We left the Algarve on the Friday at lunchtime and drove four and a half hours with BattleKid to stay at Filipe’s family business, the Quintal de Além do Ribeiro, a rural hotel from the XVIII century.  After meeting Filipe and checking in, we enjoyed a short visit to the nearby castle (we didn’t manage any dragon hunting), and a fabulous dinner in a local restaurant as recommended to us by Filipe. BattleKid’s introductory lesson was booked for Saturday morning, so we got an early night once we got back.

Filipe and his wife Shabrina run a B&B at their home, and it’s an amazing home. As well as the B&B (and their own quarters), they also have the trials school and academy there. They have a pool for guests to use on hot summer days, a lovely bar area to socialise in, and they really do welcome their guests with open arms. You’re even welcome to pick your own fruit from their trees.

Trialmotor photo collage of Quintal de Além do Ribeiro
Our room at the Quintal de Além do Ribeiro

On the Saturday morning, after a continental breakfast in the breakfast room, we packed up our room, which was extremely comfortable and spacious I might add, and met Filipe in the courtyard. Filipe started by giving us a tour of his training grounds and office. Then, it was time for BattleKid’s lesson.

Now, I’ll be completely honest and say I had reservations about a motorbike. We live in a gated ex-pat community where there are a lot of retired residents, and I wasn’t too sure they would welcome a noisy bike into the community. However, I was pleasantly surprised when Filipe started the OSET 12.5 trials bike, and how quiet it was as he wheeled it over to the beginners’ grassy area. It was really quiet.

BattleKid trying on a helmet for size.
BattleKid trying on a helmet for size.
BattleKid following Filipe over to the Beginner's Area
Following Filipe to the Beginner’s area

BattleDad and I decided to stand back and let Filipe give the instructions to BattleKid as it was better to have one adult talking to him rather than three. With his helmet on his head, BattleKid was ready for his first lesson. Filipe explained how the bike worked, how to turn the key and how to use the throttle, something BattleKid had no experience of before.

Battlekid getting his instructions from Filipe
Battlekid getting his instructions from Filipe

And in no time, he was off. He started off slowly but with each passing minute we could see his confidence growing. He was listening to Filipe’s instructions and doing as he was told. From doing big circles around the cones to figures of eights, he looked like a natural. Although we had only booked an hour’s lesson, Filipe carried on with BattleKid, encouraging him to try standing up, a technique needed when riding a trials bike. Our lesson was an hour and a half long, and BattleKid didn’t want to get off.BattleKid setting off on the motorbike

BattleKid was keen to get over to the track area that had jumps and ramps, but he needs to get standing on the bike first before he tackles that. However, we are planning a return visit to Trialmotor and Filipe, so perhaps with some practise on the bike Father Christmas brought him, he’ll be able to try the track out next time! Needless-to-say, we had a very happy boy in the car on the drive back down to the Algarve.BattleKid proud as punch beside an Oset 12.5 motorbike

Watching some trials videos after his lesson
BattleKid watching some trials videos after his lesson

Trialmotor, what a way to introduce your kids to motorbikes. Be they experienced riders, or complete novices, Filipe has an area tailor-made for each level of riding. Beginners start off on a flat, grassy area, getting to grips with the bike and controls, and learning to handle the bike at a basic level.

Once riders have completed basic lessons here, or are medium-level riders, then there is a track as mentioned with ramps, small jumps and obstacles to try your skills on. And for the more advanced riders, Filipe can take you out into the mountains nearby where you can test your riding skills in the natural environment idea for trials bikes.

For those of you who might have reservations about letting your kids loose on a trials bike, let me reassure you, this is the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes. Trials bikes are designed for slow speed riding and manoeuvring. These bikes, although quite capable of speed, are not meant for normal riding as you and I might know it.

Trials is a great family-orientated sport, with people of all ages from 4 years to 74 years enjoying riding across the world. I’ve watched a few videos on YouTube which explain trials in greater detail than I can, and the big point I came away with is that it is a safe sport to be enjoyed by everyone in the family.

I had no idea what trials riding was before BattleDad started his research into the best way to introduce BattleKid to motorbikes, but I am very thankful to him for all his efforts. As mentioned I was worried about a noisy bike around our place, but the bikes Filipe has, in order to introduce your kids to motorbikes, are OSET electric bikes, so there is very little noise from them. You can hear how ‘loud’ they get in our video below.

Filipe’s academy and school offers lessons for riders of all levels. Children can start from the age of 2 on the electric bikes, and Filipe has a range of bikes to suit all ages. Beginners, as we’ve shown and discussed, start on a flat, grassy area and remain there until they learn control of the bike. Medium level riders can then start to tackle the ramps and obstacles area, while advanced and expert riders are taken into the Hardcore area to experience real terrain.

Some of the bikes available at Trialmotor for lessons
Some of the bikes available at Trialmotor for lessons

Filipe is extremely patient and a good teacher. His English is excellent and as well as being a native Portuguese speaker, he also speaks Spanish and French. Trialmotor is the best way to introduce your kids to motorbikes because all lessons are tailored to their riding levels and skills, and both beginner and medium skilled riders’ lessons are held within the grounds in enclosed, safe areas.

Filipe also works to the speed of learning of each individual, and doesn’t pressurise his pupils to progress any further than they are comfortable with. We couldn’t have asked for a better person to teach our son the basics, and get him started on the right path with motorbikes, than the Portuguese National Team Captain and 2002 National Trials Champion, now 2nd best Portuguese on the Elite Portuguese Championship.

You can also combine lessons with a weekend getaway and stay at Filipe’s place, Quintal de Além do Ribeiro. The Quintal de Além do Ribeiro is a beautiful rustic house, located in Lousã, approximately 22km east of Coimbra. There are nine rooms of varied capacity, two of which are wheelchair accessible, all with en-suite facilities. Accommodation is offered on a Bed and Breakfast basis, with a continental breakfast on offer. Guests may pre-order evening meals, but these must be in advance of arrival. There are many restaurants located in Lousã itself, which Filipe can recommend. We ate at the restaurant Casa Velha on his recommendation and the food was excellent.

Trialmotor photo collage of Quintal de Além do Ribeiro
The Beautiful Quintal de Além do Ribeiro

The Quintal also has a pool for guests to use as mentioned already, and is dog-friendly, depending on the size and breed of dog. If you aren’t doing a lesson or tour with Filipe, there are lots of things to do around Lousã like fishing, cycling and other outdoor activities. Within the Quintal you are welcome to partake in activities such as fruit picking, grape harvesting and even wine making (depending on the time of year).

Filipe and his family are extremely friendly and welcoming. Should you be looking for somewhere in northern Portugal for a getaway, I cannot recommend the Quintal enough, even if you aren’t going to partake in any lessons or tours on the bikes.

So, you can see why I truly think a lesson at Trialmotor for your budding little riders is the best route to starting them off with motorbikes. The trials bikes are slow starting off, and they learn the control and skills necessary to ride safely. The environment in which they learn is very safe, and they have the best person to teach them the skills necessary to get them started in Filipe. We are already looking forward to a return visit to Trialmotor!

Cath x

*We were not asked to write this post, nor to review the Quintal de Além do Ribeiro. We paid for our stay and for BattleKid’s lesson ourselves.

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A Fun Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine

If your little boy is anything like BattleKid, he is a huge Thomas the Tank Engine fan. Every afternoon after nursery before we left the UK, BattleKid would make a beeline for our cwtch room and ask for Thomas and his friends to be put on the TV. It was on so often I even knew the words to the theme tune. But imagine my delight when I discovered we could bring BattleKid on a fun day out with Thomas the Tank Engine.a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - blog graphic

While researching family days out in the UK, I came across the Thomas the Tank Engine Days Out. I discovered that these days out were held across various locations in the UK and were a chance for fans to meet Thomas the Tank Engine and friends. Looking at which locations were near us in South Wales and on what dates Thomas and his friends would be there, I found a suitable date at the end of October at the Forest of Dean Railway. This was just over an hour drive from our house in South Wales, perfect for a family day out.

I booked our tickets many months in advance on the Day Out with Thomas website and they arrived promptly in the post. All that was left to do was wait until the day for our visit arrived.

A Day Out with Thomas is a family day in which your little fans can meet a real Thomas the Tank Engine and some of his friends, as well as the Fat Controller. There are many locations across the UK to choose from and I’m sure there is one near you. There’s even a chance to meet Thomas and friends in Denmark in 2018!

We left our house just after 9am on the Saturday of our visit with Thomas and friends, and headed for the Forest of Dean Railway. We arrived before our friends who were joining us for the day and parked up. There is a large car park just a short walk from the entrance to the Railway. Once our friends had arrived we got ourselves ready and headed in for our fun day with Thomas.a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - photo collage from Forest of Dean Railway Thomas day out

A day with Thomas the train starts at the entrance to Norchard Station and we immediately had a certain little boy shouting “Thomas”, who happened to be pulling into the station just as we arrived. Norchard Station was decorated for Halloween as we visited towards the end of October. After we had handed in our tickets at the office, we were given little goodie bags for the boys which had some activities and sweets inside. There was even a Halloween spider in the bag for BattleKid, much to his delight.a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - photo collage from Forest of Dean Railway Thomas day out

We decided to leave our ride on Thomas himself until the end of our day and we began by heading to the café for some breakfast rolls and a cuppa while we caught up with our friends who joined us for the day. Next up, we went to Platform 3 for the train to Parkend. As we waited for the large steam train to arrive, we spotted a naughty Diesel on the tracks. Once our train arrived, we found a seat and off we set, bound for Parkend.a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - photo collage of Thomas and a Diesel engine

We were greeted by a marquee and a large bouncy castle. This is where the other fun activites were held. There was a Brio-type train set on a table for little ones to play with. Story-tellers were reading different Thomas the Tank Engine characters’ stories, and there was also a magician. We spent about an hour in the marquee and managed to avoid a rain cloud that had rolled in.

After this, we let the boys run off steam at the bouncy castle before getting the train back to Norchard for our date with Thomas himself. Thomas pulls Toad the brake van up and down the track and this is your opportunity to meet Thomas the Tank Engine and ride with him. BattleDad agreed to stay with S, who had their buggy with her, while BattleKid and I went on Thomas with W and L. You are pushed back along the tracks a certain way before Thomas pulls you back to Norchard Station, leaving a trail of steam behind him.a fun day out with Thomas the tank engine - photo collage from Forest of Dean Railway Thomas day out

With peep-peeps and a steam trail, BattleKid was thrilled to be on real life Thomas the train and was singing the theme tune the whole way. We left the Forest of Dean Railway just after lunch with a very happy boy who slept the whole way home. He talked about his visit with Thomas and friends for months afterwards. Here’s a little vlog from our fun Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine.

Things to note if you are planning a fun day out with Thomas the Tank Engine

  • A Day Out with Thomas is held across various locations in the UK (and now in Denmark) on selected dates throughout the year. Check out the website for more details and the Day Out with Thomas schedule.
  • Day Out with Thomas tickets cost £16 per adult, £10 per child and under 2’s are free.*
  • For the Forest of Dean Railway, we had unlimited train rides throughout the day between Norchard and Parkend, and all fun activities were included in our ticket.
  • Norchard Station had baby-changing facilities, toilets, a gift shop with lots of Thomas the Tank Engine merchandise and a café.
  • There was ample parking at Norchard Station.
  • The station was also wheelchair accessible.
  • I would suggest you look into the facilities available at your location of choice as they may differ slightly from place to place.
  • The Forest of Dean Day Out with Thomas opened at 9.30am and closed at 4.30pm.

We had a great time during our fun Day Out with Thomas and I can highly recommend it, especially if you have little Thomas the Tank Engine fans in your house. With lots of activities and unlimited train rides included in your ticket, it’s great value-for-money and makes for a brilliant family day out.

If a Day Out with Thomas isn’t enough for your Thomas fans, why not spend an entire day with Thomas and friends at Thomasland at Drayton Manor. Here’s a great post with hints and tips from Learning Escapes.

And if you are looking for another train-themed day out in South Wales, I highly recommend a visit to the Brecon Mountain Railway!

Cath x

*Prices correct at the time of writing this post.

**We were not asked to write this review.

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