Hundreds of Model Train Cars Delivering Holiday Cheer

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Trains fascinate my kids, their cousins, and their friends. We enjoy train toys, books, movies, parks and museums–and The Polar Express is a classic part of our holiday festivities. The adventure and magic that railway travel conveys may be second only to Santa’s sleigh, itself. Train fans like us should add a quick stop at the Arizona Big Train Operators Holiday Open House locations around the Valley. You can expect to see some charming trains, micro-scaled water features and structures, and lot of holiday spirit. If you have train-lovers, this is really your ticket, but anyone who appreciates a hobby taken to expertise will enjoy it, too.

In 2016, fifteen model train garden railway layouts built by ABTO members will be open to the public December 16th-18th. Check the website for a map of specific locations and a schedule. In previous years, there have been last-minute changes, so be sure to double-check before you go.




The Holiday Open House is an opportunity for ABTO, a charitable organization, to raise funds to support their charitable pursuits. Member volunteers maintain the model train display that cheers patients and visitors of Cardon’s Children’s Hospital. At the Sirrine site (where you might also see Santa), they were asking for donations: $10 per family, $3 per individual. You won’t be turned away without a donation, but it feels good to help such a positive organization.
We will be there! If you see us, stop and say hello. If you just can’t fit it in, check back on their website. This is a bi-annual event; your next opportunity may be in the spring.


Add to the fun:

  • This is a chance for our kids to bundle up a bit and wear the scarves and gloves that don’t get heavy use.
  • We take our favorite jolly music, pack some treats (cocoa and marshmallow bars) and make garden railway stops as we drive between garden displays and valley light shows.


Jodee is a full-time mom to three playful boys. She was raised in the desert, educated in the Rocky Mountains, and the lived in Midwest before returning to the “dry heat.” She is passionate about learning, culture, and nature. When she isn’t shuttling her boys from school to activities, she is either planning out their next family adventure or playing Duolingo to avoid folding laundry. She dreams of visiting all of the National Parks with her family and to finding the cure for homework battles. You can peek into her life and family outings on Instagram @thatsmoxie. 

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  • Reply Stephanie Stocker

    Wow! How fun! My two boys, 5 and 2 (almost 3 in a few weeks), LOVE Trains also!! We are BIG fans of the Polar Express and we saw displays by ABTO at both the Mesa Public Library (Main) and Cardon Children’s Hospital. We will try to make it to one of these displays this weekend. Thank you!

    December 16, 2016 at 6:49 am
    • Reply Katrina Sherk

      You are so welcome sweet you! I hope you have so much fun – the displays are really cool. Tag us in your photos if you go, we love to see! We are @activemomsblog on IG and @activemoms everywhere else.

      December 16, 2016 at 3:12 pm
  • Reply Mary

    How fun! We love the train park and the museum there. This looks like a blast!

    December 16, 2016 at 12:38 pm
    • Reply Katrina Sherk

      For sure! We can’t wait to go. My favorite parts are the the little towns and bridges and trees and people – I know most people and especially the kids love the trains but I like the scenarios 🙂

      December 16, 2016 at 3:06 pm
  • Reply Nicole

    I have four boys who have all loved trains, at one time or another! It may be time for another visit to the train park!

    December 16, 2016 at 5:14 pm
  • Reply Monique

    No I & my family has not been, looks super awesome

    December 19, 2016 at 7:14 pm
  • Reply Lisa N.

    Oh man, we missed it again this year! Bummer, we used to go every year but haven’t in a while, we keep missing it. We love it, especially my train loving son…and husband…and father-in-law.

    December 19, 2016 at 11:51 pm
    • Reply Katrina Sherk

      Aww, sorry! There is another cool display that you can see year round – it is at McCormick Stillman Railroad Park and here is the link to the info. Maybe we will see you there? Their holiday light train ride is SO fun. But right now and on up to Christmas it gets really, really crowded – so not good for younger ones (or impatient Mamas either, not that I’m that). So maybe make a plan to go after Christmas in the late afternoon, early evening – see the model trains, enjoy some hot cocoa and then take the holiday train ride! The rides are available January 1 (excluding December 24, 25 and 31), 6:30 – 9 p.m.
      and here is more info. Tag us in your photos if you go – we love to see! We are @activemomsblog on IG and @activemoms everywhere else!

      December 20, 2016 at 12:59 am

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