Choo Choo Bob’s Train store sure gets lots of love here in Minnesota. Alicia from Alicafinnnoack is a mother of two who we discovered from the blogging world. She lives in Texas but will visit her family here in Minnesota. Choo Choo Bob’s Train store was often part of her visit with her kids.
I have two kids who get pretty excited about trains. They have seen their fair share of train TV shows and train movies and when we drive through town, they get very happy if we happen to come across a real train in action. We have ridden little trains in any number of parks and big trains from town to town. And by far, our favorite train spot is a store in St. Paul called Choo Choo Bob’s.
Choo Choo Bob’s is half toy store, half train hobby store, and half magical train wonderland. The front windows are devoted to two continuously running model trains. The first clue that you have come to the right place is the bench right behind these windows: the perfect place to sit down while your children stare at the trains in wonder.
Beyond them are aisles of toys – Lego, Playmobile, wooden citiscapes, train sets based on Thomas or Chuggington, books about trains and other vehicles – mingling with model trains and miniatures for the more serious enthusiast.
And beyond all of that is the fantastic back pocket where a dozen wooden train tables have been set up for free play. It’s the kind of place you might dream of when you’re trapped at home on a bad weather day: a place where any kid can play at their own level, maybe even by themselves, without having to share every item or elbow for room.
On the day we were at Choo Choo Bob’s, the temperatures were freezing and the room was packed with toddlers and preschoolers and their parents and grandparents. The din was impressive as the kids zoomed wooden engines back and forth on the tables. And yet, even though it seemed crowded, there were still enough tables and trains for everyone to happily play in their own space.
My four year old was delighted to find some Chuggington character engines available at the tables and my two year old latched onto a Thomas the Tank Engine – and there were enough of these, enough of the “good ones” floating around, that anyone who wanted a special engine could have one to play with.
It costs nothing to play at Choo Choo Bob’s, although there is a donation jar if you want to chip in. And you do have to walk the gauntlet of amazing toys to get back to the train tables – you may get drawn in by the sale tags and the clearance tables (not that it happened to anyone in our group … at least on this particular visit, ahem).
The back area is plastered with signs for birthday party packages – hosted in a private room with a private train table. And on most Tuesdays, they have a free storytime with songs and music.
Choo Choo Bob’s the store is also affiliated with Choo Choo Bob the tv show. My kids like to watch it on DVD and on the Choo Choo Bob youtube channel, but it also available on cable on the Qubo channel. It is a sweet show all about (what else?) trains, and is packed with a lot of train-related facts.
On the day of our most recent visit, we discovered Engineer Paul, one of the characters from the show, restocking the shelves. My 2 year old had the widest eyes when he went up to say hello to him. He got a big smile and a high five from Engineer Paul.
As usual, the hardest part about a visit to Choo Choo Bob’s was trying to convince my kids to leave. We bribed them with lunch. I suggest having an exit strategy when you go (when the weather is warm, I recommend the ice cream shop at the end of the block).