Does the bell ring for you? You know, the one from Santa’s reindeer, hitched to his sleigh, that jingle as he flies through the sky on Christmas Eve. No? You can’t hear it? Then maybe you need to get to the North Pole, and ask Santa for a new a bell that’s not broken. How do you get to the North Pole you ask? Why it’s not hard at all, especially when you hop on The Polar Express in Saratoga Springs, New York. [Note: there are 30+ Official Polar Express Trains spread across the country, click here for the full list.] My family and I recently made the journey on the Saratoga and North Creek Railway. Want to know how it went? Continue reading to find out.
It was a mild, November night, and throngs of pajama-clad children milled about the Saratoga Springs train station waiting to board the vintage cars of the Saratoga and North Creek Railway, festooned with all the trimmings and trappings of Christmas. Evie, our 12 year old, could barely contain herself as she skipped down the platform, waving her ticket, looking for the conductor to let us on the train. “There’s no way you can bah humbug your way out of this one!” Evie called over her shoulder.
We climbed the steps, and inside the cars The Polar Express was brought to life. Repeatedly children exclaimed, “it looks just like the book!” or “I’m inside the movie!” We settled into our First Class dome car seats around the dinette table, and admired our souvenir keepsake mugs just waiting to be filled with steaming hot cocoa.
Once all the passengers arrived, the train inched forward, picked up speed, and our trip to the North Pole was underway – right on time, 5:30pm sharp! Songs and music from The Polar Express movie floated through the air, and, before long, chefs cavorted up and down the aisle bringing “hot, hot, hot… hot chocolate! hot, hot, hot… hot chocolate!” Oh, they’ve got it! They’ve also “got” delicious homemade (yes, homemade) sugar cookies, with a lovely hint of vanilla, that tasted even better when dunked into our mugs of hot chocolate.
Riders beware as there was a little pepper to go with our peppermint, as non-believer “Hobo Joe” attempted to quash the Christmas spirit enjoyed by all. Although “Hobo Joe” didn’t really mean any harm, and was quickly shooed away with a wave of the hand and a “raspberry” from the children.
Just before our arrival at the North Pole, the conductor punched our golden tickets, and The Polar Express was read while the chef turned the pages of the book.
And then… to what should our wondering eyes should appear? Look, out the window… why it’s, it’s, the North Pole (and just 30 minutes from Saratoga Springs too; boy that train moves quickly). Quick! There’s Santa! In his sleigh, with his helpers, welcoming us to his Village.
With a lurch and a jerk, Santa boarded the train with his elves, and visited with all the passengers of The Polar Express – he greeted each child, posed for photos, and gave everyone a special gift – a jingle bell cut directly from his sleigh.
‘At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.’ – The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg
The Polar Express in Saratoga Springs was now filled with believers, and bells rang through the air on the 30 minute return trip to the station. Christmas carols were sung by all led by chefs, elves, and conductors as we dashed away, dashed away, dashed away home.
The Saratoga & North Creek Railway Polar Express in Saratoga Springs has scheduled daily (except Mondays) departures at 5:30pm and 7:30pm from November 15, 2013 through January 6, 2014. Fares range from $15 – $40 depending on age and seating class. The least expensive Standard class is $25/adult and $15/child (ages 2-12 years old), ages 2 and under sitting on the lap of an adult cost $10. TIP: there is no “bad seat” on The Polar Express. Our family experienced both the First Class Dome Car and Standard Coach. The First and Diamond Classes receive a commemorative mug, and have their own table to sit around. However, there’s slightly more room in the aisle of Standard Coach, and chefs, elves, and children have more room to move and dance around. It may be livelier for younger kids in Standard Coach, while teens and tweens may prefer sitting around a table in the Dome Car.
You can also make The Polar Express in Saratoga Springs a weekend getaway with the Family Getaway Holiday Package that pairs The Polar Express train tickets with hotel accommodations at one of three hotels. Packages start at $105 per person, based on double occupancy, and include:
- Standard seats aboard Saratoga & North Creek Railway’s The Polar Express
- One-night hotel accommodations at either the Courtyard Marriot, Saratoga Downtowner, or The Inn at Saratoga
- 10% off Circus Café, plus complimentary, homemade cotton candy
- Steam train collectible ornament plus one coloring book per child.
Finally, families in the New York City area can bundle an Amtrak getaway direct from Penn Station. Ride Amtrak’s scenic Adirondack route direct to Saratoga Springs. Sample price; Train from New York including hotel package; $235 per adult, $75 junior & child (2-15 years old).
Disclosure: Our family was hosted for this trip and received complimentary tickets to The Polar Express, accommodations at The Inn at Saratoga, and lunch at the Circus Café for the purposes of writing this review. However, all opinions expressed are those of the author.
We had a fantastic time on The Polar Express in Saratoga Springs, and thought it was a unique holiday adventure. This was something we all enjoyed sharing together, and made a great Christmas memory. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on Twitter and “like” our Facebook page, too.