Making Memories with the Polar Express
As I mentioned in my review of Big Splash Adventure, we received a special deal on our room and the ability to purchase tickets for the Polar Express train ride. Our 3 year old, great-nephew had never seen Polar Express so we had a little pre-trip fun a few weeks earlier.
Before the Trip
I figured the train ride wasn’t going to be special if Jeremiah didn’t know anything about the Polar Express. We scheduled an overnight visit for a special movie viewing. For dinner I made hot dog stockings. I got the idea from Cute Food for Kids. I wanted more than just plain hot dogs. I thought it might work if I wrapped crescent rolls around them; like pigs-in-a-blanket. I was wrong. They weren’t horrible but I believe I will just use the hot dogs the next time.
Jeremiah helped me make fruit Santas. He loves to help me cook and create in the kitchen. We made these cute little Santa Strawberries I found them on Pinterest which says they came from the Wholesome Cook. I tried using tiny chocolate chips for eyes but I really think they are too big. Next time I may try chocolate sprinkles.
We also made Santa-kabobs. (I renamed them) They are actually called Grinch Kabobs by Nourishing Minimalism. I changed the name because we were watching a movie about Santa not the Grinch. I use plastic, coffee stir sticks for my skewers. They seem to be safer than a sharp stick for little hands and mouths.
We gathered the food, changed into our pajamas, turned off the lights and settled in to watch The Polar Express, starring Tom Hanks. If you have never seen the movie, it’s about a little boy that can’t decide if he still believes Santa is real. A mysterious train shows up in the street right outside his front door, on Christmas Eve. It’s there to pick him up, along with other children, and take him to the North Pole. I’m not very fond of the animation. It’s a little strange, to me, but I really enjoy the storyline. There are plenty of laughs and plenty of action. And something I am quite fond of, lots of music.
Jeremiah enjoyed the movie and the special food; especially the Santa kabobs. He ate at least six of them. We didn’t tell him anything about our plans for the following weekend. Since he is only 3 years old, his concept of time is a bit askew. When he knows there are plans coming up with us, he drives his mom nuts, daily, asking if we are there to pick him up.
One of the other things I did, in preparation for the trip, was purchase a MP3 of the soundtrack from the Polar Express. We love to listen to music in the car so I thought this would be another good way to expose him to the music and story of the Polar Express.
We were able to have an extended weekend with Jeremiah, which worked out nicely. We picked him up Friday evening and didn’t get him back home until Monday evening. Our reservations at the Big Splash Adventure and for the Polar Express train ride were for Sunday night; which meant we had several opportunities to listen to our Polar Express soundtrack. Jeremiah likes to sing along, which is absolutely adorable. Of course, I sing along with him.
We waited until Saturday morning to tell Jeremiah about our trip and the ride on the Polar Express. I wish I had taken a video of his expression when we told him. As he began to understand what we had just revealed to him, his eyes grew wide and what started out as a sweet little grin soon grew into a huge smile that brightened his whole face.
Jeremiah is a thinker. That is why we told him a little early about the ride on the Polar Express. I knew his little mind would go to work and he would probably have some questions. Sure enough, within just a couple of minutes, he asked, “Will we go on the ice?”
If you are unfamiliar with the movie, there is a scene where the train tracks are frozen under several feet of ice. The train can’t stop before it hits the ice which results in it sliding and spinning across the frozen lake. We assured Jeremiah that it was too warm for ice and we would be just fine.
Preparing for the Ride
When you go to the Polar Express website, they encourage the children to wear pajamas (like the children in the video). Parents are welcome to join in the fun and wear their pajamas too. Well, I’m just a big kid so I bought us all pajamas that matched (as closely as I could get them).
We dressed in our pajamas and our slippers and got ready for our adventure.
There are a few mistakes that I made and I want to share those with you so you can be a bit more prepared than I was.
1. This was my first visit to the French Lick Scenic Railway. I thought there would be a depot for us to wait in until it was time to board the train. That was mistake #1. There were a couple of tents set up with different activities but no actual building.
2. Pay attention to the weather report then dress and prepare accordingly. Because of the incorrect assumption, under #1, we were not prepared for the rain…not just a little rain…a ton of rain. By the time we walked from the car to the tents, stood in water and puddles (as it ran through the tents), then walked (through the rain) to our passenger car (which of course was the last one), our slippers were soaked! To add insult to injury, we didn’t have any umbrellas. I hate umbrellas. I feel I get wetter from the water dripping off the edges than I do just walking through the rain. In this instance, I really wish I had an umbrella.
I hope I haven’t given you the idea that this ruined our experience because it didn’t! I just wanted to give you a heads up so you don’t make the same mistakes that I did.
The Train Ride
Now for the fun stuff; the ride itself. I don’t know if Jeremiah could have been anywhere nearly as excited as I was. I was excited to experience the Polar Express and I was excited to witness Jeremiah enjoying it.
As we reached our passenger car, the conductor was standing there in the rain to greet us. We boarded and found our seats. I kept hold of the tickets until the conductor came by to punch them. Then we each handed the conductor our individual ticket. He punched it until it “snowed” little dots all over us.
The music from the Polar Express soundtrack played over the speakers. As the train started to move out of the station, we were introduced to the elves that would be serving and entertaining us. They were so cute and bubbly.
During our ride to the North Pole, the Polar Express story was read. The conductor came by a couple of times to show us the pictures in the book. At the appropriate times in the story, the elves would come out and sing with us.
One of my favorite songs is Hot Chocolate. I bet you will never guess what happened when they sang that one. Yes, we each got a cup of hot chocolate and then they brought us a Christmas cookie! Yum!
Thank goodness the family sitting in front of us had been on this adventure before. If something was said to give us a hint of what was about to happen, I missed it. But the family in front of us, got up and started frantically cleaning the fog off their windows. They did tell all of us that we needed to start watching out the windows on the right side of the train. We cleaned off our windows and started watching. Before we knew it, Christmas lights appeared on several buildings and there in front of one of the building stood…..none other than Santa Claus and some elves. We had reached the North Pole! I have a confession to make here and now…I am a sentimental sap…I teared up at the sight of them (and I’m tearing up again, just writing about the experience).
As we pull into the North Pole, the train came to a stop. We didn’t get off but someone special boarded the train. Can you guess who it was!?!
Yes-siree! It was the jolly man, himself, Santa Claus. He entered from the back of our car so Jeremiah didn’t see him but when we said, “Jeremiah! Look who just got on the train. It’s Santa Claus!”
He scampered up onto the seat and peered to the back of the car. He was so excited. He asked, “Is Santa going to come see me?”
We told Jeremiah that he was, but Santa had to greet all the children on his way up to us. Now, I wasn’t really sure how Jeremiah was going to handle meeting Santa because he had been kind of bashful during the trip so far. We tried to get him to move to the aisle so he could see better, but we wanted to stay between window and me or between my husband and me.
He watched as Santa worked his way up the aisle. When it was Jeremiah’s turn there was no problem getting him into the aisle. He rushed out and hugged Santa’s legs. Santa picked him right up. They had their picture taken together (which I haven’t received yet but I will add it when it comes in) and Santa gave him something special.
If you haven’t seen Polar Express, you might not know what the gift was so I will tell you. One of the themes of the movie is that anyone that no longer believes in Santa can’t hear the Christmas bells. So Jeremiah’s gift from Santa was a beautiful silver bell. I will tell you right here and now that all of us could hear the bell, because we believe in Santa Claus.
The ride from the North Pole back to French Lick was filled with singing and dancing. Jeremiah finally got comfortable enough to go out into the aisle and dance with the elves.
It was a magical night where memories were made. Sweet Dreams!
Has your family ever been on a Polar Express train ride? If so, I would love to hear about your adventure.
Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation for the post. I just wanted to share the fun we had and give you some ideas as to how you could recreate it. There are a few affiliate links throughout the post.
Click on an item below to learn more about how to make or purchase it (affiliate links included):
The Polar Express
Polar Express CD & mp3
The Polar Express storybook
Plastic, coffee stir sticks
Hot dog stockings
Snowman milk chugs
Snowman popcorn cups
Grinch kabobs (or Santa kabobs)