We took our 6th trip to the North Pole to visit Santa, just like the story of The Polar Express via the North Pole Express which departs during the first two week-ends in December from
McMillan Park in . This
year, three trains were added for the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we took
advantage of the new offering. Mount
It was a rainy day to ride the train. We’ve experienced cold, warm, dry, even snowy, but this was the first time we’ve experienced rain. It didn’t stop the train or dampen our spirits.
Soon we were on board the Rudolph Coach and ready for our trip to the North Pole. The train ride takes about 15 minutes. In other years, the audio version of The Polar Express is piped into the speakers for all to listen to while on the train. Not this year. We later discovered it was both a wiring issue on the train as well as human error—confusion about whether the button gets pushed in the front of the train or in the back. Being that it was the first train of the season, we can forgive the oversight, especially since we have done this before.
Upon arrival at the North Pole, we headed straight for Santa’s red caboose and were the first to see Santa! Each of us received a shiny bell which rings for all who truly believe.
The Snow Princess was next. She was passing out toys for the youngsters and coupons for free french fries at the local Hardees. (Hardees is one of the sponsors of the event.)
We then stopped for cookies and hot chocolate. Yummy! The boy went back for seconds, and the husband had thirds—on cookies!
The Red Caboose Gift Shop is located next to the cookie stand, so we took a tour. A store devoted to trains. We left the store the first time without making a purchase, but we returned later and this time, came out with a bag containing two Lego type trains.
Guests at the North Pole are offered a complimentary picture to commemorate the event. We had our picture taken. The photos are available for pick up in a nice folded card prior to leaving the North Pole.
Next up—more trains! New this year were two wooden toy train layouts—one on the floor and one on a train table. Carpet was put underneath both to protect children from the gravel and dust on the floor.
And, back again this year, the huge electric train layout that gives guests an opportunity to operate the trains. We spend quite a bit of time in this area of the North Pole.
The craft room offered a place to warm up, bathrooms, and a chance to make an ornament. We spent a few minutes making the craft.
We then gathered the conductors for a group photo. This is one of our traditions. As soon as we took our photo, guests were behind us asking for a photo opportunity. I guess we started something!
Our time at the North Pole was about an hour and 15 minutes. Soon it was time to load the train and head back to
. Mount Pleasant
When we got off our coach, the boy headed to the locomotive and was greeted by one of the firemen on the train.
He had soon made his way into the cab of the train!
And, when the boy climbed down, another parent asked for a similar opportunity for their child. We had started something again!
The rain did not keep us away and we look forward to next year! In the meantime, on of our bells will receive an ornament hook and be hung on our Christmas tree with the other five bells from our previous visits to the North Pole.
Some hints and tips for getting the most out of your trip to the North Pole:
- Purchase your tickets early! Mail in registration begins the middle of October with phone in purchases starting on Nov. 1. All trains sell out within one week of Nov. 1.
- Know that snow, rain, ice, etc. won’t stop the Shay, so plan accordingly.
- Dress for the weather. It can be cold to wait for the train and the North Pole has limited warming opportunities, even though it is sheltered from the elements. The trains are not heated either. We saw some pretty uncomfortable people because they weren’t dressed appropriately. Comfy shoes or boots fit in this category, too.
- If going to the North Pole with small children, bring anything they might need for a two hour jaunt. This includes bottles, diapers, etc. No strollers are allowed on the train. You’ll be carrying little ones for the duration.
- Get to Santa’s caboose early! The line can get quite long for Santa. Guests are given a note with their tickets that explains the happenings at the North Pole, along with a map. Take some time to read it and become familiar with the area. Then, have a plan. We had decided to see Santa first and were actually, the first to see Santa.
- Enjoy! A trip to the North Pole can add magic to your holiday season.
Here’s the web-site for the North Pole Express. If you are able to, register your e-mail, so that you can receive an e-mail when mail in registrations begin. Then, mark your calendar for mid-October and check out the site. It will have directions for you to get your tickets to ride on the North Pole Express!