Are there any words more tempting for a kid than "do not
touch"-particularly when they're surrounded by toys practically
crying out to be played with by enthusiastic little hands?
That's why I took my 2-year-old nephew to America's Best Train
& Hobby Shop, a dream come true for his choo-choo crazy self.
The inconspicuous shop doesn't look much like a toddler playground
until you step inside.
Half of the store is devoted to toys-it claims to have one of
the largest selections in the state. The narrow aisles are packed
full of fun products, and yes, lots and lots of trains. Pop culture
favorites like Thomas and Chuggington get a lot of shelf space,
with everything from playsets to PJs begging to be bought.
But the highlight of the store isn't quite as obvious. Tucked
into the back corner (where there are also spacious restrooms) is
the Kids Station, a room containing eight different train tables
for visiting kids to use.
On a quiet Monday morning, we had the room all to ourselves.
Aidan loved maneuvering choo-choos from track to track and table to
table-and not having to put them away afterward.
There's also a Calico Critters table for those who prefer
woodland animals to planes, trains and automobiles.
It's best to hold your little one's hand in the other half of
the store, where model trains abound. Aidan loved the large model
train platform with, by my count, five different engines. Stools
allow kids to get a close-up view, and they'll love spotting
everything from jack-o-lanterns to playground swings. If you ask,
the employees may even turn on the trains for a show.
Best yet, our outing would have been completely free, had I been
able to resist buying a conductor hat and a train-shaped lollipop
to remember our hands-on, train-filled day. -- Elizabeth
America's Best Train, Toy & Hobby Shop
865 Maplewood Drive, Itasca