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The Polar Express

The Polar Express
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Each year, around this time, when the weather should cease its tireless march of temperatures in the high 90s, and leaves should be gently drifting off their perches, only to be crushed by enthusiastic children (and “adults” like me), my thoughts drift to Christmas. It’s not my fault that when I shop, I find that Costco has stuffed their stores with the decor, and other paraphernalia of Christmas, months before Halloween gets a chance to burrow onto my doorstep.

Another reason? The Polar Express.

At the California State Railroad Museum in San Francisco, you can hop aboard The Polar Express.

Each Christmas, our family loves reading the beautiful pages of The Polar Express picture book by Chris Van Allsberg. There is something magical, innocent and heart-warming about the words. The pictures wrap you in a soft embrace. The message to believe is so simple, and so difficult to capture as we grow up.

When we discovered that we could take a ride on The Polar Express in our pajamas, we jumped at the chance last year. I had heard how difficult it was to obtain tickets. So I’ve learned a few secrets I’ll share with you. Official tickets for the public go on sale October 1. Tickets generally sell-out instantly, the morning they are available. I learned this the hard way, two years ago. Then I discovered that if you’re a member of the California State Railroad Museum, you can purchase tickets in advance of the general release, September 27-29. If membership is the route you want to take to obtaining tickets, join the museum now. There are various levels of membership, all of which allow you access to these hard-to-come-by tickets.

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What is it like? When we went, the majority of the kids were in pajamas and robes. My husband and myself? We were in the five percent group of adults who really got into the spirit of the event. I I highly recommend going in pajamas in a robe. You’re a hero to your kids, and it is just so much more magical when you’re dressed for the occasion. The fact is, I love pajamas. This was another great excuse not to get out of comfortable pjs.

When you purchase your tickets you can select which train car you’ll travel in to the North Pole. We chose the Audubon car for the tables. I knew they’d be serving hot chocolate and cookies, and I know my girls. We needed a table. In addition to the Audubon car, there are three coach cars, the Kris Kringle, Katy and Gingerbread. Then there is the first class car, the El Dorado. First class tickets come with a mug you take home with you. Every passenger on The Polar Express receives a bell, the first gift of Christmas.

The staff board The Polar Express are sweet as can be. The entire trip is an hour. The Polar Express is read aloud as you travel. We brought our copy so the girls could follow along. There may be a few surprise characters who happen drop by. The big, jolly man himself greets each child. We thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a nice addition to our holiday festivities. There’s something relaxing about sitting on a train, unworried about where you’re headed, or when you’ll get there. Seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child, somehow makes everything more clear, and more meaningful.

If you haven’t been, I hope you get that golden ticket. If you have, what was you favorite feature of the experience?


ps. If you’d like to take a peek at our pictures from last year, you’ll find themhere.


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