Train Insane: NYC’s 2017 Holiday Train Shows

Whether you’re looking for a winter break activity, a fun spot to take the grandparents, or a boffo outing for your transit-entranced kid, NYC offers some excellent options during the holidays (and beyond). Bronx, Midtown, Upper West Side: all host world-class displays you won’t see outside the city. Get out of the cold and climb aboard these hot NYC holiday train shows before they whiz by.


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photo: MTA New York City Transit Museum

16th Annual Holiday Train Show at Grand Central
Roll on over to the Transit Museum Store at Grand Central Terminal and let your little rail fans go nuts over this year’s holiday train show, which. The impressive — and free! — exhibit features replica Metro-North, New York Central, and subway trains departing from a miniature Grand Central Terminal on a 34 foot-long, two-level platform. The 2017 display features a bright and dense cityscape backdrop designed by Brooklyn-based artist Josh Cochran.

This year’s exhibition showcases the Transit Museum’s Lionel Metro-North, Polar Express, and vintage subway train sets, which will make their way to the North Pole. A selection from the Museum’s collection of trolley and elevated train models created by Dr. George T.F. Rahilly will also be on display to the delight of viewers.

You’ll also find an array of unique subway and train gifts for purchase in the Museum Store such as subway backpacks, train sets, watches, socks, and even lip balm colored to match your favorite subway line.

photo: MTA New York City Transit Museum

When you’re done admiring the models, take a stroll through Grand Central to admire the real life trains coming and going from the terminal. Show your kids the cool constellations on the ceiling and take a selfie in front of the historic globe clock in the center of the lobby.

Then take care of some holiday shopping in the 24th annual Grand Central Holiday Fair in Vanderbilt Hall featuring 40 vendors offering a variety of unique items including American-made and handmade products with locally-sourced materials. From artwork and accessories to clothing, toys and home goods, you’ll find the perfect gift for everyone on your list (tip:  be sure to take advantage of Grand Central’s complimentary gift wrapping services).  Have lunch at Shake Shack and sample the other yummy vendors downstairs.

Ages:  all ages

Dates:  Through Feb. 4, 2018

Hours:  Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Price:  Free

New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex & Store at Grand Central Terminal (off the main concourse in the Shuttle Passage)
87 E 42nd St.

New York Botanical Garden: Tree lighting and Holiday Train Show

photo: The New York Botanical Garden 

The New York Botanical Garden Train Show
Zip over to The New York Botanical Garden and enter a magical world as you view their holiday train show featuring a display of 150 New York landmarks re-created with nuts, bark, leaves, and other plant parts by artist Paul Busse. This year’s show spotlights Midtown Manhattans iconic skyscrapers, with new replicas of the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the General Electric Building and St. Bartholomew’s Church.

Humming along between familiar sites such as the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Macy’s and the original Penn Station, large-scale model trains cover almost a half-mile of track across rustic bridges and trestles, through tunnels and past cascading waterfalls.

The exhibit now includes a finale of iconic Coney Island landmarks, and a recently-expanded exhibition space. Take your train fanatic cuties on a guided tour to learn more about the behind-the-scenes action involved in creating the display, as well as an up-close experience with the plant parts used for making the buildings.

New York Botanical Garden: Tree lighting and Holiday Train Show

photo: The New York Botanical Garden 

Catch the Evergreen Express
While you’re there, be sure to experience the Evergreen Express at the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, a playful space for kids to explore the beauty of nature and science with interactive activities happening at “station stops” throughout the space that will yield memorable take home goodies.

Hop aboard a play train and pretend to ride the rails. Hike winter trails and find evergreen trees and shrubs. Warm up inside the cozy Discovery Center while learning more about amazing evergreen plants. Then make a festive evergreen swag bundle to take home.

Through January 21
Tickets: free with garden admission
Guided activities weekdays, 1:30-5:30; Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.


photo: Meredith Levine

For More Train Fun at NYBG
Attend a special event “All Aboard with Thomas & Friends” at the New York Botanical Garden December 30-January 7; January 13-15, and January 20 & 21. This year’s show is “Thomas’ Budding Adventure” and guests can stay after the performance and grab a photo of your family with Thomas and the cast to capture the special day. Attendees of the show get access to the train exhibit following the performance.

Take note: Advance reservations are strongly recommended as tickets do sell out. Strollers cannot be taken into the Conservatory, so plan accordingly. Stroller parking is available.

Ages:  all ages

Dates:  Through Jan. 21, 2018

Hours:  Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Price:  Weekdays: $20/adults;$18/student/senior; $8/kids two–12; free for children under two.  Weekends: Monday holidays and peak days: $28/adults; $22/students/seniors; $10/kids ages two–12, free for children under two

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
The New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Blvd.


photo: New York Historical Society

Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection  at the New York Historical Society
Come one, come all, step right up to New York Historical Society’s West 77th Street entrance and be swept away as trains appear to roar through the Museum (with the help of four large-scale multimedia screens).  This 2017 exhibit is an immersive display of antique toy trains, toys and scenic elements with theatrical lighting, an ambient audio “soundscape,” and other visual effects.

The display includes artifacts grouped into 10 scenes on a 360-degree mountainous landscape. Plus, 11 classic trains from manufacturer Lionel chug along more than 400 feet of tracks on elevated tracks overhead visitors. Challenge your kids to a game of I Spy and pick up the “I Spy” Holiday Express trains and toys hunt, where kids can match pictures and rhyming facts with objects they see throughout the impressive display.

Aside from being fun for the kids, the Jerni Collection, which includes hand-crafted and hand-painted pieces dating from approximately 1850 to 1940, is considered one of the finest collection of antique trains and toys in the world.

photo: New York Historical Society

Train-tastic events
For true mini train fanatics, “Historical Train Weekend” is December 9 & 10, from 1 – 4 p.m. Recommended for kids ages 3-6,  it includes a special visit from “Conductor Abe”, a train scavenger hunt, making a train car, playing at a train table, and more. It’s free with museum admission.

For early risers, check out “Rise and Ride”, a free event for kids five and under and their caregivers that takes place on Fridays from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. through February. Enjoy train tales, breakfast treats and coffee for sale from the cafe, and space for kids to roam.

The museum will also be dedicating its weekend storytimes to train-related tales. Check the museum’s calendar for the latest updates on selected titles and weekends.

Ages:  all ages

Dates:  Through Feb. 25

Hours:  Closed Mondays. Tues.-Thurs. & Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Price:  $20/adults; $15/seniors/educators/active military; $12/students; $6/children ages five–13; free for children four and under; pay what you wish Fridays, 6-8 p.m.

170 Central Park West at 77th St.
Upper West Side



What’s your favorite place to see trains in NYC? Tell us in the comments below!

— Meredith Levine


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