The holiday season is in full swing at our house, we’re already unpacking our Christmas decorations and gearing up to turn our house into a winter wonderland – this is my favourite season, my favourite holiday and I feel so incredibly blessed to live in such an amazing area full of events and activities to get the entire family into the Christmas spirit.
One of my favourite holiday movies of all time is The Polar Express, there’s something incredibly magical about the story of the journey to the North Pole and all the shenanigans that happen on their way! In Squamish, BC the Westcoast Railway Association puts on an event that we try to never miss – The Polar Express Train Ride! This event is fun for all ages, with a ride on the Polar Express itself, live actors and many fun recognizable moments from the movie.
This is an event to kick off all holiday events, an excuse to wear your pajamas all day, beautiful Squamish scenery and so much magic to be imagined. I had the immense pleasure of hanging out with Eschelle from Mumfection.com and her son Alex (and our new seal friends from the Vancouver Aquarium) on our adventure and when a kid tells you it was “the best day ever!” you know it’s a hit.
All aboard The Polar Express!
To start off your magical journey, you’ll spy the conductor walking up and down the train platform and of course, the sneaky hobo who shows up when you least expect him. While you’re waiting to board the train, there is live music, a concession with popcorn and treats, a small playground and of course – LOTS of photo ops around the train!
Just like in the movie, you can’t board the Polar Express without a golden ticket and each person who rides the train gets their very own to take home. I liked that this year’s tickets were thicker paper so they survived the trip back home without as many crinkles so it can be put into a scrapbook (probably with a few more!). First class tickets include reserved seating as well as the annual souvenir mug. The chefs are brilliant and serve your hot chocolate in a paper cup inside your new mug so it’s nice and clean to take home.
The Train Ride itself rolls down through the neighborhood while live actors come to chat with the guests, delicious hot chocolate is served with a nice big cookie, and then you finish off your ride with a big round of caroling. I was pretty proud that Alivia was brave enough to get up and sing all on her own in front of our car. One thing to mention is that your ride starts and finishes on the same platform. As magical as the Polar Express is, logistically it needs to end right back at the start so you can make your way over to the North Pole.
Before we even chat about everything to do, I want to take a quick second to mention all these guys ^^ the conductor, actors, chefs, the train conductors, Mr. and Mrs. Claus and the rest of the volunteers – everyone who puts on this event is there because they support it and they love seeing the magic it brings to kids. It takes an incredible amount of planning and support to keep an event like this moving smoothly and this team has rocked it. Every single person we saw was smiling, greeting everyone with a “Welcome to the Polar Express” and “Welcome to the North Pole!” with a huge grin.
We waited until the very end to do our Santa photos, and one of the volunteers made sure to go up to each and every family in line to make sure they had a chance to ride the miniature train before he took a break. That stood out to us so much, they didn’t want anyone disappointed to have missed out.
Once you make your way over to the huge North Pole there’s plenty to do that is included with your golden ticket. Kids (and adults… ahem) can decorate a big gingerbread cookie to take home, make a dancing Santa craft, create some art to take home at the colouring station, take a peek inside the Royal Hudson large steam engine, ride the miniature train, be a conductor on their own model trains and much more.
This year’s addition was the Ice Cave, a slightly chilly second barn area with another engine to explore, a very large bouncey castle, photo op spots, mini golf and a movie showing of.. you guessed it, The Polar Express.
There is also the option to build your own mini wooden train to take home for a $10, a concession area stocked with treats and snacks and many fun Polar Express souvenirs at the gift shop available for purchase.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to the North Pole without a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, you’ll find them perched right in the middle of the miniature train track surrounded by snow, Christmas trees and fun holiday decorations. Photos are taken on your own camera or phone, and staff can help take photos if needed. Alivia is usually quite scared of people in costumes, but she warmed up to Santa and very proudly told him what she would like for Christmas – then she ran over to the safety of Mrs. Claus. Once you’ve taken your photos, Mrs. Claus presents each child with their very own The Polar Express bell and reminds them that if they can still hear it… they believe.
I’m a bit sad (and a bit happy) to report that the tickets for The Polar Express train ride for 2017 are now sold out, and do sell out very quickly because the event is not only amazing, but it is a huge tradition for many families. Tickets for 2018 will be announced on the Westcoast Railway Association website, Facebook page, and newsletter. If you’re interested in seeing this festive event, we definitely recommend joining the newsletter so you’ll be one of the first to know when tickets go on sale. The Westcoast Railway Association is a volunteer-driven non-profit organization with proceeds from the event benefitting the preservation of British Columbia’s railway heritage with The Polar Express being their largest fundraiser. We hope you’ll join us for a ride on The Polar Express next holiday season.