CHOO CHOO BOB’S
ST. PAUL, MN
Sometimes I wonder…if I could open an “anything” store, what would my “anything” be? Maybe I’d create an entire store centralized on casseroles…or flip flops…or scarves…or margarita salt. Can you imagine walking into a store that only sold margarita salt? Talk about following your passion (and probably going out of business). That must’ve been exactly what Bob Medcraft was feeling when he opened Choo Choo Bob’s, a model train store that has most definitely NOT gone out of business, but rather has become a St. Paul staple in the world of choo-choo-loving children everywhere. The retail store is a place to shop for trains, play with trains, watch electrical trains whiz by, or host train-themed birthday parties. Did I mention trains? Trains, trains, trains.
What is it?
Choo Choo Bob’s is a train-lover’s dream store. The store did a complete makeover in Spring 2015 and it is much more inviting, clean and far larger! Its front window holds intricate moving displays while the back is lined with toddler-sized play tables that give a hands-on experience to young admirers of Thomas and Chuggington. The aisles are filled with model train equipment (some fancy and expensive), toys by Melissa and Doug, Playmobil, Calico Critters, Brio, and of course, featured products from the Choo Choo Bob show. The Choo Choo Bob Show is a timeless, Casey Jones-esque kids show (think Woody’s Roundup from Toy Story 2) that centers around trains and a whole lot of imagination and can be seen on their YouTube channel, Qubo and on-demand on Dish/Blockbuster.
Fit for what ages?
The store boasts fun for ages 1 through 100, and that’s probably accurate if you have the right audience. Grandparents taking their grandkids to pick out pieces for a collaborative train project, moms and dads finding a free, warm space to let their toddler build tracks and push trains, enthusiasts of all ages watching the displays shoot in and out of tunnels, school-age kids listening to story time with Engineer Paul or concerts by the Choo Choo Bob Show cast…this place could legitimately be for ages 1 through 100 without exaggeration!
How much are we talkin?
Playing with the trains is free. Watching the trains is free. Attending story time is free. The only way you’ll spend money here is if you purchase something, host a birthday party or get talked into visiting Izzy’s next door for some of the best ice cream the city has to offer. Birthday parties in the store are $150 for two hours for up to eight kids and include gift bags, juice, tableware and a personalized birthday cake.
Want some tips?
The store is located at a busy intersection, so try parking in the back lot down the alley instead of on the street. Arrive early if you are planning to attend story time with Engineer Paul. Story time is every Tuesday at 10am and includes a solid train book read by a bearded man in authentic striped overalls and some singing. Speaking of singing, the cast of the Choo Choo Bob Show is all over the Twin Cities in the summer with live concerts at all sorts of kiddie events. Be sure to check their events page to view the latest schedule.
The bathrooms are located in the back room, changing table included. And there are benches for parents that circle the play tables in the back so parents can kick back and relax with a cup o’ joe and gossip magazine or can get on their knees and build, push and play side-by-side with their child. A fun option for your kids is to purchase a small, plain wooden train car (for $3) and bring it home to paint and decorate to their liking. Way cheaper than any Thomas car and it keeps them busy even after they get home!
Choo Choo Bob’s is an awesome place to host a birthday party as well. They do all the work and provide the cake and gift bags, but allow you to bring in your own food. Get more information on their party options here.
Snow too high to get to the actual store? Entertain your train enthusiast with the Choo Choo Bob Show on YouTube, Qubo and on-demand on Dish/Blockbuster. You can also listen to Choo Choo Bob radio or play online games, all from the comfort of your own couch.
Hours and Location
2050 Marshall Avenue | St. Paul, MN 55104
Store hours are:
Monday–Friday 9am – 8pm
Saturday 8:30am – 8pm
Sunday 10am – 6pm
The store is located at the intersection of Marshall and Cleveland in St. Paul. There is a parking lot in the back of the store or free, but limited, street parking out front. It’s a busy area so parking can be tricky, especially during story time on Tuesdays. Next door is Izzy’s ice cream if you’re down for a treat, and if lunch is in the cards, I recommend driving six blocks east to Blue Door Pub for an awesome peanut butter cheeseburger. Yeah, you heard me right.
Follow Choo Choo Bob’s on Facebook to hear about special hours and events, get direct links to new show episodes, and learn about sales and promotions on toys and trains.
NellieBellie01/19/2015 at 11:21 am
This store sounds like a ton of fun! And love the idea of stopping in at Izzy’s on the way!
ashley01/20/2015 at 8:55 am
We LOVE Choo Choo Bobs and my kid even knows what exit off 94 to take to get there because we go so often! While you’re right that the train playing is free, please consider dropping a buck or two in the little donation bird house near the tables. So many people don’t realize it’s there, and for a small business that often doesn’t profit from the visitors the “tip jar” is really important. 🙂
Melissa01/22/2015 at 3:30 pm
There are changing tables now! I’m 90% sure… I was intruduced to this amazing store (my boys are 4 and 1.5) this weekend. I remember thinking that it was nice they had changing tables. Pretty sure both bathroom 1 & 2 had them.
Nicki01/23/2015 at 12:39 am
Awesome! Thanks Melissa. I’ll make that update to the blog. Glad you enjoyed your visit!
Hayley11/06/2015 at 10:30 am
I agree with Ashley, we always drop a few bucks in the donation jar or try to pick out something small to support this local business. It’s great that they encourage kids to come and play here and don’t charge anything. We’re lucky to have such a cool store in town and want them to be able to keep the play areas open to all!