The North Pole is closer than you think, and all you need to get there is a pair of pajamas, a golden ticket and a little imagination.
“The kids just get so excited,” said Debra Goodman, special events director for Saratoga-North Creek Railway.
The new excursion trains leaving from the train station in Saratoga Springs and traveling north in the summer and winter are an experience in themselves, but the railway’s bread and butter is special events like Thomas the Tank Engine and the seasonal Polar Express, which will run on select dates from Nov. 18 to Dec. 28.
“It’s a really important part of the business model. The Polar Express is such a hit movie that the ridership on this branded event is incredible everywhere we do it,” said Goodman.
Iowa Pacific Holdings, the rail company that operates the Saratoga-North Creek line, has Polar Expresses leaving from three different locations each year. Children are invited to wear their pajamas and hop aboard the train for a complete Polar Express experience, complete with the quirky conductor, dancing elves, a dancing chef serving Christmas cookies and hot cocoa and, of course, Santa Claus.
“It’s fun because they’re going someplace in their pajamas, that is really fun even from when they leave the house,” said Goodman. “Then getting to the station and having so much live music and decorations and towers trees and all the energy and activity here, they’re really wound up, really excited.”
Saratoga area children got a chance to preview the Polar Express with a special media event on Thursday, Nov. 3. The train didn’t travel anywhere but elves, Santa and the conductor put on a show by punching golden tickets, handing out cookies and cocoa and singing Christmas carols.
The actual train ride lasts about an hour round trip and chugs down the tracks to a wooded location, the “North Pole,” decorated with twinkling lights and so secretive Goodman won’t reveal its exact location.
“I have security guarding it 24/7,” said Goodman. “The train stops there but the kids don’t get of because it’s dark and cold. Santa and the elves get on the train and ride the train back with the families.”
Each child leaves with a Christmas silver bell and what’s sure to be special memories.
“Yes, it’s recreation and entertainment but it goes deeper than that. It’s an experience, creating memories,” said Goodman. “It becomes a family tradition that families look forward to year after year.”
Creating an event based off a well-known book and movie makes it an even more memorable experience for children and their families, said Goodman. The Polar Express in particular also brings generations together better than other events the railway offers.
“The scenic excursions in the summertime aren’t perfect for kids because they last all day and the Thomas the Tank Engine is all about the little kids but the Polar Express is an experience for every generation,” said Goodman.
Themed events on trains tend to be even more special, said Goodman.
“It brings (people) together in one place to share and enjoy a train and there’s not opportunities to do that,” said Goodman. “For a lot of them, they haven’t even ridden a train before.”
Polar Express trains leave from the station at 6 and 8 p.m. on select nights and there are three choices of seating available either in coach cars or a two-level dome car that displays the night sky.
Specific dates are available at www.nypolarexpressride.com or by calling 877-726-7245.