Sacramento: Polar Express

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It is Christmastime in Sacramento! (okay…everywhere). I love Christmas time. It is my absolute favorite. And Christmas in Sacramento has not disappointed. I have my tiny city apartment all decorated with twinkly lights (….that are up year-round). The town is decorated and holiday magic is in the air. As I type this, I’m in one of my favorite coffee shops surround by other people, fake snowflakes, and glistening icicles. Pure bliss.

This year, my sister decided to take her family on the “Polar Express” and I tagged along. I’ve heard of this since I moved to the area, but wasn’t entirely sure what happened. So if you’ve ever been curious, I’ll be giving you all the details. (If you don’t know the story, you should stop reading this and go read that and then come back. Or just be confused about some of my references). 

the family

First off, getting tickets is no joke. The “Polar Express” is run through the California Railroad Museum, and nearly every ticket for all runs of the train are taken up by members of the museum. My sister knows people that are just members in order to get priority dibs on tickets to this annually. That’s commitment. So we got tickets for a Wednesday night on the last train, at 8pm. We purchased them in early October I think. 

Mallory with some of the decor
ready to go!

So the date comes and it’s time to ride the train! We all are decked out in our pajamas-mine of course are flamingos with Santa hats! We show up early, which was a good plan. The train departs from Old Town Sacramento, which is gorgeously decorated for the holidays. We pick up our tickets and walk around a bit, and get some photos. My niece wrote a letter to Santa and there was a mailbox set up for her to send it off! And here’s a tip: there’s no restroom on the train so make sure you go before you board! (Don’t worry, the conductor will remind you of this many times before you board). About 30 minutes before the train departs, the lines open up for your given train car. But even before that, you can (and should) line up outside that area. Basically, you line up to line up. Our train was leaving around 8, and we lined up just after 7pm. We were the first in line, but by 7:30 the line was huge. We were lined up right along side the train tracks, and a conductor sets the scene by describing the trip we are about to take. And there is a mysterious hobo walking around…. 

our train car

Once on the train, we got cozy in our spots. The kids enjoyed looking at all the stockings hung up to see names of people they knew. And then we were off! The train headed south (to get to the North Pole….) Soon after, we were served hot chocolate and a snickerdoodle cookie.

enjoying our treats!

While we enjoyed our treats, we had Dancing Waitresses come through the car! They were great, and between the music, décor, and treats, we were definitely feeling the holiday spirit. After our treats, the conductor read “The Polar Express” out loud. Several people walked around with the book so that we could see the pictures and follow along. 

And then we arrived at the North Pole! As the train rode along by, we saw Santa and the elves. One of the best parts was that my youngest nephew had a stuffed elf with him. He held it up to the window for the elves to see, and they went nuts!! They started jumping up and cheering, and he was so excited to see their reaction. It was a really special moment. 


Soon after, the train stopped and then started taking us home. On the way, we were joined by the Big Guy…..the Ghostly Hobo! Disguised as Santa, he talked with the kids before moving on. Then the real Big Guy came-Santa was on the train! He gave each person a silver bell, the first gift of Christmas, that said “Polar Express 2018”. What a cute keepsake of the night-I immediately put it on my tree. 

Santa and Sean

We rode back to the train station and then our evening was done. The entire ride was about an hour. Overall, it was a really fun night and I’m glad I joined the family for it. Would I do it again? Maybe if someone else was paying, because it is not a cheap ride! But definitely worth doing at least one time, and all the kids are old enough to remember our special night. 

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