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The Polar Express - In Saratoga, New York

Updated on December 10, 2013

The Golden Ticket

Here's my Grandson all excited with his "golden ticket" for the Polar Express!
Here's my Grandson all excited with his "golden ticket" for the Polar Express! | Source

The Polar Express Background

The Conductor: "Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see."

And so begins a little boy's journey on the Polar Express. Actually it all began when Chris Van Allsburg wrote the book of the same name back in 1985. The book became a bestseller and Caldecott Winner that year. In 2007 teachers voted it one of the top one hundred children's books ever. It didn't stop there though, in 2007 Warner Brothers Studios released a film of the same name using performance capture technique that shows up on screen as the most fascinating and realistic looking animation you've ever seen! According to Wikipedia, Roger Ebert gave the film 4 stars, his highest rating, saying "There's a deeper, shivery tone, instead of the mindless jolliness of the usual Christmas movie." And "It has a haunting, magical quality ..."

But it still didn't stop there. Beginning in November and ending on December 31st, throughout the United States and UK, there are trains that give families the Polar Express experience. Oh, and you're encouraged to wear your pajamas so you can get the true feeling. The wonderful thing is even if you haven't read the book or seen the movie you can still enjoy the train ride. Sixty minutes filled with fantasy and wonder for children of all ages.

The Conductor: "The thing about trains... it doesn't matter where they're going. What matters is deciding to get on."

Quotes from The Polar Express

Hero Boy: On Christmas Eve many years ago I laid quietly in my bed. I did not rustle the sheets, I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound I was afraid I'd never hear: the sound of Santa's sleigh bells.

The Conductor: Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see."

Hero Girl: It’s everything I dreamed it would be. [the North Pole] Billy: Could all this be nothing but a dream? Hero Boy: No.

Santa Claus: There's no greater gift than friendship.

The Polar Express Story

I know I said you don't have to have read the book to enjoy the train ride and you don't. However, after going on the train ride (and having read the book and seen the movie first) I would say it enhances your ride a bit if you read the book or see the movie first. I say this only because the characters will have more meaning to you.

The "hero boy", the main character, in this book and movie is doubting the existence of Santa. Along comes a train, right to his front door. As he learns the train is going to the North Pole he is doubtful about getting on. When the train begins to leave he jumps on. The train ride is a magical fantasy ride to the North Pole. Along the way we are introduced to the different children on the train and learn their strengths and weaknesses. We meet a hobo, the train's engineer, fireman, of course we've already met the conductor, and partake in various fantastical adventures on the way to the North Pole. There's a wayward ticket our hero chases on and off the train, there's skiing on the train roof, a cotter pin that falls off the engine, and at one point caribou blocking the train.

The action certainly doesn't stop there. Once they get to the North Pole we find our hero/protagonist again involved with the young girl and a boy named Billy. Billy accidentally uncouples the train car they are in and they head for the ride of their life! At City Square, we meet Santa's elves and the bell our hero couldn't hear. As he believes, he begins to hear the bell.

Santa picks him to receive the first gift of Christmas and it is the reindeer's bell. What a treasure! As they head back home on the train the hero boy realizes he's lost the bell. He's heartbroken. However, on Christmas morning there's one more present under the guessed it, the bell from Santa with a note that says, "Found this on the seat of my sleigh. Better fix that hole in your pocket. Mr. C."

Tom Hanks shines in the movie. He's the voice of the conductor, Hobo, Scrooge, Father, and Santa Claus. You're so engrossed in the story you accept him as each character without the blink of an eye.

Photos on the Polar Express

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Waiting for the Polar Express in Saratoga.Hot Chocolate mug ready and train starting to move!The conductor.Serving hot chocolate.Our cocoa "Chef"Hot chocolate and sugar cookies!Lights everywhere.Our view of the North Pole from the train window.
Waiting for the Polar Express in Saratoga.
Waiting for the Polar Express in Saratoga. | Source
Hot Chocolate mug ready and train starting to move!
Hot Chocolate mug ready and train starting to move! | Source
The conductor.
The conductor. | Source
Serving hot chocolate.
Serving hot chocolate. | Source
Our cocoa "Chef"
Our cocoa "Chef" | Source
Hot chocolate and sugar cookies!
Hot chocolate and sugar cookies! | Source
Lights everywhere.
Lights everywhere. | Source
Our view of the North Pole from the train window.
Our view of the North Pole from the train window. | Source

Would you ever ride the Polar Express?

See results

The Polar Express Train Ride Experience

First off, you get hot chocolate and a cookie on your train ride, just like in the book/movie. Second, no matter where you go you get a train ride you and your children/grandchildren will always remember.

My experience? Delightful. The light in my four year old grandson's eyes went on when we arrived at the train station and didn't go out until he went to sleep that night. He loved talking to our "chef" and quickly introduced himself and asked the "chef's" name as well. He giggled when he got his hot chocolate in the Polar Express mug and his cookie. He was able to eat my cookie too (I have celiac and can't) so I guess you could say he was doubly blessed.

As the lights for the North Pole approached he was glued to the train window. He jumped up and down with glee as he saw all the lights, then Santa and his sleigh. Am I using too many superlatives? I think I'm not using enough! The joy and tears on my face are a whole other story. It was just so wonderful to see him so happy and excited. No words or explanations can cover his excitement when Santa gave him his very own bell. That was what my grandson was waiting for, THE BELL. He was thrilled to know we could all hear the bell! (Sorry you'll have to read the book or see the movie to understand that.)

As you can see from the sampling I've included, prices vary widely depending on location. Dates vary as well. What did seem pretty consistent is these Polar Express rides are sometime between Thursday and Sunday. Some being only Friday through Sunday. I did see a few extended schedules on Christmas week so you'll really have to check carefully.

People You Meet on the Polar Express

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Here's Santa and here's your reindeer bell...can you hear it ring?A smile for everyone.Lovin' that reindeer bell.Santa's elves.The Hobo came down from the roof.We even met the fireman from the engine!The inside of our train car.The inside of our train car (without my flash).
Here's Santa and here's your reindeer bell...can you hear it ring?
Here's Santa and here's your reindeer bell...can you hear it ring? | Source
A smile for everyone.
A smile for everyone. | Source
Lovin' that reindeer bell.
Lovin' that reindeer bell. | Source
Santa's elves.
Santa's elves. | Source
The Hobo came down from the roof.
The Hobo came down from the roof. | Source
We even met the fireman from the engine!
We even met the fireman from the engine! | Source
The inside of our train car.
The inside of our train car. | Source
The inside of our train car (without my flash).
The inside of our train car (without my flash). | Source

A Small Sample of Polar Express Locations

Adirondack Scenic Railway
Utica, New York
Dec. 5 thru 22
Coach Seating: $27/adult $25/senior(62+) $23/youth(2-12) First Class Seating*: $49.00/adult & seniors $42/youth (2-12)
California State Railroad Museum
Sacramento, California
Nov. 29 thru Dec. 22
Ticket prices for all ages 2 years and above: Coach Cars - $40 per person (plus a $5 per ticket service fee) First Class Observation Car - $55 per person (plus a $5 per ticket service fee) First Class Dining Car - $220 per table of four (plus a $20 per table service fee)
Dartmoor Railway
Okehampton, United Kingdom
Dec. 11 thru Dec. 28
Premium Seating, Adult £35, Premium Table for Two £35, Standard £20; Child, Premium £25, Premium Table for 2, £25, Standard £15...children on lap separate prices
Chehalis-Centralia Railroad
Chehalis, Washington
Nov. 29 thru Dec. 22
Since ticket were sold out no prices were listed
Great Smokey Mountains Railroad
Bryson City, North Carolina
Nov. 8 thru Dec. 29
Coach class pricing for adults varies by date as $40 or $46, child $26 or $31; Crown Class pricing is adult $50 or $56, Child $36 or $41 and Infant $10 or $15; First Class Pricing adult is $60 or $69, child is $41 or $46 and infant is $15 or $20
Please note, the Polar Express train rides are on weekends only and tickets sell out very early. If you want to go book early so you won't be disappointed.

The Hobo


Sampling Continued

While I gave you a very small sampling of Polar Express rides and ticket prices please know it is a very small sampling. I left out places like:

  • Saratoga and North Creek Railway in Saratoga, NY
  • Blackstone Valley Tourism Council in Woonsocket, RI
  • Dennison Railroad Depot Museum in Dennison, OH
  • Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, AZ
  • Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad in Portland, ME
  • Mt. Hood Railroad in Hood River, OR
  • Weardale Railway in Stanhope, County Durham, UK
  • West Texas & Lubbock Railroad in Lubbock, TX
  • White River Rotary Club in White River Junction, VT

And I still haven't named them all! If you want to look one up just go to Google and type in "Polar Express train ride".

I hope I've enticed you in some small way to try the Polar Express experience. I'm afraid its too late this year but reserve early next year!

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

Polar Express - The Movie


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    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      I'm not sure who loved it more, my grandson or me ;)

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I saw the movie. What a dream of a lifetime to be on that train.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      They are all great for kids Crafty, making imagination come to life!

    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      5 years ago

      That is really awesome. We have a local Thomas Train and Santa train. The Polar Express train sounds like a child's dream come true!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Examiner. It was a truly delightful film and a fun experience in real life. Glad you enjoyed my hub.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 

      5 years ago

      As I was reading your Hub I did not think that I had read the book or seen the film, but when I watched the video the conductor and the boy, (from the house), both looked familiar. So I may have seen the film.

      It was an interesting story and some great photos which you took. I gave it a good rating.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      You're so welcome Kathleen. It was worth the time and effort to find where to go see it, to go see it, and certainly to write about it. Glad you liked this little slice of NY. Merry Christmas to you as well.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      This hub took some time and effort to create, and it was beautifully done. Thanks for a little slice of upstate NY! Merry!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Thanks drbj, it truly was delightful. You can come along any time.

      Yes, Writer Fox, I showed him the pictures. I, of course, have more but thought this was enough for the hub. Thanks for the vote.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 

      5 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      What a treat for your adorable grandson! Did you show him the pictures you posted here? Giving the information about locations and ticket prices was a great idea. Voted up!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      The movie was great and the real experience seems delightful. Thanks for the ride!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Thank you DDE, it was certainly a wonderful experience.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      The Polar Express - In Saratoga, New York sounds a wonderful experience will have to carefully think about this one. Voted up, interesting and awesome.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      And I didn't know it was in Canada till I researched this hub! It really is as much fun for parents as kids!

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love the Polar Express movie - I knew I'd like it, but once I watched it I was blown away by the amount of 'heart' in the movie. I didn't know there was a real-world experience in the US too - how much fun that must be for all the kids (and parents) :) :)

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      You are most welcome Paradise. The train ride idea sprang up from the movie and has taken off like a runaway train. Reservations are needed a month ahead of time. Tom Hanks was the father, conductor, hobo and Santa!

    • Paradise7 profile image


      5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Oh, this is great! I had no idea one could actually go on a train ride. That movie was great. I really enjoyed it, and I'm not a kid anymore, sorry to say. That business with the train sliding on the ice had me at the edge of my seat! And Tom Hanks was just the perfect voice for the conductor! Thanks so much for letting us know about this.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      PHD there's a Polar Express on the Great Smokey Railroad and the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway...they really are all over the place! Your grandchildren will love the book and movie it truly is magical.

      Austinstar you could borrow a neighbor's kids ;) I bet the mystery tour is fun!

      Ah Bob. Always good to see you and nice to learn a bit about your childhood too. Imagination is a wonderful thing and I'm sure you and your friends used yours to the fullest! Fortunately the kids that were on our car for the experience were too young for cell phones.

      Sheila there are trains all over the country offering the Polar Express. There are eight different railroads in PA offering it. I hope one is near enough to "hitch a ride". Thanks for sharing.

      Bill my grandson loved it! He smiled from the minute we got to the train station to the minute we got in the car to head back to the hotel. I hope you get a chance to go because I know you will enjoy it.

      Jamie, next year make your reservations early and get those kids on the Polar Express. You'll all love it!

      Thanks WND, I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, my grandson or me :)

      Klidstone, kids of all ages...he'd probably still get a kick out of this. It was just an amazing little journey.

      Effer, no one loves kids movies more'n me. I was first in line to see Monsters U and can't wait to buy Despicable Me2. The "kids" movies, as you said, are truly enjoyable for us BIG kids...we can really appreciate all the jokes and the beautiful job they do now of filming these things!

      Polar Express truly is a beautiful story of believing and finding faith in yourself. The movie is so beautifully done and to us the train ride was just the icing on the cake. Thanks so much for the votes and pin.

      Audrey it was great! I had to share because of the joy on everyone's face on that train. If I could convince one more person with one more child to experience it, I could get my wings...oh wait, wrong movie ;) Seriously, it was great. Thanks for the votes, pin and share! Very Merry Christmas to you Audrey.

      Frank, thanks for sharing that info. Maybe some readers can get a copy of the movie that way. Needless to say I've got a copy in with my Christmas movies! So glad you stop by Frank, it is always so good to see you.

    • profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      5 years ago

      What a joyful thrill for the little ones deep inside of us... Coke is giving away the movie with coke reward points so you know.. but this is the time of year that it comes to mind again.. neverforgotten though.. Til I love your hubs :)

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I've enjoyed the movie and now I wanna take the ride! You've outdone yourself again, Mary. Voted Up and across and pinning and sharing! Happy holidays to you, dear friend ~ Audrey

    • fpherj48 profile image


      5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      With the size of my brood, you can imagine how many times I've seen this adorable movie. It was a really pleasant change from the 50 + times I watched "Toy Story!"

      Polar Express is a wonderful, heartwarming tale. What I love about so-called movies made for children, they're truly enjoyable for "BIG kids," too!! I don't even try to hide the fact that I love "Finding Nemo" and "Madagascar.".....the looks we sometimes get, are pretty funny!

      Tis the time of year for "Polar Express," once again.....All Aboard. UP++++pinned

    • klidstone1970 profile image

      இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу 

      5 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

      Oh, wonderful!!! My son would have loved this! He is now 11, but would watch this movie over and over when he was younger, enough so that he could recite the words. He still talks fondly of it, but to actually ride it! I will have to show him your hub so he can read it and enjoy the memories that come with it.

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      5 years ago from Alabama

      Fascinating. Love all the pictures, especially the hobo.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      5 years ago from Reno NV

      One of my families all time Christmas favorites both the book and the movie. We have a similar attraction from Carson City to Virginia City every year, I need to pack up these kids and go, but we always seem too busy. Jamie

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mary. What a great idea. We should bring our grandson to one of these. I want to go on one. I had no idea that they were doing these all over the country. Many thanks for sharing. Looks like your grandson had a great time.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you so very much for sharing this information! My dad has loved trains since he was a little boy and I know he'll just love reading this. I hope he can find someplace closer to us that offers the Polar Express rides. He'd love it! I'm going to share the link at my FB page so he and everyone else can check it out.

    • diogenes profile image


      5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Tilly: Kids have so much these days, perhaps too much if you factor in all the electronic stuff. I grew up in a little fishing village in SE UK (Broadstairs) and had to make all my own amusement. This gave me and my peers a much better grounding in enjoying the world and nature; the sea, woods, rivers and hills. Things that are always there to be returned to, albeit diminished.

      The train journey sounds like a lot of fun though if you can keep em off the cell phones.


    • Austinstar profile image


      5 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

      We have one just down the street in Cedar Park, TX. If I had kids, I would go. Sometimes I do the Halloween Murder Mystery Tour.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Mary - How marvelous. :) I had heard of the book of course, didn't know there was a film, and had no idea that the railways had Polar Express trips. Makes me wish I didn't live in the deep south. But I will get the book and film to share with my grandchildren this year. Blessings!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Susan you'll love it, oh and your kids will too ;)

      Better get your tickets early next year Bill. These "experiences" are very popular everywhere! I know you guys would love it. You're welcome, btw, Bill.

      Jodah it truly is a great experience, as Bill said, "for the kid in all of us"!

      Actually Faith, Grandma & Grandpa were both along. His father graciously stayed home so we could go. Four tickets (to fit in the booth) so it was my daughter, grandson, and us. It was a delightful overnight trip for us! Thank you dear Faith.

      Ah Maria. It is all just that, amazing. From the book to the movie to the train ride. Grandchildren can get us into the season no matter what. Things will be a bit toned down this year but Christmas is Christmas. Blessings and hugs right back to you my friend.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      A whimsical review of one of the most delightful Christmas stories. I love the movie and agree that Tom Hanks is amazing. Would like to add this to my reading list as well...

      So glad you are getting into the season, especially with your precious Grandkids, Mary.

      Have a lovely night. Hugs, Maria

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      Dear Mary,

      Thank you for taking us along with you and your grandson on the Polar Express, what fun!!! What wonderful memories he will cherish, especially with his grandmother riding along with him!

      Delightful hub.

      Up and more and sharing.

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      5 years ago from Queensland Australia

      What an amazing journey. I haven't read the book, and only seen segments from the movie, but it is an incredible story and any child would be delighted to travel on one of these real life Polar Expresses. Great hub.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What a wonderful experience for the little kid in all of us...and it's going to be in Chehalis, 20 miles from where I live. What a bonanza....I'm telling Bev tonight that we are going.

      What fun, Mary! Thank you!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I'd love to go and climb aboard and this is doable for me. I'll plan a trip for next year.


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