Our first trip on the Polar Express was a completely wonderful and magical experience! I was not at all sure of what to expect. After the recent publicity about overbooked trains and cancelled reservations, we arrived around 4:30-an hour and a half earlier than our 6:00 departure time. We checked in and then found a cozy corner to wait in. The kids were great; keeping themselves busy talking about and anticipating the ride and also looking through our copy of the Polar Express book we had brought with us. There were nine children altogether in our group, but everyone waited really very patiently until it was time to board.
It was great fun actually watching all of the other families arrive, pajama clad and excited. When the Polar Express was announced, there was lots of cheering and clapping as the passengers formed a line to exit the station. Our train car was the very last one- a long and chilly walk for us! When we finally walked the length of the train, one of the chefs helped us on board. We climbed the narrow staircase to the upper dome area and were seated in a large booth big enough for 10 of us. We were actually assigned to the booth, plus two other rows with two seats each. However, the staff was extremely flexible and suggested that we could use the other rows for our coats if we were comfortable all sitting together in the booth. There was plenty of room for all of us and the kids were excited to be sitting together. Our other friends were seated right across from us too, which made for an extra fun experience for everybody.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Polar Express”, I’m sure you remember the hobo character from the roof of the train. Well, Cody got wind about a week ago that this character roams the train trying to steal tickets from the children. He was all kinds of anxious in the minutes leading up to boarding the train- very afraid of having to hide his ticket from this unkempt man. Once he saw the hobo and he watched him interacting with the other children at our table, he was finally able to relax. When the train left the station, we were treated to a couple of songs from the movie and mini-performances from the chefs. They brought hot cocoa and delicious sugar cookies right to our table. While we snacked, the conductor came around to each child and punched their golden ticket. They also played a reading of “The Polar Express” story over the speakers on the train. The kids followed along with our copy of the book and the chef assigned to our section was holding her own copy and interacting with the children as well.
We reached the “North Pole” after about a half hour ride. The kids were all delighted by the lights and the houses that appeared to be the toy workshops. They loved that they could see the shadows of the elves working through the windows. There was even a red and white striped pole with the North Pole sign at the top. Cody did exclaim that it surprised him to see that there was no snow at the North Pole, but we quickly decided that they must have cleared it away from the train tracks for safety reasons. On one side of the train, the kids got to see Santa climb on board and then he made his way through the car stopping to give each child a real bell from his sleigh. The elves followed behind, really taking the time to talk to each one of the children; finding out what their names were, how old they were, what they wanted for Christmas, etc. All the way back to the Saratoga train station they played Christmas carols that we all sung along to-the kids jingling their bells to the music.
When we had been riding almost a half hour back the train stopped. We all began to gather our belongings thinking that we had arrived back at the station but then the elves came around and told the kids that there was a herd of caribou on the tracks and we had to wait for them to pass. Once we arrived back at the station we gathered our Polar Express mugs, bells and golden tickets in our bag. It was then that we realized that we had forgotten to ask Santa to sign our copy of “The Polar Express”. The kids took it in stride through and were completely satisfied with their night. We were back out in the bitter winter area and began the trek back to our car. The train station was still hopping in preparation for the 8:00 ride. I was almost envious of these passengers, as I wanted to relive the experience again immediately! My kids spent the whole car ride home talking about, “When we do this again next year…”
We had truly an amazing time and are hoping to make this event a new Christmas tradition for our family. This morning when the kids woke up, they found our Elf on a Shelf, Milo Shelfie, just like they do every morning. Today they were excited to see that he clutched a note in his mittened little hands. The note read:
Dear Cody, Logan and Tyler,
I saw that you forgot to have Santa sign your book at the North Pole, so I brought it back with me and asked him to sign it myself. I hope that’s ok. You have been such good boys this year and I wanted to do something nice for you. Merry Christmas!
Love, Milo Shelfie
Next to our elf was our copy of the book and inside was indeed Santa Claus’ signature! The boys were beyond excited about this special gift and truly seemed to appreciate the whole Polar Express experience. It would buy those pricey tickets again and again to see their excitement and happiness the night brought them. This year, I am so especially appreciative of the magic of the Christmas season and all the joy my three boys bring to me and my husband. I truly feel blessed.
Unfortunately, our pictures we got from the event were not a reflection of the fun time we had. I’ve posted some of the better ones but had a particularly uncooperative subject in many of the shots. (Four is a tough age, right?!) By the way, I am so happy to report we did not have any trouble at all with our tickets. I actually found the staff very organized and accommodating and didn’t hear about anyone getting bumped from their seats. I would love to hear about other people’s experiences with the Polar Express, either good or bad. Pleas post your comments here. Also, don’t forget, tomorrow is the final day to enter the Toys R Us giveaway! I will be posting the names of two winners in my Wednesday blog, so stay tuned!