This past Sunday my family and I took a ride on the North Pole Express, via the Essex Steam Train. If you have enjoyed this magical journey before, you can probably save some time and skip this post, otherwise read on to find out more.
The Setting: There is excitement in the chilly air as soon as you step out of your car and make your way to the station. Kids are donning their favorite pj’s and maybe even singing carols as they marvel at the Christmas lights against the backdrop of an already dark sky. It all adds to the magic. When the conductor says its time to board, you make you way to your train car where you’re lead to your seats by your host for the evening. Ours was a sparkly and fun Ms. Tula Tinsel (she’s a celebrity up at the North Pole, you know). After a message from the conductor, your host entertains with song and dance and interactive games with the kids (who doesn’t love I Spy?). When you reach the North Pole, Santa Claus and his elves wave from their Christmas wonderland before boarding your train. Santa stops to say hello to every child, and he even brings a gift! (We received a little bell, which I found my daughter holding close to her chest and whispering “I believe”…worth every penny). Various other friends stop by throughout the ride and the “Sleepy Servers,” come through with hot chocolate and sugar cookies. As you head back home Mrs. Clause makes a special appearance (looking as lovely as ever), and you sing Christmas carols from your special North Pole Express booklet (another take-home treat).
The Logistics: Tickets go on sale in September and they sell out FAST. There are several different options (like first class with individual upholstered armchairs and cash beverage service versus coach class on padded bench seating), and the trains depart between 5pm and 7pm.
The Pros: There are a lot of pros: coach class is plenty comfortable, everyone involved is great with kids (even the shy ones), the gift, hot cocoa, cookies, song and coloring book are perfect special treats, and there’s enough Christmas cheer to make Buddy the Elf proud. Plus, the Essex Steam Train sets up a matching donation program to benefit the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC)….if that doesn’t grow your heart three sizes, I’m not sure what will.
The Cons: The ride out and back can be a little long for the younger crowd, although they really try to fill the time with fun. The departure times can also be tough for younger kids who eat and go to bed on the earlier side, which means you really have to book as soon as tickets go on sale to get the ideal slot for you.
The Verdict: Do it! We brought our 2 1/2 year old who can be very shy and she did great. And despite the fact that our one year old threw a tantrum for the last 45 minutes, we know it was because she missed her nap and was on Christmas overload (read- mommy and daddy should have planned that a little better). Overall, we had lots of fun and will definitely do it again next year. But first, we have Thomas in the spring 😉
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