Have you seen the movie THE POLAR EXPRESS? We haven’t even read the book, but that didn’t stop us from getting excited about the THE POLAR EXPRESS™ train ride. Families wanting to spark some Christmas magic will want to hop onboard this memorable ride operated by Aspen Crossing just outside of Mossleigh (about a 30 minute drive south of Calgary). Here’s an in depth look at what this experience is really like.
Polar Express Calgary
Having the Polar Express in Calgary is actually a big deal. This is a first for Alberta and only the second officially sanctioned Polar Express rail journey in Canada. The magical story comes to life when the train departs Aspen Crossing for an hour long round-trip journey to the North Pole.
The festive atmosphere hits you immediately upon arrival. Cheery elves greet and guide you to the waiting room. There’s a gift shop loaded with tons of toys and activities for train fanatics and a small concession serves up hot dogs, popcorn and beverages including beer and wine.
Just like the kids in the movie, wearing pyjamas is encouraged. Hyped up tots with their eyes all aglow are beyond excited. Meanwhile their parents, donning snugglies (for real!), try their best to calm them down.
After boarding THE POLAR EXPRESS™, you’ll meet a cast of characters including the conductor and singing chefs. Families re-live the magic of this popular Christmas movie, while enjoying hot chocolate and cookies plus a few surprises along the way.
The ride features re-enactments of the movie, so you’ll see a hobo on an adjacent rail track. Then you’ll stop to pick up Billy, a sullen child who walks through the train cars looking somewhat dazed (but really, he’s just very, very sad).
The journey is set to the music of the motion picture soundtrack, so when the hot chocolate song comes on it’s one big party. With a mug of hot cocoa and cookie in hand, you’ll listen to Van Allsburg’s holiday classic played over the sound system.
Chefs walk through each of the train cars with the Polar Express picture book, which is super helpful if you have no idea what’s going on. Tip: read the book or see the movie before your ride.
And yes, you do make it to the North Pole, where Santa is waving outside some manner of chalet. The train stops and allows Santa to board. This makes Billy super happy.
Billy finally pops on a smile and agrees to pose for pictures after that. Do not ask to take his picture before this time, it’ll only startle and confuse him and he’s apt to run away.
I guess we picked up the hobo somewhere along the line, too because he also appears around this time, dancing down the aisles. Santa makes it through all the carriages and hands out the first gift of Christmas to all passengers. Spoiler alert: it’s a silver sleigh bell.
After the gift distribution everyone starts singing. I legit didn’t expect to have so much fun belting out Christmas carols with the entire train car, but there you have it. I also didn’t expect my mature 10-year-old to enjoy it as much as she did.
Eve: That was pretty cool.
Me: Really? Would you recommend it to other kids?
Eve: Yeah. It would be really good for anyone my age and younger. But not older. I don’t think teenagers would be into it.
Note: We did see a few teens with their families and they looked pretty content.
It’s all very happy and cozy, and despite being somewhat of a cynic, this unique holiday attraction is something I’d heartily recommend to families with children in elementary school or younger.
More info on Polar Express Calgary
The journey runs end of November until Christmas Eve on select dates. Exact dates, fares and excursion times are available by calling 1-866-440-3500, or by visiting www.aspencrossing.com.
Tickets are on sale usually by mid-August and you want to jump on it before they sell out (which they do). On Aspen Crossing’s Polar Express page, they show you which train cars have availability. There’s also pictures of each of the train car so you’ll have a good idea of your seating.
Don’t forget, families are encouraged to wear their pyjamas for the ride!
You may also be interested in reading:
Have you ever taken a train ride with your kids? How was it? Is it something you’d recommend to others?