When I was given complimentary coach tickets for The Polar Express train ride on the Cape Cod Central Railway (Buzzards Bay, MA, Hyannis, MA) and the Saratoga & North Creek Railway (Saratoga, NY), I offered the tickets to my brother & his family because my soon-to-be four year old nephew is a HUGE Polar Express fan. He read the book nearly every night in November, and can narrate the book himself. I knew it would be a perfect opportunity to have him, his eight-month old brother, and his Mom and Dad (my sister-in-law and brother) all take a ride to the “North Pole”.

My brother had previously considered buying tickets to experience The Polar Express train ride. Yet, he had been unsure. The Polar Express reviews weren’t great from the previous year, and the tickets (premium tickets are also available) are expensive for the average family of four.

But they agreed to ride the rails, sit in the regular seats, and report back on their experience. Not only to see how the attraction is on its own, but how it relates to the book. Would the round-trip journey be as magical as advertised or an absolute train wreck?

Here is what my brother had to say:

“Like everything else relating to Christmas, The Polar Express train experience is as magical as your imagination can make it. The festively-decorated train cars travelled by characters from the Polar Express book (and movie) including chefs, a train conductor, a hobo, and of course Santa and his elves, create the backdrop for what can be a special experience for the whole family. The excitement and authenticity of the story, however, requires parents to play along. 

When we told our son that we got tickets to the Polar Express train it was all he talked about at school that day. He departed his school bidding his classmates farewell….he was heading to the North Pole. He was so excited to wear his new pajamas bought specially for his trip. 

We arrived at the Saratoga Springs train station about a half hour early. There was ample parking at the train station for a small fee and free shuttle parking just down the road. We picked up our tickets at the train station, which included a boarding pass for each passenger, and a souvenir golden Polar Express train ticket for the kids. When our son boarded the train, with his copy of the Polar Express book in arm, he sat by the window to keep an eye out for “lean wolves” and “white-tailed rabbits”.

Shortly into our half hour ride from Saratoga Springs to the North Pole, friendly chefs delivering delicious hot chocolate and a cookie to each of us. My son enjoyed the cookie so much he had no problem eating mine as well. The hot cocoa was plenty warm, but not too hot, so there wasn’t a safety concern for kids on a moving train. The Polar Express book was read over the train’s speakers while my son read along with his copy of the book. A chef roamed the train car holding up the Polar Express book for those who did not come with their own. A train conductor passed through the train car punching each child’s golden souvenir tickets.

Halfway through the trip, the train slowed to a crawl as it approached North Pole. We traveled to the North Pole in the evening which, because of the darkness, allowed us to enjoy the beautiful holiday lights of the city as Santa and his elves waived to us as we pass on through. The train stop for a brief moment for Santa and his elves to board. My son didn’t understand why we couldn’t get off the train as the children in the book do. I explained to him that only on Christmas Eve does the train stop at the North Pole for Santa to present his first gift of Christmas.

Shortly into our return trip from the North Pole, Santa and his elves travelled patiently through the train car. Santa stop to greet each child on the train, ask each of them what they wanted for Christmas, gave each child a gift (a bell cut from Santa’s sleigh) and sat for pictures with children and their families.

When we returned to the train station, the chefs and the train conductor wished us all a Merry Christmas as we disembarked the train car. It was a wonderful experience and one we cannot wait to do again. It will likely be a annual family tradition for years to come.”

When I spoke to my brother he provided three valuable tips. First, purchase your tickets for a time at night if you can. The darkness makes its more “real”. Otherwise, parents may think the scenery in the daylight is a bit bland. Second, play up the event. Read the book for several nights, wear pjs like in the story (the company encourages it), and bring the book to read along with the cast. Three, sit back and enjoy the ride. Kids don’t care about the quality of the cookie or the flavor of the hot chocolate. The cost of the tickets primarily goes to the cost of running the train, and the various actors. For example, here in Massachusetts it costs $15 just to commute in and out of the city per person for the average suburbanite. Yet, the company should make sure that they actors earn their pay and get into the story. There are many Polar Express experiences that are popping up everywhere and, while those aren’t much cheaper, folks can spend their money elsewhere.

For other details about the Polar Express experience, as well as other Polar Express companies, you can visit my post here, with the dates, times, locations, and details for snacks & strollers at any of the Polar Express MA or Polar Express NY locations.

I hope you liked this review, and whether you go this year or next, may you “hear” the magic of the holidays and “believe” in the spirit of Christmas!


Image Credit: CharleneChronicles.com and affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
This post is part of the U.S. Family Guide Blogger Program. Complimentary tickets were given.

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