My younger brother LOVED trains, and thus they became a source of great annoyance for me. As fate would have it, my son also loves trains, and I have had to learn to love his joy. Perhaps it is because for so long trains delivered the Christmas goods that there is a strong tie between Christmas and trains. So, the season of giving is also a great season for train events. Here's local options for you and your train enthusiast.
Located in Wheaton Regional Park, the Brookside Gardens conservatory is composed of two green houses. During this time of year, one is full of poinsettias and other winter plants, and the other is home to model trains that feature many of the areas landmarks. This is my favorite train spot for young kids because the trains are closer to the ground, it isn't often crowded, and they provide "eye-spy" cards to help kids look for the unique pieces (like Mickey Mouse or Tigger) throughout the exhibit. It's open from 10am to 5pm each day, and while it is free, there are donation boxes if you want to chip in. Parking is limited, so arriving early and being aware of other available parking (like by the giant playground or carousel) is important. Don't worry if you have to park at a distance, walking through Brookside Gardens is beautiful too.
The Parent-Tot group plans to visit this train spot on December 10th at 10am.
Last year, we visited the National Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve and were surprised to find dozens of train sets running around its base. It was a huge hit with my then 3 year old son. The lighting ceremony on December 4th is televised, and after that you can visit yourselves. Santa's Workshop is open at the tree on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30 to 9:30pm, so expect these times to be more crowded. There are also nightly musical presentations, but the schedule has yet to be released. Best train viewing is during the daylight hours, but maybe you can plan a day that gives you both views.
Obviously, this destination is a great spot for train lovers year round, but they offer a few special holiday events and activities. Opportunities include a breakfast buffet withSanta, story-time with Mrs. Claus and a train-ride with Santa. These events do cost additional money, and most are sold out for this year, but it might be an idea to file away for next year. Personally, my favorite times to visit the railroad museum are during A Day Out With Thomas and over the summer when military members get in free through the Blue Star Museum Program. The museum also runs the Ellicott City Station which has a Holiday Festival of Trains featuring model trains and Legos. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for kids over 2. The station is open from 11am to 4pm Wednesday through Sunday.