|by Brad Tuttle||National Parks, Train Travel, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Family Travel||18|
The North Pole is a lot closer than you might think, thanks to these magical holiday train rides based on the popular movie and book Polar Express.
'Tis the season for holiday-themed train rides. Put on your pajamas and get ready for caroling, hot chocolate, and perhaps a visit from the jolly white-bearded big guy himself. All aboard!
Depart from Williams, Ariz., en route to the "North Pole" (somewhere near the Grand Canyon's South Rim, actually), with cookies and a visit from Santa along the way. Tickets for kids ages 2 to 15 are $14 Sunday through Thursday in November and January, and $19 on Fridays and Saturdays for those months and all of December. Adult tickets are always $29. Hotel packages are available.
Rides are offered through December 28, and the hot chocolate and whipped cream is served in a special take-home souvenir mug. A holiday song book is yours to keep too. Tickets are priced from $18 to $44 for kids (depending on date and style of seat), and $28 to $54 for adults.
Special Polar Express departures take off regularly through the holiday season, with tickets starting at $26 for kids ages 2 to 12, and $38 ages 13 and up. Rates are a bit higher on the peak days right around Christmas. Prices include admission to Smoky Mountain Train Museum in Bryson City, N.C., where the Polar Express departs.
Roughly two-and-a-half hours from Dallas and three hours from Houston, the Texas State Railroad chugs through piney wilderness, with special Polar Express departures most days in November and December. Caroling and hot chocolate en route, and pajama-wearing is most definitely encouraged. Tickets from $19 for kids ages 2 to 11, $38 12 and up.
Rolling out of Portland, this Polar Express eases slowly past brilliant holiday light displays along the way to pick up Santa, who doles out bells to kids (only to ones who truly believe, of course).
Enjoy a dramatic reading of the book on board the train, which departs out of Green Bay on a couple weekends in November and December. Tickets from $8 for kids, $12 for adults.
The journey from Ely, Nev., ends at yet another "North Pole," where Santa and his elves greet riders with special gifts. (Hint: It could be a bell from Santa's sleigh.) Tickets are $17 for kids 4 to 12, $28 for ages 13 and up.