Mamatoga Review: The Polar Express Train

This past Saturday we had the pleasure of taking a trip aboard the Polar Express Train which we are lucky enough to have right here in Saratoga! The Saratoga North Creek Railway is running the special holiday train through December 29th, and tickets range from $10 to $55 depending on class of service and age. Our seats were in Coach class, but there are also Dome Service seats available as well, and out of the two time options (6pm and 8pm) we chose the 6 since 8 would be pushing it bedtime wise. The ride started off with the conductor coming through the aisles punching the special tickets the kids receive. Our conductor took the time to stop and chat with everyone in the car, and his little jokes and friendliness went a long way and made everyone feel special. Next up the hobos went through the car, this was the highlight for Finn. I must admit, I saw one of the hobos outside the train before we got on and was wondering who the sketchy looking guy was loitering on the sidewalk so I felt a little silly when I realized he was part of the "show"! The hobos walked through rousing everyone up, the kids loved answering back to the hobos accusations about Santa and everyone kept a lookout for when they might reappear. Things ran pretty smoothly and seamlessly, making the otherwise ordinary train ride so much more fun. Hot chocolate was promptly passed out by another group of very friendly, chef coat and hat bedecked characters and it was just the right temperature to be able to sip right away. Christmas music from the movie and other holiday favorites was playing throughout the trip, and the train slowed down as we neared the "North Pole", which was nicely done with little elf silhouettes waving from the all of the windows. The best part was Santa himself standing outside the North Pole houses waving to everyone (there was a North Pole set up on either side of the train so everyone got a great view). We stopped for maybe five to ten minutes to "let Santa on" and then took off again back to Saratoga, giving everyone plenty of time to see the North Pole. The built up excitement of Santa being on the train was at a fever pitch at this point, and every little head was up looking over the seats waiting for him to appear, and it didn't take too long before he made his entrance along with a gaggle of friendly happy elves. He stopped to give each child their own silver bell and would offer a little greeting to each child, urging one to "Never stop believing in Christmas" or asking what was on their wishlist this year or whether they had been naughty or nice. Cookies were then passed out and it seemed like before long we were back at the station again. All in all the entire "cast" of characters did a great job in our particular car, everyone was super friendly and excited and seemingly every character took time to chat with the children. They handled minor issues deftly (our car was particularly hot and they handled it quickly and with a smile and a joke) and the entire trip was as smooth as can be. I do, however, have a few tips. First off, get there EARLY. We arrived half an hour early, which I thought was plenty of time, but we were nonetheless directed to park WAY down by the end of the train in a dark, unlit parking lot and it was a little bit of a walk (made longer if you have to carry any little ones). The line we waited on moved quickly though, so on our particular night there wasn't much time spent waiting outside the train in the cold. I'm not sure how the parking works out for the 8pm train ride, but it looked a little iffy from where we were. By the time we disembarked our ride it was nearing 7:30 already, and since we were at the seats closest to the door we were among the first ones off. We hustled it to our car and even that early it was tricky navigating the one lane that ran alongside the train to get out of the parking lot. By the time we got back out to exit the main road leading to the train station was full of cars all the way to West Ave and it was already 7:45. Most of the parking spots were still taken by people getting off the earlier train so I'm not sure how the parking spot exchange works out, but again, I recommend getting there earlier. I also did see a number of people walking in from West Ave after having parked elsewhere. Besides those parking issues, we had a fantastic time, it was a great way to kick off the holiday season and we'll definitely be going again next year! Check out our Holiday Events page for more information on this and other local holiday events including dates, times and links for tickets!