|by JD Rinne||Michigan||4|
Christmas has come early for those hoping for a model train under the tree this year: the Festival of Trains kicks off this weekend in Traverse City, Mich.
The festival, a tradition in this town in Northern Michigan for nearly two decades, opens Saturday. Volunteers set up built-to-scale model trains, mostly in the N, HO, S, O and G scales. The result is a tricked-out giant display of models running on tracks through diorama-like scenes.
The Northern Michigan Rail Road Club puts on the display at the Grand Traverse Heritage Center, a building that used to house a library. The Center is in a beautiful district that also has several mansions of 19th-century lumber barons.
More than 8,000 people attended last year's installment, and organizers are expecting about 10,000 this year.
In case you didn't know, Traverse City is a resort town that's about two-and-a-half hours north of Grand Rapids on Lake Michigan, between the pinkie and the fourth finger in Michigan's mitten.
322 Sixth Street, 231/995-0313, tickets from $2. Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. A family pass is available for unlimited visits for $25.
Check out the Traverse City Visitors Bureau for ideas on what else to do.
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