Are you looking for a fun getaway for the holidays, one that all family members will enjoy? If so, I highly recommend the Polar Express Train Ride in Arizona, especially for younger children. My family and I have been twice now and enjoyed it both times we went. We’ve also learned a few things along the way. As a result, I’ve compiled 8 tips for the Polar Express Train Ride located in Arizona to make your family’s journey a lot more enjoyable!
The Polar Express Train Ride is located in Williams, Arizona (near the Grand Canyon) and is based off the popular book and movie. It’s about a boy who is starting to doubt the existence of Santa Claus. A mysterious, magical train appears outside his home and he’s met by a conductor who allows him to get on the train. While on the train, he meets other children and acrobatic chefs, drinks hot chocolate and eats cookies, and travels to the North Pole to see Santa Claus himself.
The Polar Express is my preschool aged son’s favorite holiday book and movie. We first took him on the Polar Express Train Ride when he was 2 years old and he loved it even then. For children who are still uncertain of Santa, it’s a non stressful way of meeting him. Santa makes an appearance at the end of train ride, handing kids (and adults too) silver bells. The Polar Express Train Ride is more about the journey, not the destination, and it tries to follow the movie and book, including singing chefs, hot chocolate, and cookies.
Whether you’re thinking about booking a trip on the Polar Express, or have a trip planned and don’t know what to expect, here are my 8 tips for the Polar Express Train Ride.
8 Tips for the Polar Express Train Ride in Arizona
- Book as early as possible
- Book the Hotel/Train Package
- Check in Early
- Wear Pajamas on the Train
- Bring the Polar Express Book
- Pick the Earlier Time for Younger Children
- Pictures with Santa
Tip #1: Book as early as possible
One of my tips for the Polar Express Train Ride is to buy your tickets as soon as possible. The Polar Express Train Ride sells out quickly. The earlier you purchase your tickets, the better selection you’ll have when it comes to dates and times. However, the entire payment is due once you make your reservation. It’s well worth it, though. It’s a great trip for not only children, but also parents, grandparents, and friends.
Tip #2: Book the Hotel/Train Package
I highly recommend booking the complete hotel/train package, which includes a night’s stay at the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel. The hotel is within minutes of the train depot, which makes for a more immersive experience. There are also a few trains throughout the property for fun photo opportunities. And not only does the package include one night’s stay, but it also includes a buffet style dinner the night of the train ride, as well as a breakfast buffet the following morning.
Tip #3: Check in Early
If you are staying a night at the hotel, give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the hotel, and don’t arrive right before the train departs. The line to check-in at the hotel can get very long, especially later in the afternoon. So the earlier you are able to check into the hotel, the less chaotic the experience will be. Plus, it will give you and your kids the chance to explore the grounds a little bit, take pictures, and relax before getting on the Polar Express.
Tip #4: Wear Pajamas on the Train!
Pajamas are not only allowed, but they are encouraged! Some families will even wear coordinating pajamas on the train ride. I made sure to buy Christmas themed pajamas for my son both times so that he could get the full experience. And I highly encourage it for others, too. Children, especially, will love that they can wear their pajamas on the train. It does get cold, though, so be sure to pack jackets just in case.
Tip #5: Preparation
Even though the train goes to the North Pole, the train does not stop at the North Pole. Santa and Mrs. Claus can be seen from the train window, along with holiday lights. Because of this, children can be disappointed that the train does not stop at the North Pole. So preparation is key. Let them know that the train will not actually stop at the North Pole. But, Santa will be making a special appearance on the train during the return trip back to the train depot!
Tip #6: Bring your own Polar Express Book
The Polar Express book is read throughout the train ride by the chefs. Kids can follow along and it’s more enjoyable if they have their own book. If you can’t find the book at your local store before your visit or online (affiliate link), the book can also be purchased in the gift shop.
Tip #7: Pick the Earlier Time for Younger Children
The trains run at two different times: 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Because we check in at the hotel early (see tip #3 above), we choose to eat dinner at the on site restaurant before the train departs (which is included in the hotel/train tickets package). I recommend it if you have younger children. You’ll still get the full experience, and you’ll still be able to see the holiday lights at night. But the train will still be returning at a decent time, in time for pictures with Santa!
Tip #8: Pictures with Santa
After the train ride is over, families can get a picture with Santa. Warning, though, this line can get very long, and kids can get very impatient, especially from all the excitement on the train. For this reason, bring something that you think will occupy their attention while waiting in line.
We love holiday experiences and the Polar Express Train Ride ranks up there as one of our favorites. We’ve also been to the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff, which is a completely different experience. If you’re not sure which experience is right for your family, and your children are younger, I’d recommend starting with the Polar Express Train Ride.