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For the unjaded, a holiday garden railway

It's only Dec. 5 and I'm already tired of holiday hoo-ha, but a Sunday outing to Morris Arboretum's holiday railway turned into a fun little adventure for the granddaughters, who were visiting from Colorado and feelng restless. At ages 4 and not quite 2, they were enchanted by the tiny railroad cars loaded down with mini-presents (and, oh dear, coal), the lights inside the dining cars, and the historic houses and buildings decorated with Christmas-y greens and lights.

This was our second trip to see the miniature trains in four months. Last time was a beastly hot day in early August and we had the place to ourselves. Sunday's mild temperature - so comfortable - brought out a nice crowd.

We ran into Paul Meyer, Morris' chief railway promoter, who guessed attendance would hit about 800 that day, which sounds pretty good. Then he told us that the day after Thanksgiving, which was even milder than Sunday, the railway drew 1,800! "It's all about the weather," he said.

I guess it is for most people, but I like going to Morris when there's snow on the ground. Last time I did that, we saw a screech owl in the hollow of a tree. Talk about AWESOME.

But if you're looking for something fun for the kids this holiday season that doesn't involve a mall or being a compulsive consumer of goods made in China, check out the Morris railway. It's open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. till 12/31. Closed Christmas Eve and day.

From Dec. 15 till the 31st, the arboretum will stay open till 5 p.m. That means that after they shut down the railway for the day, which happened on Sunday with disconcerting alacrity 10 minutes ahead of time, you'll be able to walk around and experience twilight in the garden. It's amazing - fun doesn't have to involve buying STUFF.