Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day Trippin'- NC Transportation Museum and Dan Nichols Park

One of the things on our big summer to-do list was to visit the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC. Spencer is just under an hour outside the north side of Charlotte.  The museum is housed in a working railroad site that dates to 1896.  Almost all the buildings are original and includes one of the few intact roundhouses in the US.  A local mom blog, Mom in Chapel Hill, visited this summer and since reading her write up, I knew my boys would love to go. This past Saturday we slapped on our matching Camp Mommy shirts and headed out for one final road trip of the summer.

The cost of the museum included all the buildings, each of which included actual train cars or restored vehicles. Some were set up to be toured included a WWII medical train car and a US Post Office mail car. The main area to tour is a working roundhouse that would put Thomas to shame.  Speaking of everyone's favorite English train series, sure to bore every parent in the US, the museum offers Day Out with Thomas several times a year, the next one in late September.  If you kid loves Thomas, by all means this is a closer drive than Tweetsie Railroad in the mountains.  But, if like my boys, and just like things that move, then just go whenever and save your money.

Ben and Ian were equally wowed by the other displays of antique cars, planes, and machines they could manipulate.  In the roundhouse, a train was being refurbished and spectators were allowed to watch. Ben was especially enamored that a collection of toilets had been removed from some of the trains.

You can opt to take a 25 minute train ride around the property, including many of the non-tourable original buildings on a refurbished train. I would recommend the extra cost for the train, as it was a nice way to catch a breeze on a hot day.  The exhibits are split between a handful of air conditioned buildings, but mainly in warehouse like conditions.  All of us were filthy dirty by end of day. The hallmark, I believe, of a good road trip.

 *Note- the boys could not believe these old style computes ever existed.

If you go, pack a lunch and several snacks.  There is a outside, covered picnic area as well as indoor area with vending machines, but no restaurant on property.  The gift shop does sell ice cream as well as the most Thomas train sets I've ever seen.  

We spent around 4 hours at the museum including the train ride.  My neighbor had told me about the nearby Dan Nichols park that contained a super playground, putt-putt, paddleboats,carousel, splash pad, and gem mining.  I had only thought the museum would hold the boys' interest a couple of hours so we cut down our list to visiting the playground and gem mining.  We stayed another two hours before heading home.  I might consider a day trip just to this park to take advantage of all the nearly free items it included.

If you are within a 3 hour driving radius this is a day trip not to be missed for kids of all ages.

*Added bonus if you create a surprise map for your kids.


Carrie said...

Nathan would love to go there! I love that you made up a little scrap book map for them... such great ideas!

Beth said...

We are so doing this on our next trip to Charlotte!