Pros:well themed, quality production, non-profit
Cons:difficult to get tickets
The Bottom Line: Create a memory that your children will remember the rest of their lives with this event based on the book by the same name.
One thing I kept hearing over they years even before I moved up here was that I had to take my kids to the Polar Express Event. I didn’t understand what it was until I actually had the opportunity to see it for myself with my son last year, and this year I am trying to get tickets for the whole family.
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Based on the book by the same name, the Polar Express Event is a production put on each year in central New Hampshire. Two scenic train rides on either side of the White Mountains participate in this production. It’s actually a major fundraiser for the Believe in Books Literacy Foundation. There is some year-round paid staff who coordinate an plan everything, but for the most part all of this is staffed by volunteers. Since moving up here, my children have received books from this non-profit organization, so as expensive as all this is, the money goes to a very worthwhile cause.
The first event was held in 1995 in conjunction with the author of The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg. Each year the production has grown. That first event was held in North Conway. In 2005 a second location was added in Lincoln, NH to help handle the high demand for the event.
WHAT IS IT
I don’t want to give away too much because half the fun, I found, was being dazzled by the surprises at every turn with what the people in this sleepy New England town were able to achieve. The book tells the story of a child who takes a train ride to see Santa at the North Pole. Children who come to the event are often in their pajamas and carrying teddy bears, blankets, or other stuffed friends. My son went in long sleeved thermal pajamas and was never chilly, although we did have a jacket with us. He also wore his snow/rain boots.
Once at the train station in North Conway, riders are greeted. The conductor calls All Aboard! and we were off. While on our train ride to the North Pole, cookies and hot cocoa are served, just like in the book.
Arriving at the North Pole, the story is taken even further. Yes, it had a very authentic feel as if we had traveled to the North Pole and arrived at Santa’s workshop. There are “elves” all about the place getting Santa ready for the special journey that’s coming up.
Suffice it to say, as an adult I found it to be the experience of a lifetime. Even I was dazzled and moved as the event seemed to get better and better. Just as I thought they couldn’t top the feeling, it did. The highlight for my son was coming home with a bell, just like in the story.
There are two departure times each day the event is scheduled. One is at 5:00 Pm and the other is at 7:30 PM. Generally the event runs four weekends in a row from the end of November until just before Christmas. From boarding until return to the train station takes about two hours.
SO HOW CAN I DO IT?
Here’s where it gets dicey. Straight tickets are distributed through a lottery. This year, the lottery deadline was October 1. The lottery for each town is held separately and there is one chance to be reached on that day if your name is selected to receive tickets. Otherwise, they move on to someone else. It costs $10 just to enter the lottery for each location. Forms for the lottery are available on the website for the event, and can also be found in kiosks around town throughout the year.
Tickets are not cheap, either. In 2007, prices are Coach $37.00; First Class $47.00; Dome $57.00; Premier $60.00. Dome seats are out of the North Conway location only and Premier are out of Lincoln. All is handled on a first-come, first-served basis for each day.
An alternative is to get a package from a local hotel. These sell out fast as well and are high-demand. A package for four can run $500 for a weekend. There are also people who offer accommodation and event packages on Ebay that sometimes end up going for close to $1,000.
The fact that I did this last year and want to do it again should tell you how much this is worth it. It’s a magical experience, and the funds go to a worthwhile cause, rather than to some corporation who imports elves from China. If I get selected this year I’d like to try the First Class or Dome option, since we‘ve done ours out of our hometown area of North Conway. Don’t get me wrong, we had a fantastic time when we did this before and were in coach. I would just like to try it. At my hotel, we are sold out on the packages and started having inquiries last January already for this year’s packages. This is not something you can just decide to do on the spur of the moment.
The weather can be variable as well. Last year there was no snow on the ground, so creating the illusion was a bit harder. However, they did a fantastic job. The year before there was plenty of snow! I haven’t heard of the event being cancelled due to weather, so be prepared if the weather calls for snow.
I wish I had tried to do this earlier with my kids as it’s something special in the family. Living here, I now have something very special I am looking forward to doing with my grandchildren. This is a very special event that will make memories that last a lifetime within a family.
Review of the movie which was based on this event:
Other sites to see in New Hampshire:
Attitash Bear Peak Ski Resort ~ Bretton Woods Ski Resort ~ Canobie Lake Park ~ Cranmore Mountain Ski Resort ~ Franconia Notch State Park ~ Funspot ~ Kancamagus Highway ~ King Pine Ski Resort ~ Loon Mountain Ski Resort ~ Madison Boulder Natural Area ~ Mount Washington Cog Railway ~ North Conway, NH ~ Santa’s Village ~ Shawnee Peak, Bridgeton ME ~ Six Gun City ~ Story Land ~ Whale's Tale Waterpark ~ White Lake State Park ~ White Mountain National Forest ~ Wildcat Mountain
Some places to stay in New Hampshire:
Attitash Mountain Village - Bartlett NH ~ Comfort Inn & Suites - North Conway NH ~ Hampton Inn - Concord/Bow NH ~ Yankee Clipper Motel
Places to eat in New Hampshire:
Bea's Cafe, Conway NH ~ Cafe Noche, Conway NH ~ Delaney‘s Hole in the Wall, North Conway NH ~ Harts Turkey Farm, Meredith NH ~ Hillbilly’s Southern BBQ, North Conway NH ~ May Kelly's Cottage, North Conway NH ~ Merlino's Steakhouse, North Conway NH ~ Moat Mountain Smokehouse, North Conway NH ~ Muddy Moose, North Conway NH ~ Peach's Restauran, North Conway NH ~ Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub, Glen NH ~ Yankee Smokehouse, West Ossipee NH
Books about the area:
Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide ~ 50 Hikes in the White Mountains
© 2007 Patti Aliventi
Best Suited For: Families
Best Time to Travel Here: Dec - Feb