Last weekend we took a trip on the “Polar Express” to the “North Pole” and it was one of the coolest things we’ve experienced as parents, and of course Kevin loved it too! Since the train leaves from Owosso, MI, which is quite a drive from Grand Rapids, and the train left at 10am, we stayed at a hotel in Lansing on Friday night. It was Kevin’s first time in a hotel and he could not contain himself! He was running all through the room and checking everything out, he went into the bathroom and yelled, “There’s even a blowdryer in here!!” (It’s the little things! 😉 ) Before putting the kids to bed we went to the pool for a bit and he went for a little ride on the luggage cart, again, in Kevin’s world…best thing ever. Sloane was along for the ride, but as far as we can tell, she loved the trip too!
The trip is actually called The North Pole Express and it’s put on by the Steam Railroading Institute. This train is the train they got all the sounds from for the Polar Express movie…ridiculously cool. The whole thing is very non-commercialized, reasonably priced and so special. All of the workers on the train are volunteers and are so excited about what they are doing and the excitement of the kids.
Kevin was AMAZED! He didn’t fully understand what was happening until we were on the train, but once we were on board, he kept saying, “Can you believe it?!” The train ride was an hour long through farm country and we drank hot chocolate, ate snacks, and saw lots of “reindeer”, the deer were running like crazy through the fields. Again, simple and so fun.
When we arrived at “The North Pole” which is actually a tiny town called Ashley, we got off the train and were given a map of all the things to do. Each child was given a piece of paper to put their name in the drawing for the first gift of Christmas which was handed out right before we re-boarded the train. The whole central part of town was decorated for Christmas and there were high school kids dressed as elves walking around and helping out. Each location was set up with things to do; there were animals to pet and feed, including reindeer, the community center was a toy shop where Kevin made a toy, Santa was in a large tent, cookie decorating, face painting, balloon animals, glass blowing, the list goes on and on. I’m really not sure how 800 people got off a train in a tiny town and there weren’t crazy lines, but we hardly waited for anything, except Santa, which was maybe 30 minutes and Kevin, Sloane, and I went to decorate a cookie while Charlie waited.
Watching Kevin as we got close to his turn to talk to Santa almost made me cry. He was so excited, and a little nervous, but so poised. He knew exactly what he wanted to chat about and ask for. I just wanted to bottle up the moment and keep him this age forever. I’ve always loved Christmas time, but kids make it so magical.
The train was parked on the edge of town and pulled forward for everyone to board to head back, it was really exciting to see it moving since we were on it earlier and didn’t get to see all the steam.
When we got back on the train there was a bell for everyone, we also got fun mugs (and I really love a mug to add to my collection!). We were in town for two hours, which was the perfect amount of time because we were all getting cold. Once we were on the train again, we warmed up, drank some more hot chocolate and snuggled two tired kids! It was an awesome day and one that Kevin will talk about for a long time.
A few things I’d recommend now that we’ve done this:
*Spring for the Cocoa Class, we did this and you have more room in the seats with a little table in between and you get hot chocolate on the way to and from the North Pole.
* DRESS WARM. We were bundled, but I would have bundled more had I known most of the activities, food, and santa were outside. Some things are in buildings and Santa was in a tent, but not a heated one! We had a cold, snowy day which made the North Pole that much better, but we could have used another layer!
*Strollers are necessary and super easy. When you get on the train they take it, when you get off, it’s there waiting for you. You’ll want it for littler ones once you arrive in town.
*Bring cash. Everything is SO reasonable and it’s way easier to have cash.
*Pack Snacks. The train ride was an hour, which was the perfect amount of time, but on the way home we were hungry, snacks would have been perfect and would have kept Kevin occupied.
*You have two hours in town which is the perfect amount of time, but start with Santa just to make sure you have enough time to see him and don’t have to wait super long.
Tickets for the North Pole Express go on sale early in the fall, September maybe?? I can’t remember the exact date. Follow their Facebook page for the info! Tickets go quick!
I hope you all have a magical Christmas with your family and friends!
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