This ride is inspired by the award winning book by Chris Van Allsburg, and the hit movie “The Polar Express” by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. It gives an opportunity for families to experience their favorite holiday classic come to life in this magical ride to the North Pole. The ride starts off with the resounding “All Aboard” call made by the train conductor, the families boarding the train with all the starry eyed kids dressed in their pajamas unable to contain the excitement of all the fun they are going to experience in the magical ride to the North Pole. The ride will be filled with joyous Christmas Carols, delicious cookies and hot cocoa, dances and last not but the least the chance to see Santa Claus and his elves and receive their own sleigh bell as the gift. For those who have not read or seen the movie the following is the synopsis of the story:
“A young boy lies awake in his room one snowy Christmas Eve, excited and alert.
Breathing silently. Hardly moving. Waiting.
He’s listening for a sound he’s afraid that he might never hear – the ringing bells of Santa’s sleigh.
The time is five minutes to midnight.
Suddenly, the boy is startled by a thunderous roar. Clearing the mist from his window he sees the most amazing sight – a gleaming black train rumbles to a stop right in front of his house, the steam from its powerful engine hissing through the night sky and the softly falling snowflakes.
The boy rushes outside, clad only in his pajamas and slippers, and is met by the train’s conductor who seems to be waiting just for him. “Well, are you coming?” the conductor asks.
“Why, to the North Pole, of course. This is the Polar Express!”
It is a story about a doubting young boy who takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe.
“It doesn’t matter where the train is going. What matters is deciding to get on.”
(-source: The Polar Express)
Our kids love both the book and movie. We found out from one of our close friends about train rides being offered in some parts of the country to relive the magic of “The Polar Express”. We just had to take our kids for this ride. We live in Plano, Texas and there are two places in Texas which offer “The Polar Express” train rides, The Texas State Railroad in Palestine & West Texas & Lubbock Railroad in Lubbock.
Palestine being closer to our home we reserved our train tickets for the Palestine Depot. There is an option to choose a Climate Control coach when you make reservations. We had made reservation for seats in a climate controlled coach. Palestine is located around 112 miles south east of Dallas. The distance from our house is around 130 miles and it took us 3 hours to reach Palestine. If you are coming from San Antonio, Palestine is 199 miles ( 3.5 hours) in north east. If you are coming from Houston or Austin, Palestine is 165 miles (2.7 hours ) towards north. We started from our home (Plano, Texas) on December 27th 2008 at 11:30 pm and reached Palestine at around 2:30 pm.
We had reservation for overnight stay at Holiday Inn, Palestine. The staff at Holiday Inn were gracious enough to allow us an early check-in. The place is well maintained, the staff is great, the rooms are great, they have good amenities and our kids simply loved it. Our kids have pretty good taste and they are pretty good judge of lodging areas. If they like a place then we know we picked the right place. I will highly recommend this place. Our train ride was in the evening and we kind of just relaxed in the room. We all took a short nap.
“The Polar Express departs our PALESTINE DEPOT. The Texas State Railroad has two depots so we want to make sure you know that this particular event departs from Palestine. The Palestine Depot is located approximately 2.5 miles East of Loop 256 in Palestine on Hwy 84. The Physical Address Is: Park Road 70, US Hwy 84, Palestine, Texas 75801. Look for our tall railroad moment at our entrance – it is decorated with white Christmas lights! Please note that this address may not show up on your GPS system, so we suggest printing the attached maps before leaving home. Please remember to arrive at least one hour prior to your departure time. This gives you time to park, unload your passengers, pick up your tickets in the depot, use our restrooms, eat dinner or get snacks, take pictures, and watch as the steam engine makes a grand entrance before you board the train. We are unable to hold the train, so please do not be late. Give yourself plenty of driving time to get to our railroad. Traffic delays, car accidents, and other events may cause delays so please keep this in mind as you plan your trip. We have food onsite for you and your family to enjoy before or after your ride. Enjoy hamburgers, hot dogs, soups, chili, funnel cakes, French fries, and many other food and snack items from our various food vendors. Food from these vendors can not be carried on the train so please keep that in mind…you will have hot chocolate and a treat on board the train. Thank you for coming to our railroad for this magical event!! We are proud to boast as of this date, December 11th, we have sold over 28,000 tickets to The Polar Express™ to visitors from all over Texas, from many other states, and even to visitors from other countries! We hope to create a lasting memory for you and yours!!! Do not forget to wear your pajamas!” - Source: Email Confirmation from Texas State Railroad for our train ride on “The Polar Express”
We followed the instructions in the email confirmation. The distance from Holiday Inn to Palestine Depot is around 5 miles and it is a 10 minutes drive. Our elder daughter was 7 yrs old and the younger one was 3 yrs old at that time. Both of them wore similar Pajamas and were looking absolutely adorable. The kids love the concept of going in their Pajamas. It was little cold so they had to wear their jackets. It would be ideal if you have warm robes to go along with the pajamas instead of jackets. Myself and my wife decided to not to dress up in Pajamas. We left the hotel at around 5:30 pm. It is advisable to reach at least an hour before the boarding time. Our boarding time was 6:45 pm. We reached the Palestine Depot at around 5:45. We showed our reservation details at the ticket counter and took our boarding tickets. The kids used the restroom. There was a tent outside the depot with benches in it and there were food vendors near the tent. We had some snacks and then took photographs of the area. Make sure you have your camera or videos ready for the arrival of the train. It will be great if you can take some snaps/video of the train making the grand entrance.
The Polar Express made a grand entrance with a loud whistle, its engine decorated with lights. It was late in the evening and dark and the lighted train looked beautiful. There was lot of excitement in the air. Kids were looking all starry eyed at the train anticipating what was in store for them once they board the train. We had the tickets for the climate controlled coach and so we stood in the line for the coach which had climate control, as instructed at the ticket counter and later by the train conductor.
At 6:45 PM we started boarding the train. The back rest of the seats in the coach move both ways. We moved the back rest of one of the seats the other way and our family occupied two seats facing each other. The attendants in the train were dressed in white and were wearing white chef hat. The attendants were in very high spirits and that was building to the excitement. Once everyone had boarded the train, the attendants started handing out the Christmas carol lyrics to every body. Then we heard the honk of the train and the train started moving towards the North Pole . I was just observing my kids and I could see the excitement building up. The attendants started singing the carols and every body joined in, clapping, dancing and merry making. The attendants were able to get the whole coach involved and excited. We all were singing Christmas Carols. The attendants would randomly pick up some kids and start dancing with them. Even the adults would join the dance. It was a great atmosphere and everybody was having fun.
After some time the conductor came in our coach to check the tickets. Our conductor had a big well groomed mustache and it kind of reminded me of the conductor (Tom Hank’s character) from the movie. The conductor was dressed in a crisp black conductor suit and had a great personality. Everybody was trying to get the snaps of their kids with the conductor. We managed to get a few too. The attendants did not stop their merry making. There was lot of singing and dancing going on and everybody was in the Christmas spirit.
Suddenly we heard lot of noise from one end of the coach. We all got up to see what the commotion was about. There he was dressed in his usual red Christmas suit, Santa was being accompanied by two elves. The kids were all excited and everybody was taking pictures with Santa. We saw he was handing out the “Sleigh Bells” to the kids just as it was in the book and the movie. Santa and his elves came to our seating area and he handed out the sleigh bells to our kids and asked them if they had been good. We took snaps of our kids with Santa and his two elves.
Our kids were really happy that Santa gave them a sleigh bell. All this was after the Christmas (12/27/2008) and we all were supposed to be taking Santa back to the North Pole. Once we were near the North Pole we saw lot of lights & decorations. The North Pole was all lighted up and looked very magical. The kids were looking out the train window and were excited to see the North Pole. We could see polar bears all lighted we also saw Santa’s little house. The train stopped at the North Pole and it was announced that Santa will be getting down at the North Pole. We stopped for a few minutes and then the train started moving slowly in the other direction. We saw Santa and his two elves standing outside his house and waving at the train. All the kids were waving back at Santa.We could sense a little disappointment in the kids since they were seeing off Santa.
The train picked up speed towards the Palestine Depot and the attendants were quick to step in and get the crowd excited again by lot of singing and merry making. They started serving Hot Cocoa and Rice Krispies to everybody. The hot cocoa was really good and we enjoyed the Rice Krispies too. They also started showing the book (The Polar Express) to the kids and somebody was reading the book on the microphone. After that the singing and dancing resumed.
There was this one old lady (attendant) who put on a red clown nose and started applying red lipstick. She was catching hold of some shy folks and sat on their laps and kissed them on their cheeks. It was real good fun.
We slowly reached the Palestine Depot at 7:45 pm and our kids were feeling a little sad that this was getting over. We cheered them up by saying we can come again next year. They seemed to like the idea. We reached the Palestine Depot and sadly we had to get down.
This was a great ride, especially for the kids since they were able to relive the magic of “The Polar Express”. We were very happy that the kids loved the ride and we took a few more photographs and then headed toward Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar for our dinner. After that we headed back to our hotel. We had a good night sleep. Next morning we woke up, had breakfast at the hotel ( free breakfast), got ready and checked out of the hotel. We headed back to home. This was a short vacation and was a perfect one. We all had a great time and surely we will be back here soon.
Information on Palestine:
Palestine is conveniently located and is close to all the big cities Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio. The following is the distance and travel time from each of the cities:
Dallas:112 miles (2 Hours)
San Antonio: 199 miles (3.5 Hours)
Austin: 165 miles (2.7 Hours)
Houston: 165 miles (2.7 Hours)
Please refer to http://www.visitpalestine.com for information on things to do in Palestine.
Some of the places of interest in Palestine are as follows:
- Elmwood Gardens
- Sweet Dreams Winery
- Texas State Rail Road
- Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility
- Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area
- Museum For East Texas Culture
- Old Town Palestine
- Davey Dogwood Park
- Carnegie Library
- Anderson County Courthouse
- Downtown Palestine
- Howard House Musuem
The following is a Google Map with places of interest in Palestine, Texas.
View Palestine, TX in a larger map
more pictures from our album..
Tags: 84, all aboard, Allsburg, Anderson County Courthouse, austin, Carnegie Library, carols, Chris Van Allsburg, christmas, christmas carols, classic, cocoa, Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, conductor, cookies, Dallas, dancing, davey dogwood park, downtown palestine, elmwood gardens, elves, express, Gus Engeling, hot cocoa, houston, Howard House Musuem, jingle bell, kids, loop 256, magical, magical ride, movie, museum for east texas culture, north pole, old town palestine, pajamas, Palestine, palestine depot, polar, polar express book, polar express movie, ride, rusk, san antonio, santa, singing, sleigh bell, sweet dreams winery, texas state rail road, the polar express, tom hanks, train, train conductor, train ride, Van Allsburg, visit palestine, visitpalestine, warner