For as long as I can remember, The Polar Express has meant the start of Christmas for us. It has always been our favourite festive family movie, and one we love to share together, usually as soon as December arrives.
For a few years now I have been aware of the REAL Polar Express train, set up on the Dartmoor railway every festive season, where you can ride the train, meet the Conductor and the dancing chefs, travel to the North Pole and see Santa and his magic elves, just like in the film. This year, we were lucky enough to experience the magic ourselves.
We were welcomed on board the Polar Express by the familiar Conductor, who checked the children had their magical golden tickets, and punched them with their initials. Once seated we met the dancing chefs, who were just full of the festive spirit, took time out to speak to every child in the carriage, and were our constant companions throughout the ride. Each carriage has their own Conductor and set of chefs, so there is never a dull moment. The train was decorated with garlands, tinsel and sparkling lights, and there were songs and plenty of chatting about Christmas plans before the train set off for the North Pole.
The train set off, and the children were told to look out for reindeer and ice on the tracks as we neared the North Pole. We were served cups of hot chocolate, topped up with ‘magic milk’ by the dancing chefs, meaning that they were at the perfect temperature for drinking right away – brilliant touch. There was also a chocolate chip cookie for every paying passenger, and even Max was given one. This was all done while the chefs danced, sang songs from film, and carried on chatting to all the children.
All the characters were there – even the doubting Hobo, who of course the chefs and Conductor couldn’t see. Only the children could see him, and he entertained them all by leaping over the Conductor, sneaking cookies from the chefs and regaling the children with tales of how he had to jump onto the train roof and climb in the window to get on board.
It wasn’t long before we reached the North Pole, and I have to say – it looked stunning. A huge amount of effort has been put into making this extra special for the children. The whole North Pole area was decked out with lights, signs and the sleigh, as well as the dancing elves, all the reindeer and Santa himself, waving to everyone on the train as we passed.
The train stopped so we could pick up Santa, and some of the naughty elves sneaked aboard too. With one elf on each carriage, they joined the chefs and Conductor in singing some traditional Christmas songs, getting everyone on the train to sing along, play drums on the tables, and get up and dance in the aisles. It was just so much fun, and if you looked around at the faces of the kids, every single one on that train was beaming.
Their faces soon changed to looks of wonderment, as Santa appeared in the doorway of the carriage. He slowly made his way down the train, stopping to talk to every child, and handing out the iconic magical sleigh bells as seen in the film. Now, you can only hear these bells if you believe in the magic of Christmas – Gemma, Jacob and Max could all hear the beautiful jingling sound, and are now sure that they are on the good list this year.
I honestly cannot rave about The Polar Express experience enough. It was everything I expected and more. Magical, packed full of fun and Christmas cheer, completely child orientated and so unique. The idea behind it has been taken closely from the classic film, and adapted to make it work in real life. We will be back next year without a doubt, and if you get the chance, I would recommend you go too. It is worth every single penny.
* We were given free tickets for The Polar Express in return for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. *