Train Lovers Guide Part One: Our Favorite Model Train Shows in the NJ/NY area
When my son was two, he discovered trains. Some kids play with a toy for 6 months at this age, but his absolute love for trains lasted for 5 years. Our self-described “Train Expert” could not get enough. So, it was trains, trains, trains and more trains for us day and night. If there was a train-related activity in the Tri-State area, we have been there, or at least know about it! If you have a train lover in your family and are wondering where the model train shows near me, this guide is for you!
Have a kid who loves trains, but you aren’t into model train shows? Check out my Train Lovers Guide Part II here, chock full of train-related NJ/NY/PA activities.
What are Model Train Shows?
My son (and now toddler daughter) love going to these local train shows exhibiting a club’s miniature track layouts among re-creations of towns, mountains, and scenery. The members of these model train clubs really enjoy having the kids see their labor of love and are so kind to “train experts” of all ages. My kids stay all day, beg to go back again and again, and (bonus!) most of them are really affordable indoor activities for cold or rainy days.
Planner’s Tip: The dates of all the Model Train shows vary, and it can be hard to remember them, so I ‘like’ their pages on Facebook and/or join their email lists to stay updated on their spring, fall, and winter shows. There is no need to buy tickets beforehand, and these local train shows are a great spontaneous activity. Minimal planning is needed! Links for each club are included in the listings below 😉
Model Train Shows Near Me: AKA North Jersey
Garden State Model Railway Club (North Haledon, NJ)
This model train club is the closest to our house, so we end up going here a lot! Previously, they were in two small rooms, but last year they expanded their space even more! In one room, they have their track layout and trains and are often running Thomas! If they aren’t, my little guy normally requests him, and they are more than happy to put The #1 on the track.
They have small hands-on set-ups in the other room so the kids can operate model trains, which is always a favorite for my little conductor! This club is located in the rear, lower level of a strip mall so it can be tricky to find, but they put out signs pointing you down the stairwell. The small shopping center has many casual restaurants if you’re looking to grab a quick bite before or after – Hubby is a fan of the pizza place!
New Jersey HiRailers Train Club (Paterson, NJ)
This was the first model train show my son went to, and it got him hooked. This club is in a big space located in an industrial building in Paterson. The huge room, and super tall ceilings, allow them to build really cool large towns and multi-level railroad track designs! The scale and size of what they’ve created will blow your train expert’s mind. The club members are so nice and welcoming and truly look forward to sharing their creations.
In a smaller room, they have set-ups so your kid can control a train – – even some characters from Thomas & Friends. For the adults, if you’re a fan of The Sopranos, they have on display the layouts featured in the second to last episode of the show.
During the holidays, they really go all out decorating the space and trains. It’s a great festive activity to do with your Train Lover. The club has a small café inside their space which is perfect for quick snacks for the kids.
Even More Model Train Shows Near Me
We didn’t make it to these model train clubs or train museums before my son moved on to his next love, Beyblades, but if they are closer to you, friends or family, check them out!
- Northlandz (Flemington, NJ) The Guinness Book World Record Holder for World’s Largest Model Railroad is located right here in New Jersey! Not only do they have 8 miles of train tracks with endless tunnels, but they have a huge collection of dollhouses, an indoor play area, and an outdoor train ride. Unlike model train club shows, they are open year-round. Tickets are on the expensive side, so try to grab discounted ones on Local Flavor or ask for a Northlandz gift certificate as a gift for your Little Conductor’s Birthday Present.
- The New York Society of Model Engineers (Carlstadt, NJ) The oldest model train club in America is located off Rt. 17 near Teterboro Airport and Giant Stadium. Their track design is based on our local NJ Transit lines – fun for kids who have taken NJ Transit before! Or for those living near Ridgewood Junction, you can see how the lines split and come back together there.
- The Model Railroad Club ( Union Township, NJ) Is open to the public every Saturday from 1-4 pm and is located in Lenape Park for double-header family activity.
New York Botanical Garden (Bronx, NY)
For over 25 years, the New York Botanical Garden has produced a one-of-a-kind model train show. Set in America’s largest garden, The Holiday Train Show is a special day trip for both kids and adults. Imagine a HUGE model train collection set in plant gardens with over 100 New York City replica buildings handmade by artists using only plant-based materials.
We waited until my son was 6 to take him because we thought he would want to touch everything as a toddler. Artisans work all year round to create the birch, acorn, and cinnamon stick buildings for this show, so the last thing anyone wants is an excited, handsy toddler grabbing them. My 2-year-old daughter did wonderfully, “keeping her hands to her own body,” so it really depends on your kiddos’ personalities.
NYBG has additional indoor and outdoor kids activities, and if you can grab a warm winter’s day, the Botanical Gardens offer so much nature to explore. In January, the Train Show now offers a sing-along show with Thomas the Train and Driver Sam. Tickets are pricey, but they do make a great holiday gift. Personally, I love experience gifts for my kids to balance out the toy overload during the holiday season. If you’re headed into the city during holiday time, grab more activity ideas from Travels with the Crew’s Ultimate Guide To New York City At Christmas With Kids.
If you’re looking for more local activities for your Train Lover, check out my Train Lovers Guide Part II here.
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I’m Monica—truly a planner at heart! I’ll be bringing you along for the ride at PAH. Whether it’s my Frugal Fannie life, family activities in my region, family road trips, couples getaways, or timeshare traveling, I’ll be sharing my plans with ya’ll!