My family received tickets to ride the Polar Express so I could share our experience with you. All opinions are my own.
Every holiday season, the Texas State Railroad brings The Polar Express to life at their East Texas depot in Palestine, and this year, we got the chance to ride it (to the North Pole, of course!).
The Polar Express is a Big Deal in this house, and plays a huge role in our holiday celebrations. Between the book, the movie, and the Polar Express electric train toys we have that are only allowed out during the holidays, it sometimes seems like it’s everywhere. So for the kids, getting to take a ride on it is a dream come true.
Located in Palestine, the depot is a bit of a drive from Dallas. It took us about two hours to get there, which is a long time for the littles (luckily for us, Claire slept the entire time). I’ve never been to Palestine, and the drive (once we got through Athens, which I am familiar with) was breathtaking – rolling hills and intense fall colors made us say (over and over and over again), “It’s like we’ve left Texas!”
So the two hour drive? Not so bad.
Once we arrived at the depot, the kids had the chance to run around and play on the train tracks. You’re invited to wear your pajamas, and I outiftted the kids in brand-new fleece Christmas pjs. As luck would have it, we’ve had some record-breaking heat this mid-November, and these cute little fleece pajamas were HOT.
While the kids and I played on the tracks, Charles waited in line to pick up our tickets from Will Call. You’ll want to arrive early enough that you’ll have thirty minutes or so to get your tickets (when you buy your tickets you’ll also have the option to purchase a copy of the book, and if you buy the book this is when you’ll pick it up).
The train ride is about an hour long – thirty minutes to the North Pole, and thirty minutes back. If you want the vest view of the North Pole, be sure to sit on the side of the train farthest from the depot (that’s the side it will be on).
On the ride to the North Pole, attendants dressed as chefs (just like in the book and movie!) bring everyone hot chocolate and cookies while a recording of the Polar Express story is read over the speakers by Liam Neeson (if you buy the book, or bring it with you, you can read along to your kids – we were too busy staring out the window at what appeared to be a swamp to pay much attention to the story, because swamps are not something we see every day).
At the North Pole, you’ll see Santa and some of his elf friends. The train stops so that Santa can board (passengers stay on the train).
With Santa on board, the train starts its journey back. Santa visits each child and gives every one a bell to take home. This was Very Exciting for my kids – and it was a lot of fun to hear the jingling of all the bells on the ride home! Even though it was 80 degrees outside, it actually felt a little Christmas-y (like a Southern California Christmas, perhaps).
The kids weren’t ready to go home once we’d been returned to East Texas. And honestly, with a two-hour drive ahead of us and a beautiful evening to enjoy, we didn’t want to head home quite yet, either. We decided to stick around and eat and watch the next train leave (ours left at 5:15 – the next train left at 6:45).
There was a food vendor onsite, and we bought dinner and ate hotdogs and french fries and cotton candy at a picnic table under a full moon as the next group of passengers boarded the train for their adventure.
This was an epic journey for two little kids who believe in Santa and The Polar Express with all of their hearts, and it was an exciting adventure for our family to share.
Here are some tips/need-to-know facts for riding The Polar Express in Palestine:
- Buy tickets early. I’ve tried buying tickets in the past, and they were sold out! You can buy them here.
- Bring the book if you’d like to read along with the story (especially if you’re on a later train and it’s dark out – you won’t be able to see the scenery anyway, and the kids might love to follow along with the story). You can also buy a copy when you’re buying your tickets online.
- If you’re making a long drive to Palestine from Dallas, Athens is a good place to eat, with a few restaurants, and might be a good place to stop and get dinner on the way home (especially if it’s cold and you don’t want to eat outside at the depot like we did).
- Don’t forget that the North Pole is going to be on the side of the train farthest from the depot, so if you can get onboard and pick those seats, you’ll have the best view!
- The trains have bathrooms on them, but they’re small – try to get the kids to use the restroom before the ride.
Dates and Times
Nov 15-17, 22-24, 29-30
Dec 1, 4-8, 11-23, 26-29
3:45pm, 5:15pm, 6:45pm, 8:10pm
Park Road 70, Palestine, TX