Our Trip on the Polar Express

Last year, we gave our boys, then 7 and 5, a trip on the Polar Express. We were unable to do it on Christmas Eve so we did it the day before. It was a total surprise. The train was in Hood River, about an hour away from our home. We gave the boys their tickets and pajamas on the way. They were both pretty excited but especially our 5 year old, Ethan. He kept reading his name on the printed mock-up we made and smiling.

When we arrived, we got them into their new PJ's and then bundled up in our coats because it was raining very hard. The event was sold out and I don't think a lot of people canceled because it was very packed. Beck166x150.jpgFinally, the conductor (just like in the movie), yelled "ALL ABOARD" and we were able to file onto the train.

They had the seats in sets of 4 facing each other so we had our own little area. There were Christmas decorations everywhere. All the kids and many of the parents were in jammies. Many of the kids were younger than my big boys, some just babies really, but there were lots of older kids and teenagers too. Some of the groups appeared to be 8 or 10 or more people together. We tried to take photos but all of them look about the same: Beck with a cheezy grin and his "Froggy" right next to his face, and Ethan with his eyes closed! Conductor200x150.jpg


Both the boys were very excited as the train started. They had Christmas carols through the loudspeaker system and everyone was very festive. There was a family with two little girls, a bit younger than our boys, across from us. The conductor came through the cars and punched the kids tickets a bunch of times just like in the movie (didn't care about the adult ones). He was really serious and asked for tickets for the North Pole. He didn't really write letters on them, but punched them over the kids heads so the chads would fall all over. Cookies200x150.jpg

Next they played the song from the movie about hot chocolate and brought cups out for everyone. They were dressed in chef's hats and jackets but were really just a nod to the movie's hijinx. After the hot chocolate, they brought cookies. Then we just enjoyed the music and the train ride. You couldn't really see anything outside because it was so dark and wet, rain mixed with snow. The windows were all foggy and dripping from the humidity. Cocoa150x179.jpg


Beck started to get sort of sleepy after that and was starting to lie down on the seatsacross from us when we started to get to the "North Pole" They had a little village set up with all sorts of Christmas lights. I wasn't sure if we were going to get off the train in all that rain but it seemed sort of unlikely. We went past the North Pole and then started going back the other direction. They started to read "The Polar Express" over the loudspeaker and one of the chefs had a book that she was walking around and showing to all the kids. Sleeping200x150.jpgThe boys were both entranced, but Beck was still sleepy. He would lie down until she came by with the book and then jump up to look at the picture, then lie down again. We got back to the North Pole where we stopped to let Santa Claus on the train.

They started playing the song, "Santa Claus is Coming To Town". All these people started to file into the train. There were ladies that were dressed similarly in Santa hats and fleece snowflake jackets. There were teenagers dressed as elves (I think this is a typical first job for the Hood River youth) and of course, Santa Claus! Ethan was especially excited to see him and told us "Santa is going to be so excited to see me again!", he saw Santa at the mall the week before. This boy believes for sure! Santa took a lot of time with each family and child. He would give lots of options for photos and asked everyone very seriously what they wanted for Christmas. Singers231x150.jpgMany teenagers and younger women got photos on Santa's lap and I saw him sit on at least one guy for a photo op. He gave each child a silver sleigh bell. Beck lost his several times before I put it in my pocket. Ethan carefully zipped his up in his jacket pocket so it would be safe. He would take his coat and jingle it from time to time to be sure it was still there.

After Santa left the train, the ladies came back and sang carols throughout the train car. They moved from place to place and when they sang in the middle, they were in the aisle right next to us. They were obviously practiced at singing together and sounded very professional. BeckEthan200x150.jpgThe boys liked it very much, especially when they sang "Jingle Bells". Beck started getting a little silly after they left the car and was bugging one of the elf girls who was in our section. He finally tried to lie down and sleep again as we all started to sing Christmas carols together. Ethan loved the singing, even when we all messed up the words. We got back to the station and started the drive home. Both the boys were asleep before we could get back on the freeway. We were home before midnight safely, even if it wasn't such a fun drive back because of the rain. All in all, a pretty good Christmas present for them, one they will remember for years to come.

Editor's Note: Here is the link that list the Polar Express across the US. Many are probably already sold out but it is worth a look.

Our Trip On The Polar Express

About The Author: Jess StewartMaize is on the staff of ThriftyFun and is a freelance writer. She lives west of Portland, OR with her husband and two sons. Jess has struggled with the balance of Thrifty and Fun since she was a child.


November 17, 20080 found this helpful

I used to live in Bartlett, NH

And the Conway Scenic Railroad would put on a

Polar express ride as well... Definitely would recommend

it to any parent!

They met in the ski lodge and read the polar express to the huge turnout of families, most of the kids were dressed in pajamas just like the book.

Soon the train pulled up just outside the lodge and all the kids eyes just got huge when they saw it.

When we went outside the conductors were yelling, "all aboard the polar express!" That just topped it off right there, all the kids were frantic with excitement telling their parents "OMG MOM! It's the polar express!!!" and tugging on their coats to get on... Very cute.

Once on the windows of the train were decorated with sparkly snowflakes.

Once everyone was seated the train took off going through the woods of new hampshire, and it looked beautiful with the snow at night on the trees that were lit up by the lights on the train.

The train workers who were wearing elf costumes, came around with a tray stocked with hot cocoa for everyone.

Then the train stops slowly and everyone is wondering what is up, the conductor says over the intercom, "I can't go forward there seems to be some kind of sleigh and a bunch of reindeer on the tracks... "

Then Santa came through the train passing out bells [from his sleigh] to every kid. Which made them freak!

"Omg! It's Santa!!!"

Then the intercom sounded again, only it was Santa wishing everyone a good christmas and a happy new year and HO HO HO... etc.

Nice touch.

The train went back to the station at the end and all the kids were bouncing of the walls with their bells and some still had some hot cocoa in their hands.

Awesome ride. If their is a Polar express train ride in your area, I suggest you take part with your children.

I can tell you, when I went when I was younger, it was awesome and I'd take my kids to it any Christmas.

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