All you need to know about the Polar Express train ride at Palestine, Texas
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Okay, that image is not Texas. Texas may not have snow but Texas does have some really great holiday trains. If you are feeling sorry for the recently canceled West Texas Polar Express departing from Wolfforth Texas, here’s something to rejoice! The Texas State Railroad operates its own Polar Express from Palestine, Texas for the Holiday Season since last 10 years. The 10th annual Polar Express train ride from Palestine, Texas carried a record-breaking number of people in 2016. My toddler S-boy loves trains and we most recently took Texas State Railroad’s Pumpkin Patch Ride this fall. S-Boy was dressed up in his Fun World Railroad Engineer Costume for the Pumpkin Patch ride and loved it. We love all themed train rides and Polar Express at Palestine, Texas is our favorite. To know more about the Texas State Railroad, visit here.
Also Read: 10 Best Gifts for Children who love trains
The Polar Express ride departs from Palestine Railroad Depot inside the Rusk-Palestine State Park. The depot and the train coaches are decorated with lights, ribbons and smell Christmassy (do you know they sell Christmas fragrances in a bottle?). The trees at the Depot also have twinkling tree lights. The magic begins as soon as the vintage steam engine pulls the train out of the Depot. Train conductor punches the Polar Express Golden ticket just like in the movie. As the Polar Express movie soundtrack with its chugging sound, whistles and sleigh bells stream in the train carriages, the awesome railroad’s dancing staff serves hot chocolate and cookies. Then they recite the wonderful tale of The Polar Express; the staff has a big book which they pass along so everyone can take a look. We loved joining in the story-time with S-Boy’s copy of the book. Some of the movie characters including the Hobo make an appearance to the delight of the kids.
Then the Polar Express train reaches the North Pole, about 30 minutes away from Palestine, Texas. Everyone gets a chance to see the North Pole from the train. The North Pole has elves, reindeers and a big Christmas tree. The North Pole is on the side opposite to the station, so try to get tickets on that side. This is Texas, so of course, the North Pole has some snow similar to the SnoWonder one we use to decorate our tree. At the North Pole, the train ‘picks up’ Santa Claus. Santa comes aboard the train, interact with the children and take photographs. Children flocked around Santa and asked him to sign the ride tickets and Polar Express books; all the children also received a silver bell from Santa. The Polar Express return trip to Palestine is full of music; railroad staff engages the children in singing Christmas carols and dancing to the tunes.
I recommend going an hour early to take photographs with the Polar Express at Palestine Railroad Depot. The gift shop at Palestine is usually crowded but an excellent place to pick up some train themed Christmas gifts. The ride lasts about 60 minutes long round trip (30 minutes each way) and the atmosphere on the train is contagious. Children are bubbling with excitement and the vibrant holiday colors are on full display. Toddlers and pre-teens love the train; even adults like participating in the excitement. I’m so glad that we took along The Polar Express book and wore matching pajamas, it made the whole experience so much fun. Don’t forget to take plenty of photos and Santa’s autograph on tickets or books.
Here are a few tips to get the most from your ride:
1. Choose a less crowded weekend; avoid Thanksgiving and Christmas weekend like the plague. Any of the weekends prior to Thanksgiving or the early December weekends are great.
2. The Polar Express departs from Palestine, Texas at 3:30 pm, 5 pm, 6:30 pm and 8 pm. The 5 pm or 6:30 pm ride is the best since you get to see the vintage steam engine in daylight and it is dark by the time you reach the North Pole.
3. Book tickets early to get your chosen seats.
4. Be prepared for the cold weather. It may not be snowing, but it does get pretty cold.
5. Make your child read The Polar Express book and see The Polar Express Movie one week before you go. That way the story is fresh in their minds and they can easily relate. Especially true for younger children.
6. Arrive an hour early at Palestine to board the Polar Express. With an hour in hand, you can find parking with ease, take pictures with the train and with the elves, get your tickets and check out the gift shop.
7. Dress everyone in matching pajamas from babies to adults. It makes a great photo opp.
8. Bring along your copy of the Polar Express for Santa to sign. You may also be able to buy a book at the gift shop, but it’s pricey.
9. If you forget the book, ask Santa to sign your ticket.
10. Get marshmallows and put them in the hot chocolate.
11. Don’t forget to appreciate the train cars or the engine. The train is a vintage one from the 1920s and very well maintained.
12. Take lots of pictures of Santa and the train at Palestine.
Merry Christmas to all!