Even though we don't really know why the tradition started, trains and Christmas go together like Santa and his sleigh. From Polar Express rides to the MTA nostalgia subways to popular holiday train displays at the New York Botanical Garden and in Grand Central Terminal, there are lots of special seasonal experiences sure to please train-loving kids.
Now the New-York Historical Society has added a brand-new one: Holiday Express, an immersive installation filled with fabulous vintage toys and trains. While not all of the engines move, the display comes alive thanks to cool animated visuals and a layered soundscape. Plus special events, like this Saturday and Sunday's interactive Historical Train Weekend, mean even the youngest train fans can get on board with hands-on fun.
Read on for all the details and click through our slide show for a peek at all the cool choo-choos. You can find lots of other seasonal activities in our Holiday Fun Guide.
Holiday Express: Trains and Toys from the Jerni Collection is housed mainly on the ground floor of the New-York Historical Society. Near the Central Park West entrance, you'll find a huge display with an abstract landscape meant to illustrate America's expansion from the East Coast to the uncharted West. There are several antique model trains (including one moving along a track), boats and planes along with vintage stations and other buildings. If you listen, you'll hear sound effects like trains chugging, braking and letting off steam. The highlight for kids is the tunnel underneath with a pop-up plastic bubble so they can get an up-close view of the landscape while you get a great pic.
In the Rotunda off the 77th Street entrance, there's a 360-degree mountain landscape with artifacts like 1920s model train the Blue Comet, a one-of-a-kind toy post office from 1895 and a large 19th-century Ferris wheel grouped into ten scenes. The display is flanked by four large screens where these special playthings come to life through digital animation (not as much fun as actually touching them but that, of course, is not allowed).
Got a preschooler who's more into hands-on experiences? You'll find a Thomas the Tank Engine play table in the DiMenna Children's History Museum. Plus the museum is hosting special events like the Chew-Choo Dining Car where kids can enjoy tea, storytime and crafts at in-house eatery Caffe Storico, or All Aboard! Historical Train Weekend on December 13 and 14, when tots can explore the exhibit scavenger hunt-style, decorate toy locomotives and enjoy playtime with Conductor Abe. There will also be special activities over holiday break.
Holiday Express: Trains and Toys from the Jerni Collection is on view through Sunday, February 22, 2015 at the New-York Historical Society, located at 170 Central Park West at 77th Street. Free with admission: $19 for adults, $12 for students, $6 for children ages 5-13.
Find out about other seasonal activities, including other model train displays, in our Holiday Fun Guide.