A few weeks ago, my family and I had the privilege of experiencing the Polar Express at the Mount Hood Railroad. This adventure was a wonderful treat to ring in the Holiday season and to get the kids excited about Christmas! Any adventure that mommy and daddy tell you that pajamas are required is certain to be a fun one right? This was the first time they had ever ridden a train and with such a joyful time that was had, it most certainly won't be their last.
The trip down I-84 East was generally uneventful aside from the wind off the gorge adding some excitement. It was a Friday, but we manage to avoid all but a little bit of traffic in I-205 North before he got to I-84E. Along the way if you have time, there are some shopping centers, or more interesting you could stop At Multnomah Falls for a rest, or to see the falls, or possibly take the hike up to see the Falls up close.
It was approximately 1 hour each way from a little south of Portland. The train yard is right off the I-84 exit and you really shouldn't have trouble finding it. We basically took a right off the exit, then a left and we were there. It would be a good idea to check how full the train is going to be and get there early in case it looks full. There is limited parking, which costs $6. You can pay inside then return the parking note to your dash before embarking upon the train, or if you have cash, pay as you drive in. Also if you are wanting to have lunch or dinner, the train station has a place to eat called the Hobo's Kitchen located in a train car beside the Mount Hood Railroad gift shop. There are also other restaurants near by too.
Once on the train in coach, we were seated according to the number on our tickets we picked up at the station. The kids received special golden tickets just like the young boy in the story had. Over the speaker it was announced that we would be setting off to the North Pole. All logistics aside my kids ages 5 1/2 and nearly 3 years old really believed traveled to and from the North Pole seeing Santa's workshop and elves busy getting ready from Christmas day.
After a bit of time had passed, the conductor traveled through our train car and asked the children for their tickets. He punched the letter S in my daughter's ticket and the letter C in my son's ticket. The S & the C are the initials of Santa Clause! And before the conductor went off to punch more tickets, he sprinkled the circles from the punched tickets in my son's curly hair. My kids giggled at that experience and wondered what was in store for them next. The Hobo made his was through the train car as well. The staff on train were great about photos and didn't mind you took video either.
Sugar cookies and cocoa was served in the coach train car shortly after the train had left the station. We were given the cookies on a napkin and the cocoa was served in a paper cup with a plastic lid by the chefs. There was no options for cookies and I couldn't locate any nutritional information on the cocoa served or of the cookies. I would suggest that if you or a child that would be be attending call ahead for that information and perhaps you could bring your own snacks if you have allergies or are avoiding certain things in your diet. The cocoa wasn't very hot but more luke warm so there was no worries of the children burning themselves while they expectedly drank it right away.
As we continued on ride to the North pole, the story of the Polar Express was read over the speaker. The reading was clear to hear and as the story played, the chefs went up and down the aisle with copies of the books making sure each child got to see the illustrations. I would suggest bringing your own copy so you and your child can follow along.
We approached the North Pole and all the children peered out the windows in hopes to catch a glimpse of Santa. The area was decorated with Christmas decor of lights and giant blow ups. Santa could be seen waving among his elves waiting to board our train. My kids were practically bouncing off their seats at this point. They were pretty over-joyed at the chance to meet with Santa Claus. They really practiced some patience to wait their turn before Santa came to ask them if they've been naughty or nice and to ask what they wanted for Christmas and to gift them a special bell. I really liked that Santa didn't rush and spent an adequate time with each child on board and he was great about posing for photos. We got some great ones!
The train ride from start to finish was approximately 90 minutes long. Not bad amount of time to meet the conductor, have a chat with the Hobo, eat a snack, listen to a story, Meet with Santa, and sing Jingle Bells. A fun experience not soon to be forgotten and lots of fun pictures to be taken. My kids told me they really enjoyed riding on the Polar Express and want to ride the train again next year. I'm so glad they enjoyed it.