Polar Express or North Pole Experience: Which is Best? Every year, we receive numerous inquiries regarding the popular holiday events Polar Express and the North Pole Experience. Families want to know what is the best experience for their children. We’re happy to post this detailed description from a local mama who has taken her child to both experiences!
Which is best? We honestly feel that both are unique and special and have the Christmas spirit! For your particular family, take into consideration pricing, times and days available, and the ages of your children. Also, note that the Polar Express takes place in Williams, about 3 hours from Phoenix, and the North Pole Experience takes place in Flagstaff, about 2 hours from Phoenix
The Polar Express is a train ride to the North Pole and back. If your kids haven’t seen the movie, I would be sure to show it to them beforehand (especially so they can sing along and are familiar with the story).
Most people are wearing pajamas. The conductor will punch your ticket, like in the movie, they read the Polar Express book; it’s great if you have a copy and take yours to follow along. They play some music from the movie, give out hot chocolate, and the North Pole itself is decorated outside!
For this experience, you do not leave the train. Santa comes on the train and gives everyone a bell; on the way back from the North Pole people are singing Christmas carols!
There are things to do at the train station, that a lot of people forget about (or simply don’t pay attention to). We bought tickets that included a dinner and breakfast at the hotel nearby and you can also go to Bearizona while you are up there (which is very close–they also have a light display at Christmas) or just have a day to play in the snow to make the drive worth it.
The North Pole Experience starts is at The Little America Hotel for a “magic trolley” to shuttle you to the North Pole. This is actually a bus, but the windows are covered on the bottom so little ones can’t see out and tell what is going on. During the ride, there is a video about the North Pole and the kinds of things to expect.
When you get there, you have different rooms to go through and learn about what happens at the North Pole. You meet with Santa, but it felt rushed to us. Everything is timed so you get ushered in and out so the next group can get through.
We stayed at the hotel (which has nice lights and decorations) and had breakfast with Santa the next day. Because we waited for breakfast and did not go when the rush was, our son danced a few times with Santa and had a few 1:1 visits.
Thanks to Jill Collicott for sharing!