MEGA Train List for Central Ohio and Beyond

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My kids love trains! I have been to *almost* every place on this list! When Jaden was 3, he could have gone to Barnes and Noble every single day to play with Thomas. This list isn’t so much for your kids as it is for you! Of course your kids will love these places, but this list is to keep YOU from going insane from doing the same thing every day! 😉 A good number of these things are special events that are only available for a short time! So check the list and mark your calendars because many of those are coming up this month! You, too, can be a really useful engine! 😉

1. Paul Busse Model Garden Railway at Franklin Park Conservatory, downtown Columbus

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The train in the picture below is up nearly year round, but the one above makes a special appearance during the holidays! Check the link for info on Merry and Bright!

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2. Grandview Library, Grandview Heights

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One great library with a train table!

3. Huntington Holiday Train at Columbus Metropolitan Library, downtown Columbus

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The Huntington Holiday Train arrives in mid-November and the Main Library hosts an Open House on November 30th, which will include hot chocolate and cookies, crafts and the lighting of Topiary Park! For even more trains, keep an eye on the Hilliard and Gahanna branches which will offer Polar Express programs this year!

4. Ohio Railway Museum, Worthington

The museum has been working on repairing the tracks so no train rides are available as of today, but they hope to be up and running for the holidays!

5. The Train Station, Clintonville

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Model trains are for sale here and they also have a small play area for kids!

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6. Moody Street Trains, Clintonville

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Model trains are for sale here and there is a train table for playing. On Saturday, December 3, 2016, they will host the 2nd Annual National Lionel Train Day which will feature prizes, face painting and a visit from Santa!

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7. Model Railroad Days at COSI, downtown Columbus

Model Railroad Days are November 16-20, 2016 this year and large model train sets are available for viewing and there are also trains to play with! During the weekend you can watch the movie Rocky Mountain Express in the theater. At Christmastime, The Polar Express is shown as well! (p.s. there is also a train to play with in the little kidspace at COSI!)

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8. Barnes and Noble, various locations

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Barnes and Noble offers the hope that your children will play with trains while you quietly sip coffee and read a magazine.

9. Hilliard Branch, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Hilliard

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The Hilliard Branch is a fun library for kids and has a Chuggington train table.

10. Von Maur, Polaris Fashion Place

In the children’s section of the store, there is a train that runs along the wall and a train table for playing!

11. Easton Express Railway, Easton Town Center

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This outdoor train track is always decorated for whatever season it happens to be and is a big hit with the kids!

12. BrickUniverse, Columbus Convention Center

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There are lots of working LEGO trains at this once-a-year LEGO Expo!

13. Delaware County Model Railroaders’ Open Houses, Delaware

Model railroads are set up on these special open-house dates!

14. Great Train Show at Ohio Expo Center

This expo is coming January 14-15, 2017 and includes model railroads, train dealers, hands-on exhibits and more!

15. Inniswood Metro Gardens, Westerville

We stumbled upon this train track behind the offices at Inniswood. I couldn’t find any info on if/when it is used, but if you know, please leave a comment below!

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16. Holiday Train Display at Ohio History Center

This special train is on exhibit during the holiday season! It will be on display November 28, 2016 – January 4, 2017.

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There are other trains on the grounds of the Ohio History Center year round, including one inside the building that can be sat in, and the one seen below that sits outside.

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17. Schiller Park in German Village

This is a great park with a train that can be played on!

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18. Alum Creek Park North, Westerville

This park is affectionately known as “the train park” – and aptly so!

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19. Henceroth Park, Grove City

This park offers lots of vehicles to play on including a jeep, boat and this wooden train!

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20. North America Train Ride at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

For $1 per person, you can ride a train around the North American exhibit at the zoo!

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21. Christmas Time Open House at Central Ohio Model Railroad Club

For 4 weekends in December, the club puts on an open house featuring giant model railroad layouts, an interactive Thomas the Tank Engine display and more! Admission is free!

22. Open Garden Tour by the members of Columbus Garden Railway Society

On the second Sunday in September, members of the Columbus Garden Railway Society open their houses (gardens!) for a tour of their own Garden Railroads!

BEYOND COLUMBUS . . .

23. Little Buckeye Children’s Museum, Mansfield

One of the larger exhibits at the Little Buckeye Museum is the model train display and nearby train tables for playing!

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24. Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum, Bellevue

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There are tons of trains on display here, may of which you can climb aboard! This museum has indoor and outdoor components and the gift shop has a train table for playing!

25. Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation, Inc., Findlay

This organization offers train rides and holiday events (including the North Pole Express), a museum, gift shop and model train displays!

26. The Buckeye Express Diner, Bellville

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Eat dinner in an OSU-themed train car! There is a train playground outside too!

27. Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, Dennison

This museum has a railroad car just for kids, model trains and a scavenger hunt just for kids!

 28. Lodi Station Outlets, Lodi

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This outlet mall is built with a train theme! You can purchase tickets to take a train ride around the property!

29. EnterTAINment Junction, West Chester

This venue offers displays, a museum, seasonal rides and a funhouse!

30. Day Out with Thomas, various locations

These special days only happen a few times a year at Ohio locations and include a 25-minute train ride, kids activities, live music and more!

31. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Northeast Ohio

The trains here run mainly on the weekends and there are several events scheduled throughout the year, including a Christmas Tree Adventure!

32. Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, Nelsonville

This railway offers special trips throughout the year including a Santa Train on December 18, 2016. Tickets are limited.

33. LM & M Railroad, Lebanon, Lebanon

This historic railroad offers special events including the Day out with Thomas and North Pole Express!

34. Train-O-Rama, Marblehead

One of Ohio’s largest multi-gauge model railroad displays open to the public! Trains are for sale in the gift shop as well!

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ICYMI: 5 Moms of Nationwide Share their Favorite Places to take their Kids in Columbus


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Cheap Family Outings in Columbus for Every Day of the Week

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I’ve been working on this idea in my head for a while, keeping a mental list just for personal use, really. Once it started to come together, I decided I’d share it as a blog post because maybe it would help someone else who is staring into space during nap time, wondering what to have for dinner! Here we are, a family of four, and these kids actually eat real food now – so if we go to a restaurant, it’s usually not what I would call “cheap”. Plus, taking small kids to a restaurant is always a gamble – you never know how they’re going to act! Eric and I find when we do go out to eat, we scarf our food down so fast now, hoping to finish before any toddler meltdowns! Sometimes it feels hardly worth it to eat out.

BUT there are those nights when you just don’t feel like cooking! Just naturally, I was starting to categorize bargain meals by days of the week so that if I had “one of those days” I could default to an eating out option that wasn’t going to cost us a fortune. That’s how this post began . . . but, then I decided to include a fun (and cheap) activity for each night as well! I hope you bookmark this one and pull it up the next time the witching hour hits!

Monday:

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Food: One of my all time favorites is BOGO tacos al pastor at Los Guachos Taqueria. It’s so good even Food Network named them one of the Top 5 Tacos in America! The tacos are $1.50 each and let me just do the math for you, on Mondays, you can get two for $1.50! There are two sit-down restaurants, one at 5221 Godown Rd. and one at 1376 Cherry Bottom Rd. (For the most authentic experience, try their taco truck at 461 Commerce Sq., off of Sullivant Ave.) This special starts at 4:00 PM at the Godown Rd. location and is good all day at Cherry Bottom Rd. The taco truck is open from 4:00 PM – 12:00 PM. It can get busy (because this is an amazing deal on an amazing taco!) so I would suggest arriving on the earlier or later side of meal times.

Activity: For a Monday night out, I suggest tacos al pastor at the Godown Rd. location and then rounding out the evening with ice cream at Graeters on Bethel Rd. and time to play at their indoor play area!

Los Guachos Taqueria, 5221 Godown Rd, Columbus, OH, 43235,  614-538-0211

Graeter’s Ice Cream, 2555 Bethel Rd., Columbus, OH 43220, 614-422-7622


Tuesday:

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Food and Activity: Movie Night happens on Tuesdays at Firefly American Bistro! Here your dinner and evening activity are all rolled into one! The restaurant has a side room with tables where from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM they show a kids movie while you eat your dinner. Kids are free to get up and move around and can sit on the floor at the front to watch the movie. Free popcorn is served and kids meals are 1/2 price that night! For the adults, flatbread pizzas and sandwiches range from $10-$13, though no one’s saying you can’t order steak since, hopefully, your kids will be occupied enough for you to slow down and enjoy your meal (fingers crossed)! 😉

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Firefly American Bistro, 5525 New Albany Rd. West, New Albany, OH 43054, 614-741-7151


Wednesday:

Food: Burgers are $4 at Brazenhead Irish Pub on Wednesdays and that includes one side! I’ve only been to the one in Grandview, but they have a great patio, so take advantage of that while we still have some warm nights ahead! (They also have $4 fish sandwiches on Tuesdays!)

Activity: After dinner, head over to Grandview Library for family story time from 6:30 PM – 7:00 PM (starts 9/7/16). Grandview Library has a fun area for the kids to play in that includes a train table, a doll house and Duplo blocks!

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Brazenhead Irish Pub, 1027 W. 5th Ave., Columbus, OH 43212, 614-737-3738 or 56 N. High St., Dublin, OH 43017, 614-792-3738

Grandview Library, 1685 W 1st Ave, Columbus, OH 43212, 614-486-2951


Thursday:

Food: This one isn’t necessarily JUST for Thursday nights! I have been known to become the biggest sports fan when Papa Johns gives 50% off large pizzas the day after the Columbus Crew SC wins or the Columbus Blue Jackets score two goals! 😉 If I really don’t feel like cooking, I check the schedule, crossing my fingers for a win the day before. It’s true. Specifically for Thursday, the Crew plays on the following Wednesdays: 8/24/16 (that’s this week, BTW) and 9/28/16, which means if they win those games, Thursday’s large pizza will be half off! (See their full schedule here.) This deal is only good on online orders and is good for 50% off the regular price of any large pizza. You must use the code “WIN.” (Stay tuned this winter when Papa Johns gives 50% off all large pizzas when the Blue Jackets score 2 goals! Code is JACKETS50.)

Activity: We live near the Papa John’s in Grandview, so when we want to get out of the house, we pick up a pizza and take it to Wyman Woods Park! Eating pizza in the park is fun, but once it gets cold, consider following pizza night up with a trip to the Columbus Museum of Art. The museum stays open until 9:00 PM on Thursday nights and the price is “pay what you want” from 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM! The kids can hang out in the Wonder Room, doing puzzles and creating their own masterpieces with the many materials available in the room!

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Papa Johns – find your nearest location here.

Columbus Museum of Art, 480 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-221-6801


Friday:

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Food and Activity: Okay, tuck this one away because this deal is actually good EVERY night! But we commonly do it on Fridays. I think Friday night is pizza night for like 95% of families in America, so here’s the deal: Large Pizzas with two toppings are just $7.99 after 4:00 PM at the Giant Eagle Market District in Grandview Yard. We make a whole night of this by using the Little Shoppers Treat Card to get an apple and/or slice of cheese while the kids wait for the pizza to be ready and then after we eat the pizza in the seating area or on the patio, we use the same card to get a cookie for dessert. After dinner, we usually have to pick up a few grocery items while the kids eat their cookies, riding around in a car cart. And that my friend, is the new Friday night! 😉

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Grandview Yard Market District, 840 W 3rd Avenue, Columbus, OH 43212, 614-294-2186


Saturday:

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Food: Another favorite right here: the pancake breakfast at the Hills Market! This is a real deal! From 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM you can get three pancakes, sausage links, plus Crimson Cup coffee for $5! (Hills Market, if you’re reading PLEASE bring this back to the downtown location!!) You can add chocolate chips or blueberries for no charge and juice is available for purchase for the kids. Mimosas and Bloody Marys are available for $5. (This $5 pancake brunch also happens on Sundays from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM!)

Activity: After breakfast, head down Hard Rd. to the Northwest Library to visit Story Garden, where many of your kid’s favorite stories are depicted by 3-D characters on the walls of the children’s department at this Worthington Libraries branch. The library has programs for kids on the 2nd and 3rd Saturdays of each month. Check out their calendar of programs here.

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The Hills Market Worthington, 7860 Olentangy River Road, Columbus, OH 43235, 614-846-3220.

Northwest Library, Northwest Library, 2280 Hard Road, Columbus, OH 43235, 614-807-2626


Sunday:

Food: Kids eat free every Sunday at The Crest Gastropub! On the 2nd Sunday of the month, they host Kids Day with a special theme complete with crafts and/or activities. This is the only place on the list I haven’t been to yet, but it has been on my mental list for some time! Past activity times have included learning about monarchs, planting seeds and making crafts with recycled craft materials!

Activity: If it doesn’t happen to be the 2nd Sunday and you’re looking for something to do afterward, you’re not far from Whetstone Park of Roses or this playground within Whetstone Park!

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The Crest Gastropub, 2855 Indianola Ave., Columbus, OH 43202, 614-261-7128

Whestone Park, 3923 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43214


There! Now I have my mental list all typed up and easily accessible for when I don’t feel like making dinner! Tell me, what’s on your mental list for a cheap night out with the kids?

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ICYMI: Exploring Downtown Powell with Kids


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What Should We Do This Weekend? June 10-12, 2016

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I’m really excited about all there is to do this summer in Columbus! I’ve got a calendar full of ideas and we’re trying to make the most of each day! Though one of these days, I’m going to need to make the most of my laundry piles . . . but until then here’s some things to do instead!  🙂

1. Weekend Kick-Off Craft and Story – Rainbows at Blendon Woods Metro Park

When: Friday, June 10, 2016
Time: 1:00 PM
Location: Nature Center, 4265 E. Dublin-Granville Rd., Westerville, OH 43081

Kids 12 and under can kick off the weekend with a story and craft about rainbows.

2. Carnival at Credit Union of Ohio

When: Friday, June 10, 2016
Time: 5:30 PM- 7:30 PM
Location: 5500 Britton Pkwy, Hilliard, OH 43026

The Credit Union of Ohio sponsors this totally free Carnival! The carnival features live music, games, inflatables, and free food from The Angry Weiner food truck!

3. B – Fest Teen Book Festival at your local Barnes and Noble

When: Friday – Sunday, June 10 – 12, 2016
Time: various times each day
Location: Local Barnes and Nobles stores

This special event for teens includes author visits, trivia, games, giveaways and the opportunity to sample upcoming novels and win books!  Each day of the festival has a different theme with workshops and specific giveaways! Search for events at your closest Barnes and Noble!

4. Columbus Arts Festival at the Riverfront

When: Friday – Sunday, June 10-12, 2016
Time: Friday and Saturday: 11:00 AM – 10:30 PM, Sunday: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Location: Along the Scioto Mile and in front of COSI

So many artists, events and special activities are going on this weekend at the Columbus Arts Festival! Specifically for kids, check out the Columbus Makes Art Activity Village presented by Kroger, where kids can do arts and craft activities and the Children’s Art Gallery on Saturday and Sunday, where kids can enter a kid-sized art gallery and purchase artwork for $5 and under! Outside of COSI, artist Daniel McCauley will assemble a metal T-Rex! There will also be a Student and Community Art Exhibition and a performance of the Lorax by local actors on Saturday and Sunday. Check out the Festival Guidebook for detailed information about all of the events and the special activities for children on pages 18-20!

5. Pickerington Teen Book Fest 2016 at Pickerington High School North

When: Saturday, June 11, 2016
Time: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Location: 7800 Refugee Road, Pickerington, OH 43147

A day of workshops, book signings, break out sessions, food trucks and meetings with community organizations will take place during this celebration of teen fiction! See the complete Schedule of Events here.

6. Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinic at your local Lowe’s!

When: Saturday, June 11, 2016
Time: 10:00 AM
Location: your local Lowe’s

Build your own Captain America! Get a free apron, goggles, and patch! Register online.

7. Ready, Set, Race at Grandview Heights Public Library

When: Saturday, June 11, 2016
Time: 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Location: Meeting Room, 1685 W. 1st  Ave., Columbus, OH 43212

All ages are invited to build and race airplanes and cars made out of Legos!

8. Nature Fair at Three Creeks Metro Park

When: Saturday, June 11, 2016
Time: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Location: Heritage Nature Center, 551 Wirt Road, Groveport, OH 43125

The City of Groveport Community Affairs Department is hosting this nature fair featuring a scavenger hunt, kid’s fishing derby, nature displays and the chance to learn about bees!

9. Inside Out at Whetstone Park

When: Saturday, June 11, 2016
Time: 8:15 PM
Location: 3923 N High St, Columbus, OH 43214

Join Clintonville Rotary for their 6th Annual Movie in the Park! It’s free!

10. Kid’s Day: Dispersing Seeds at The Crest Gastropub

When: Sunday, June 12, 2016
Time: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Location: 2855 Indianola Ave, Columbus, OH 43202

The Clintonville Farmers’ Market will show kids 12 and under how to plant seeds and start their own garden! Plus, kids eat free every Sunday!

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ICYMI: Day Trip: Downtown Mansfield

*Please be aware,  information is gathered from multiple community sources.  Times, dates and locations are subject to change. There may be a fee to participate in a featured activity.  Please call ahead or check links to confirm activities.  Enjoy what you do today!*


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