Location: 8909 W. 179th St, Overland Park, KSCost: Free until January 1, 2013; after that, please check their Web site for pricing
On a sunny afternoon in September, we headed out on a family adventure. Earlier that day, we had gotten some bad news from the eye doctor, so we decided to head out on a family adventure in an attempt to lift our spirits. I remembered that the Train Garden at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens was slated to open in June, so we packed up and headed out to the gardens.
As we entered the arboretum, we went by the small cafe and picked up a picnic lunch. Their prices were actually pretty reasonable, and we got a little brown bag to haul our stash of goodies out onto the grounds. We then hiked out to the train garden, which is towards the back of the Children’s Garden.
It was, as I had imagined, absolutely magical. There’s a big red caboose parked behind the garden that you can climb in and explore–I’d never been in a caboose before, so I was as excited to check it out as Peanut was! There are railway ties and track set in the sidewalk, so you’re walking on a railroad. There are beautiful plants. Best of all, there are three trains that circle around the garden itself.
The trains were the major draw for Peanut. There are two spaces where they go under the sidewalk (there’s plexiglass to keep little people from falling onto the track). It’s really neat to follow the trains as they go under your feet! Currently, the trains don’t whistle; I spoke to the employee watching the garden, and she said that there are sound effects planned that haven’t gone in yet. There’s also another building site that’s not yet completed, so they’re still working to make the garden bigger and better.
There’s one table with one chair back by the caboose; the employee was nice enough to let us use it for our picnic. It would be delightful if they would add more chairs/seating to that area for families with little kids who love trains! As is, Peanut and I sat on the sidewalk so he could watch the trains go by while we ate. It was definitely a hit.
Peanut’s eyes are to a point where he presses his little nose to the iPad to play his favorite games, but he still got a huge kick out of the train garden and the caboose; I feel safe recommending this for other visually-impaired kids and their parents. The pathways are wide and open, so it’s easy to navigate, and you can get really close to the one train that goes under your feet. The caboose is big and bright–so high contrast–and you can feel all over it if it makes you happy. The model trains themselves are hands-off, but if you’ve got some visual acuity, it’s a great tracking exercise, and there is the noise of the trains moving on the track to help you spot where they’re at at any given time.