Jan 8, 2014

Sacramento's Polar Express

Back in September, Cameron and I bought a membership to the California State Railroad Museum for the sole purpose of getting first crack at Polar Express tickets. It's an event in Old Town Sac that involves a festive train ride to the North Pole and includes a visit from Santa. The event sells out quickly every year and members have a better chance at getting the day and time they want. 

The day finally arrived on Saturday, December 21st. Since this was our first year, we splurged and bought 2 tables in the first-class car. Going with us were my parents, Cameron's mom, our nephew Connor and niece Lillie. 

All the kids together
A few days prior to our departure we received an email with final instructions and good to know facts, including the one that says we can't save spots in line for boarding. And this is my one gripe about the entire experience. Here is an event that caters to children, obviously. The line to board the train opens 45 minutes prior to boarding. And if you can't save spots in line, and you want to 1) get good seats and 2) seats together that means everyone in your group must line up, 45 minute early. Have you ever stood in line with a 1, 3, 4 and 9 year old? For 45 minutes? The only caveat is that there are no restrooms on-board, so people can step out of line to run to the restroom. And in those 45 minutes, I did notice people holding places and running in and out of line. I even sent Cameron off to get some milk for Sydney at one point. 

That little red dot is Sydney next to the GIANT train inside the museum

We could pick up our tickets for a 5 PM departure at 3:30, so we arrived early to collect our tickets and check out the museum a little before lining up. And while waiting to get in line, we were able to get Sydney in to see Santa again. While we still couldn't get her on Santa's lap, this Santa was smart and had me sit in the chair and he hid behind us. So we did get a Sydney and Santa picture after all!

The experience encourages everyone to wear their PJs, so my mom bought the girls special Christmas PJs, and Cameron even wore his Grinch pajama pants. Most people were dressed in their PJs - the best were entire families, grandparents on down, wearing matching pajama bottoms. 

Pajama Party Time! 

The train itself was all decked out for Christmas and Christmas music was playing softly over the PA system. As soon as we set off we were provided warm hot chocolate in souvenir mugs as well as a cookie. I didn't think Sydney would want one so I only took one for myself. How wrong I was! Sydney grabbed it from my hand as soon as she saw it. I think I got 3 nibbles off of it.  Luckily, I think more ended up on us then in her mouth. 

My Cookie Monster/Stealer

During our journey to the North Pole we were treated to the dancing entertainment from the servers and had the Ghost of Christmas pay us a visit, asking if we believed in Santa. Then, the book The Polar Express was read aloud over the PA system. The staff provided copies of the books to follow along with, if you didn't bring your own copy along. I came prepared and did bring our own copy, which London received for Christmas last year. It was a favorite bedtime book of hers this holiday season, as was the movie. I think she watched it 3 times.  All of this prepared her for our journey, of course.

Then, for a few  minutes before we arrived at the North Pole, more Christmas music was played. Sydney had a wonderful time sitting and dancing on the table. As soon as the North Pole came into view with its lights and trees, dancing elves and Santa, London went wild. She couldn't stop waving. Then our train came to a stop and Santa boarded. He passed out the first gift of Christmas to all of us - silver bells. I think if we continue to ride this train each year, we will need a special little tree to display all the bells we collect. The mugs have made a great addition to my kitchen Christmas decor as well - I'm even thinking of planting Paperwhites in them next year for added Christmas cheer, if Cameron will let me. He hates the smell of Paperwhites. Amaryllis bulbs would be too big for the mugs. 

The ride home was a little faster, and continued with the Christmas music and another visit from the Ghost of Christmas. And, if we do the train again next year, I think we will pick an earlier time in the day. 5 PM was a little too late for our girls, especially because neither would take a nap that day! And I don't care what they say - I'm saving spots in line. You cannot ask a child as young as ours to wait for 45 minutes in a line. That's why we go to Disneyland during the week in the off season!

Both of the girls couldn't get enough of the North Pole

Receiving their bells

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