Everything to know about The Polar Express train ride outside of Calgary

Catch a ride on The Polar Express at Aspen Crossing.

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).

Polar Express Calgary

It’s 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.

From Calgary to the North Pole via The Polar Express

Each Polar Express train car is fully decked out.

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. Excited tots with their eyes all aglow are beyond excited, while parents donning snugglies (for real!) try their best to calm them down.

conductor greeting children

All aboard!

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 and will 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).

Aspen crossing polar express

Everyone gets to meet with the Conductor on the Polar Express at Aspen Crossing.

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 with the 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.

cartoon santa

You’ll get to see Santa, too!

And yes, you do make it to the North Pole, where Santa is waving outside some manner of chalet. The train stops allowing Santa to board, which makes Billy super excited. He 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 comes 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 that everyone starts singing. I didn’t expect it to be so much fun belting out Christmas carols with the entire train car, but it was. I also didn’t expect my 10-year-old to enjoy it as much as she did.

polar express train ride Calary

Even a tween finds this event magical

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. Families are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride!

Have you ever taken a train ride with your kids? How was it?