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The Polar Express: Dos and Dont’s of Holiday-Themed Trains

The holiday season is a magical time for children everywhere. “The Polar Express” story, written by Chris Van Allsburg, turned this legendary Christmas railroad into a household name. The mystical holiday train is especially popular among people under four feet tall. 

In New England, your family can take ride on the magical (and surprisingly authentic) Polar Express-themed train for a limited time each year!

The Believe in Books Literacy Foundation offers “Journey to the North Pole.” The adventures departs from either the Conway Scenic Railroad or the Hobo Railroad. Tickets were once so exclusive, they could only be purchased by winning a lottery. But since the event expanded, tickets are more readily available and can be purchased online. 


“Journey to the North Pole” departing from the Hobo Railroad.

The Narrow Gauge Railway in Maine, and other railroads across New England, offer holiday or Polar Express-themed train rides. Each railway has its own itinerary, including special features like an indoor reading of “The Night Before Christmas” upon arriving at the North Pole. Santa Claus even makes a special appearance in each rail car. 

Want to get your family on board a Polar Express train?

Here are some dos and dont’s:

  • DO buy your tickets early. I’ve bought tickets in October or November for December events. Some buy earlier for preferred dates/times.
  • DO build in plenty of time to arrive at the train station. Regardless of slippery roads, traffic, or potty stops on your way, the train leaves on time.
  • DO dress in layers. Train cars are usually heated, but if your journey has you exit the train, it’s likely you will walk to an alternate location after sunset.
  • DO pack a diaper bag with as many portable necessities as possible. Wipes, Kleenex, and small activities are a good idea for older children. 
  • DO eat before you board the train. Some trains serve hot chocolate and a snack, but other food isn’t available.       
Santa Letter

Don’t forget to write a letter to Santa!

  • DON’T bring a stroller. Use an infant seat or backpack. Plan that your child might need to walk some distance outdoors.
  • DON’T stress about bathrooms. They are in the train station and often in the train cars, too.  
  • DON’T forget to write your letter to Santa. Most themed trains have a “post office” either at the station or the “North Pole.”
  • DON’T forget to share your own holiday train success tips in the comments! 

Holiday train rides are a magical adventure.

Train tickets can be pricey, especially for larger groups. However, many local libraries and recreation departments offer family events with Polar Express themes. Such events are equally magical and many are free.

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas or Festivus (with the Seinfeld gang), DO live in the moment. Unplug, disconnect and enjoy the spirit of the season with your family.

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