The Conductor: Well, ya comin’?
The Boy: Where?
The Conductor: To the North Pole, of course! This is the Polar Express!
If you are one of the millions of fans of the wonderful 2004 holiday film The Polar Express written, produced and directed by Robert Zemekis, this experience kicks off an enchanted adventure that you probably relive every Christmas season. Based on Chris Van Allsburg’s equally enchanting children’s book of the same name, The Polar Express has come to be part of our shared holiday tradition. Now you and your family can capture part of the adventure, on a train ride inspired by the Polar Express and hosted by the Saratoga and North Creek train line.
A Magical Evening
Last December, my family and I, along with several other families made the two- hour drive to Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. We drove caravan style with our teenage kids vying for seats with their favorite friends. Upon arriving at our hotel, the more festive of our group quickly donned pajamas … pajamas, incidentally, are practically a requisite for riding the Polar Express. Properly attired, we piled back into our cars and drove the short distance to the Saratoga Springs train station, which was decorated in holiday lights. The long train hummed and steamed at the platform, the passenger cars already filled with the bustle of excited riders. We boarded the train line and made our way to the upper levels of the dome cars. Soon we were underway, the winter landscape rolling past our windows in the gathering darkness.
The magic of the Polar Express wasn’t lost on our otherwise jaded high school students, especially as performers appeared singing and dancing the “Hot Chocolate” number from the film and served us a tasty snack of, yes, hot chocolate and cookies. During the 30-minute ride the film’s wonderful score played in the background and we all enjoyed a recording of Chris Van Allsburg reading his classic tale.
There was excitement in the air as we could feel the train begin to slow. We were approaching the midway stop on our journey. The train stopped and we all craned to look out the windows.Outside at the small station on the “outskirts of the North Pole” was a group of elves and St. Nick himself to greet us. Santa and one of his elves entered the train and car-by-car visited each family and group as the train reversed direction and headed back toward Saratoga Springs. The return trip was filled with singing carols led by the chefs and conductors.
A Treat for Everyone
Everyone received a keepsake from their journey; a gold ticket and a sleigh bell taken from Santa’s sled. We had opted for the slightly pricier observation car so we were all given a limited edition mug to enjoy hot chocolate for many holidays to come. The actors portraying the characters from the film were all very engaging. We were even lucky enough to see the “Hobo” who stows away on the Polar Express.
Home We Go
Upon returning there is a well-placed gift shop featuring Polar Express merchandise. Our group made our journey on a Friday night so we were able to see some of the other sights in Saratoga Springs the following day. This was one of those trips I wished I had known about when my kids were younger, although our teenage kids and their friends had little trouble getting into the fun. Seeing so many younger families on board, it was fairly easy to drift back and imagine how my own kids would have glowed with wonder as they rode the Polar Express.
Bob Berry is a frequent contributor to Westchester Family.
When You Go …
The Saratoga and North Creek Railway
3 Railroad Place, North Creek, N.Y.
The ride operates this year from Nov. 18 to Nov. 26, and nearly all December until Dec. 23, 2016. Tickets range from $40 to $80 per person.