With the summer heat still in play, Christmas season does seem ages away… but we all know how quickly time can sneak up on us. Believe it or not it’s time to get started on planning the most epic holiday adventure ever — stat! Santa and his elves only have a limited number of spots for cookies and stories on The Polar Express Grand Canyon Railway. Read on to see how to nab tickets for and what to expect from this unforgettable ride.
All Abroad the Railway
The Grand Canyon Railway, located in Williams, Arizona, has been chugging passengers on a breathtaking Grand Canyon tour since 1901. But it’s during holiday season that the magic happens. From Nov. 7th to Jan. 3rd, this historic train ride transforms itself into the Polar Express from the warm and touching story by Chris Van Allsburg. The little over an hour ride will take kids and parents through the nighttime wilderness of Arizona to the beautiful “North Pole,” where Santa awaits.
Saving Your Seat
Believe it or not, 1/3 of the tickets are gone by summertime. But it’s not too late to purchase now! Reserve your tickets online first. Purchase either a package deal (which includes hotel stay) or individual train tickets. Package prices vary on the number of hotel nights, type of room, and the time of train departure.
Train Only tickets are $34 or $39/adult; and $20 or $25/children, depending on time of departure. Trains depart at 5:30p.m., and 7:30p.m. (and at 3:30p.m. on select days) from the Grand Depot. Take a look at this online map for a quick guide.
Where to Stay
You can opt for the all-inclusive Polar Express Package, which is a one-stop shop that includes round-trip tickets, one night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, and two meals at the Railway’s Grand Canyon Café. Or book your own hotel nearby at Rodeway Inn & Suites Downtowner and purchase individual Train Only tickets. Luckily, parking is plentiful and free in the area.
On the Big Day
Train Only tickets must be picked up at will-call at least 30 minutes prior to departure, but we recommend arriving one hour early. Families who’ve ordered the Polar Family Package can pick up their train and meal tickets at the hotel during check-in. Remember only the person whose name is on the reservation will be allowed to pick up the tickets at will-call — so don’t forget that driver’s license!
The Adventure Begins
The Grand Depot will be festively decorated and even showcase a model train to get the little ones pumped for the upcoming ride. Once aboard, snuggle up with a hot cup of cocoa and yummy cookies while listening to a wonderful reading of the classic Polar Express. Color with Mrs. Claus and sing with the chefs all the way to the North Pole.Music from the Oscar-winning movie will also play throughout the ride. Once you arrive, Santa will get on board to deliver each child a surprise gift (their very own bell from Santa’s sleigh! Shhhhhh). Be sure to take advantage of photo ops with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and all the entertaining chefs!
Carry On Comfort
Dress the whole family in pajamas! Anything you need is okay to bring on the ride including diaper bags, camera cases, blankets, teddy bears, water and milk bottles, and snacks. Just note that space is limited so please try to bring only the bare necessities. Strollers are highly encouraged to be parked at the depot instead of lugging them onto the train.
Refunds are only available if cancelled 3 days before the date of travel. After 3 days, it is completely non-refundable and you forfeit what you paid for.
Have you ridden the Polar Express? Share your tricks or tips to a joyous ride in the Comments section below!
—Sommy Rhee & Christal Yuen
All photos courtesy of Grand Canyon Railway