"All Aboard," the conductor cried out.
I ran up to him.
"Well," he said, "are you coming?"
"Where?" I asked.
"Why, to the North Pole of course," was his answer. "This is the Polar Express."
At a number of tourist railroads in the US, families can have a "Polar Express" train ride experience: a real-life ride, that re-creates the mood and even some events from the classic book. Scroll down for examples in many parts of the US.
Polar Express Train Rides
Kids are encouraged to wear pajamas! Some details may vary, but generally the Conductor will be present to call "All Aboard!" and other characters from the book will make appearances. Guests are served hot chocolate and cookies en route, while listening to the classic story. Once at the North Pole, Santa gets on board and gives each child a souvenir silver sleigh bell, just like in the story. There's caroling and other entertainment, too. See sample Polar Express photos from the Grand Canyon Railway.
A Polar Express train ride lasts at least an hour. Note that tickets often sell out by early fall, so be sure to book well in advance!
Background for your trip:
- Shop online for The Polar Express classic book, by Chris Van Allsburg
- Shop for the live-action plus animation movie, featuring Tom Hanks
Sample Polar Express™ Train Rides
Grand Canyon Railway, Williams Arizona
This Polar Express departs from the Williams Depot, in the cute small town of Williams Arizona. The "North Pole" is a village made of Christmas lights where Santa waves and later boards the train. (See photos of the Grand Canyon Railway's Polar Express train ride.) This event sells out; check for extra dates in January. Look for packages with lodging and meals at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, NC
From early November to just before Christmas, this Polar Express offers the train journey, kids in pajamas, the magical story, Santa, carols, hot cocoa, and souvenir.
The Polar Express - New Hampshire
This "Polar Express" has something extra: hundreds of volunteers don costumes to create a magical experience, while fundraising for the "Believe in Books" Literacy Foundation. Polar Express trains leave from two locations: North Conway Village and Lincoln. On the way to the North Pole, kids get cocoa "as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars" and "candy with nougat centers as white as snow." At the North Pole, dozens of elves are waiting.... Read details at this Polar Express site. This event sells out early! Check for packages at sponsoring lodges.
Utica, NY: Adirondack Scenic Railroad
This Polar Express train ride starts running in mid-November.
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, CO
This historic railroad, dating from the 1880's, turns into the Polar Express at Christmas-time. Read more about Durango's Polar Express.
California State Railroad Museum: Polar Express Train Ride
This version is in Sacramento, on several weekends in December (and the timing coincides with the Theatre of Lights in Old Sacramento).
While not really a train ride, this is a nice Christmas outing at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. Kids make a keepsake bell, enjoy cocoa and cookies, listen to a reading of The Polar Express, then hop on a tram for a ride through the "Garden of Lights."
Stone Mountain Park, GA
Georgia's top tourist draw is a 3200-acre Park complete with a sky ride, riverboat, laser light show, the world's largest sculpture, and a small railroad. During "Stone Mountain Christmas", the Park offers a "Polar Express 4D Experience" but note that this is not a train ride; rather it's a 3D movie with "4D" features such as drops of rain. Meanwhile, the train at Stone Mountain does make a special Christmas run, passing holiday lights, and stopping for a traditional Christmas story.
Find More Polar Express Train Rides for Families:
- See listings by region at Traintraveling.com: Santa Fe, Vermont, Colorado, and more. (Check to make sure dates are for current year!)
*Always check website for updates!