Last summer, my mom took us on the French Lick train - it was a train robbery thing, very cute and fun. We had thought about doing their Polar Express train closer to Christmas time, but by the time I remembered to check on getting tickets, they were all sold out. This year, I remember a teensy bit earlier (late October!) and there was ONE day with tickets still available. It was a Sunday night, and we normally don't do things like that on Sundays, but it was the only day left, and we were doing it as a family, and basically came up with a dozen good reasons to break the Sabbath.
Pretty soon, the 'chefs' came out and did a little dance to the 'Hot Chocolate' song, and then handed everyone hot chocolate and cookies.
When we first arrived, they had a bunch of white plastic tents set up with activities inside, and photo op places, but it was nighttime and the lighting was weird, so this was the best we could do.
There was a place for kids to write on a big dry erase board wall, and then write a letter to Santa if they wanted to (ours did not). Then another tent had the gift shop, and photos for sale, and it was all set up to kind of shuffle you through these various spots to kill time until the train arrived.
We got on the train, and it was all decked out with Christmas lights and garland inside. Some friends of ours had bought tickets for the same day, same time, and same train car, so Lucy got to sit with her friend in a seat nearby.
Once the train started rolling, the conductor came through and punched holes in everyone's tickets. This picture is awful; he did not really look like a scary wax figure.
There wasn't much to see out the windows, but it was just SO exciting!
They read the story over the speakers as the train ambled along. This is really my only complaint about the whole thing - periodically while the reading was coming through the speakers, the conductor would walk down the aisle showing pictures from the book, but he had to go so quickly no one could really get a good look at anything. It just frustrated the kids.
The elf girls (who looked suspiciously like the hot chocolate chefs) came out and did several dances and encouraged singing along. As the train neared the end of the track, we passed the North Pole, where there were houses all lit up, signs, and Santa waving from the front porch of one of the buildings. It was pretty cute. Then the train stops so Santa can come on board, and starts up again, going in the opposite direction (back to the station).
The conductor came through and let kids wear his hat for a minute.
Finally! Santa came to our train car. He gave each child 'the first gift of Christmas,' a silver bell engraved with 'Polar Express' on the side. They are actually pretty nice. The kids were excited they could hear them jingle; it means they still believe!
Lucy and her friend Kaelin even got up to dance a little.
When the train was over, we were all happy except for Penny. She was sad because Santa never asked what she wanted for Christmas. We told her she could tell an Elf, who would pass on the information, but she didn't have much confidence in the elf (me neither). So fortunately when we were leaving the train station, we saw the old guy signing autographs, and she was able to tell him directly. She was much happier after that!
It was a really fun trip. It would have been more magical if it was closer to Christmas, or at least COLD outside (it was mid-60s), but was still a fun way to kick-off the season.
Truman asked the next day, "Can we do the Polar Express again sometime when I've forgotten about it?" I asked him how long it would take him to forget about it and he said, "Maybe when I'm seven." So, like, next year.