Rebooting Day Out With Thomas

By Gina Tomanek, Mattel

The Colorado Railroad Museum successfully hosted Day Out With Thomas with a sold out event this past September.

This year’s event celebrated Thomas & Friends’ 75th Anniversary and Day Out With Thomas’ 25th Anniversary with a quality, premium event that families enjoyed. With tons to see, lots to do and additional entertainment spaced across the expansive site, it was a great showcase of how events can be hosted during these challenging times.

The health and well-being of guests, volunteers, and employees was top priority and while this year introduced a number of unique challenges, the Museum and Mattel worked very closely together to plan and execute, while partnering with local health officials to accommodate new guidelines. With these additional measures in place, Colorado Railroad hosted a successful three weekend/6-day event, proving that with careful planning, it is possible to prevail.

The process began with conducting a survey to gauge community sentiment and understand whether families in the market were ready to attend an outdoor event. Denver’s cultural attractions had already done a lot of this as well, and the data was very encouraging. Once confirmed that families were willing, ticket sales quickly reflected this. Demand was high showing families were ready to attend responsibly hosted events and presale ticket sales surpassed 2019’s presale numbers within the first 24 hours.

When families arrived, they were greeted by large welcome arches, new colorfully branded signage and an oversized banner of Thomas welcoming them. Guests were handed a scavenger hunt style site map, intended to guide guests in a one-way directional flow through key areas to visit while on property in a fun and engaging way. Once guests visited all areas marked on the scavenger hunt map they were guided to exit through the hands-free browsing gift shop and lastly collected their free giveaway of a Thomas birthday party mask along with a coloring/sticker set provided by 2020 sponsor, Amtrak.

Boarding. Note social distancing markers.

The experience included a 20-minute train ride with a new interactive audio story led by Sir Topham Hatt’s voice, where children were able to follow along and earn a travel badge sticker. Hands-on elements of the event were removed including product play and bounce houses. Colorado Railroad Museum compensated by adding additional entertainment, with 3 entertainment stages and entertainers performing throughout the day, hands-free activities including Thomas and Friends character inflatable Photo Ops, hay bale maze, on-site Garden Railroad operating layout, turntable demonstrations, and more. Families were able to take their own photos with Thomas and Sir Topham Hatt led a socially distanced game of Simon Says. These adaptations ensured families had a full, rewarding experience and felt comfortable.

Communication about enhancements was crucial to establishing consumers’ understanding of this years’ experience.  Throughout marketing efforts and the ticket purchasing process, information was available letting guests know what to expect. Prior to arriving, guests also received an email reminding them of the suggested arrival time, train departure time, and to remember to wear a mask. Additional safety measures included signage provided by Mattel to gently remind guests to distance and wear masks. The Museum implemented enhanced cleaning on high touch point areas and train cars between each ride, added additional hand washing and hand sanitizing stands, floor markings were placed on the ground for distancing, and staff was temperature checked daily.

This event truly exemplified how great things can happen when we work together to overcome adversity. Guests responded positively both in person and online with families expressing they felt safe and enjoyed the adjusted experience. These learnings make us optimistic as we work on plans for next year’s tour. Hats off to the Colorado Railroad Museum for a job well done. We’re looking forward to 2021!

We are always happy to brainstorm and share ideas. If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please contact Gina Tomanek at