Thomas the Tank Engine is a more than a celebrity in my house; he’s an integral member. For over two years, my four-and-a-half-year-old son has played with this “cheeky” little blue train almost daily. He still hasn’t tired of a building a track and pushing across Thomas, Gordon, Spencer, Percy, Victor and Flynn. And of course, his 17-month-old sister plays with them too. So when I found out that the first Thomas Land in the US was opening in mid-August, I knew that we were ready for our first theme park experience as a family of four. (We did go to Tivoli in Copenhagen when my son was 19-months-old).
Thomas Land opened up in Edaville USA, a theme park that’s been around in various incarnations since the 1940s. Located in Carver, Mass., it’s about a four-hour drive from New York City. But only an hour drive from Cape Cod, so we decided to make a Cape Cod—Thomas trip and visit the man, or rather train, himself. And we were so glad we did.
Thomas Land is a section within Edaville — kind of like how in DisneyWorld’s Magic Kingdom you have FantasyLand and Adventure land. So when we entered Edaville USA, and we were in the general theme park area. The first thing our son did was to fish in the pond. He didn’t catch anything, but it was something he had always wanted to do and it was a very sweet attraction. Then we heard the announcement that Thomas was boarding! Every hour on the hour, you can take a 20-minute ride on Thomas. Thomas pulls several cars on a pleasant trip around the property, that passes wooden fairy tale-themed scenes and a duck pond. It was a nice ride and my son got a thrill out of riding Thomas.
Thomas’ station is right next to Dinoland, so walking through a Jurassic Park of anamatronic dinosaurs was our next activity. Then we walked past some very tempting traditional rides to get to what we came for: Thomas Land. We walked through the arch, past the old stone mill and right into Knapford Station, aka the gift shop! It was very hot so we were relieved to be inside with air conditioning. The array of Thomas toys was truly impressive, but we went for hats for the kids because of the heat.
I decided that my 17-month-old and I should stay in the air conditioning for a little longer (she liked the train tables), and my husband and son should check out the rides. A few minutes later, we emerged and saw the two of them on Bertie’s Bus Tour, rotating ride where you go 28-feet into the air. Yikes! That was my son’s first-ever ride, aside from a carousel — and he was loving it. I was terrified watching them, but he wasn’t scared at all.
Our next ride was the tamest ride, Diesel Derby, where you ride around a 400-foot track in a Diesel engine. We all liked that one, including the baby. Inside the track, it looks like the Diesel junkyard, which is a nice touch. Then we went on Harold’s Lift-Off, and the pilot (my son) made the helicopter go up and down. Our last ride, was Firefighting Flynn, where you can ride in a basket and shoot water to put out fires. Flynn is one of my son’s favorite characters, so he was thrilled by this. And we enjoyed being splashed on such a hot day. That was probably our favorite ride.
Here’s where being theme park rookies came in… We should have done more rides! And done the rides multiple times because the tickets were unlimited and the lines weren’t long. And we didn’t even end up trying the Sodor Windmill, which was like a little ferris wheel, would have been great for a four-year-old, as would Sodor’s Cranberry Carousel, which wasn’t really a carousel but like a mini roller coaster. Two of the rides were clearly for older kids: Cranky’s Crane Drop (a straight drop), Toby’s Tilting Tracks (like Bertie’s Tour but way scarier) and Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster (a troublesome roller coaster).
We probably didn’t do more rides because we were too busy just taking in the whole Thomas experience and enjoying being on the Isle of Sodor. Just seeing the rides with these familiar characters was enjoyable to the kids. We watched some of the show at Tidmouth Sheds, where Gordon, Percy, Emily, James and Sir Topham Hatt had to make a cranberry pie (Edaville borders cranberry bogs). After the show, they pulled out Percy and let the kids play inside. That was one of the highlights for both kids.
We hope to return one day! There was a lot of work-in-progress at Edaville, especially by the entrance. Almost all of Thomas Land is complete, except for Winston’s Skyline Express, which is a monorail-inspired ride that takes you around in Sir Topham Hatt’s fancy convertible Winston. And what Thomas fan among us has not coveted Sir Hatt’s ride? That’s right, we’ll be back.
Comped but Never Compromised: My family received free tickets for review purposes. The price for a ticket at Edaville USA is $29 per person; under the age of 2 is free.