Our First Family Amusement Park Trip: Edaville

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My children have never been to an amusement park. Due to the combination of high cost of tickets and difficulty going much of anywhere with my now four year old, we’ve never attempted this sort of outing. But at the end of September, we were going to be just outside Boston for my cousin’s wedding. When Edaville railroad first opened their Thomas Land exhibit two years ago, I was dying to take the kids. My older two have been huge train and Thomas the Train fans for the last three to four years. We took them to a Day Out with Thomas event about two hours from us as a Christmas gift two years ago and they both had a great time. This was going to be even more expensive and a bigger deal. Would they even ride the rides, would my four year old have a meltdown? Would it be worth it?

We ended up having a fantastic time. We decided to go to the park on a Friday during the day. We arrived very close to opening (around 10:30 AM). There were only a handful of cars in the parking lot. I kept expecting it to fill up as the day went along, but mostly it was like having the park half to ourselves.

Edaville is divided into a couple different areas. There is the original Edaville section. This has the feel of an old fashioned amusement park. Then there is Thomas Land, which was obviously of the biggest draw for us. There is also a Dinoland section with both stationary and animatronic dinosaurs.

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My kids loved Edaville proper. Their favorite rides were the simple old fashioned ones, like a ferris wheel, balloons that go up and down, things that go round and round. At the end of the day when we said they could have one last ride each, this is where they wanted to go.

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The Thomas train ride goes all the way around the Edaville property. It was a perfect day weather wise, not too hot and not too cold, so the open cars were wonderful. Even the baby loved this part.

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(There weren’t many rides I could take him on, but fortunately he was a trooper and mostly just happy to watch the spectacle from his stroller and even took a nap while we walked around for a while. But he did enjoy the indoor play area for a while.)

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While the weather wasn’t too hot, it was still nice to stop in the indoor play area, to get a break during the hottest part of the day. I can’t imagine this place (or any other amusement park for that matter) in the heat of summer. I think if we do this kind of thing again, it will always be in the fall.

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Thomas Land is wonderful. I loved to see so many different engines and other characters incorporated into the rides. Bertie, Toby, several of the Diesels (Mavis, Salty, Diesel and possibly others), Cranky the Crane, Bulstrode and so many others.

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Fiery Flynn had his own unique ride where the children get to ride up and down on a lift and use stationary water nozzles to put out pretend fires. Very innovative and a big hit with my kids.

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I also loved the Cranberry Express ride featuring a bunch of the narrow gauge engines. (I really appreciated the inclusion of Millie to better incorporate the female engines). Winston’s Skyride was also great because we were able to bring the baby with us.

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The big moment was meeting the engines and Sir Topham Hatt. My kids, being as observant as they are realized of course that Sir Topham Hatt was a man in a costume. I personally think it would have been better to hire an actor who looks and is built like Sir Topham Hatt. Instead he looked more like a cartoon character.

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The engines were great, it was nice to see some besides Thomas for a change. I do wish more than just Percy was very three dimensional. (You could climb up on and in Percy, but the other engines were just facades. ) Also, the kids were hoping the trains would talk, but they didn’t. But it was still fun.

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Again, I appreciated the inclusion of Emily as one of the few girl engines. I think that the Thomas franchise has yet to fully realize the untapped interest of little girls and trains. Not that they have to have to have girl trains to interest girls, I’ve just found that my daughter creates more long term interest when she becomes invested in the characters. Having more female trains has helped her to maintain interest in the Thomas franchise and trains in general, when she might have given it up in favor of something else.

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There were a few things I would have liked to see improved about Edaville. The restrooms weren’t marked on the map! There were several of them, but it would have been helpful to see at a glance so we could decide when or if we needed to stop and avoid unnecessary backtracking.

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My major issues were with Dinoland. It’s premise is cool. The displays were interesting, quite realistic and educational. The problem was that we came at the end of September and they had heavily decorated Dinoland for Halloween. By decorated I don’t mean cute smiling pumpkins and scarecrows. We are talking gruesome skeletons and bleeding corpses. My kids are 4 and 7, and admittedly a little sensitive. (We actually don’t celebrate Halloween at all for religious reasons.) They were rather terrified of the spooky atmosphere. The mist surrounding the dinosaurs seemed far more creepy than primal when you added all the other Halloween gore. If we came again this time of year, I think I’d give Dinoland a miss.

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Our other minor disappointment was the size of clothing offered in the gift shop. I realize that Thomas is typically a favorite of the younger crowd. But my kids are still young. My daughter is 7 but the Thomas shirts featuring the girl engines (which is what she wanted most) didn’t come in her size. Even the boys clothes only go up to 6x/7, so she selected one of those. I think since this is a Thomas theme park after all, it would be nice if there was more availability of Thomas themed apparel rather than less. But that is a minor complaint.

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So, yes it is expensive, as all amusement parks are these days. But there were a few things to make it easier. Parking is free. (I kind of think this should be  given, but not so at many amusement parks now). If you purchase your tickets online in advance, that will save you a little bit of money. I also liked the Edaville Facebook page to keep an eye out for the latest deals. They ended up offering a coupon to purchase tickets just days before we left which ended up saving us $10 a ticket.

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We appreciated the ability to pack our own food. With a picky child, a child with food allergies and a baby, this was essential to making this work. Plus, again, it helped to save a bit of money. The picnic tables were in a shady area of trees just off the path between the rides. Nearby were water misters (though it wasn’t so hot that we needed them) and a bubble machine which the baby loved.

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If you can manage to go on a non-peak day, (not a weekend or school holiday) Edaville is totally worth it. Not sure if I would have the felt the same way if the park had been very crowded. This was by far one of the best days we’ve ever had as a family of five and I’m glad that Edaville was such a hit with our little kids.

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