Everything you need to know about The Polar Express AZ experience. Details on tickets, what to pack, how to prepare, and tips for The Polar Express Williams AZ experience.
Long before I had my own children I’d heard of chartered Polar Express experiences. It’s essentially a real train ride families can book set to mimic The Polar Express book and movie. I always thought it sounded amazing, and I promised myself if I became a parent I’d make it happen at least once.
We made that parenting bucket list a reality this year and took our kids on The Polar Express AZ train ride.
What is the Polar Express Experience?
Essentially you book a train ride and walk directly into The Polar Express book and movie. They play and sing and dance to songs from the movie. You can expect the song and dance to Hot Chocolate, with cookies and hot chocolate served. It’s fun and magic right up until you arrive at The North Pole where Santa waves from his sleigh.
On the way back Santa seems to be missing and magically appears on the train. He gives each kid “The first gift of Christmas” aka a bell. Kids get to enjoy a few minutes of magic with him, and then he waves goodbye and heads to the next car. You’ll enjoy carols and lots of bell ringing until you’re back at the station.
It’s all so magical! Truly two hours well spent and we’d say completely worth the money!
We had an even more amazing time than I imagined! But I instantly started writing down the information I wish I’d known before our experience. I came up with about 20 things either we did right or wish we’d have done differently to get the most out of The Polar Express Williams AZ experience.
Booking Polar Express Experience Tickets
I’m writing this after opening weekend in November. As of today, there are a limited amount of weeknight tickets available. I also noticed as soon as the season starts, they open tickets for next year. Meaning you can try to grab some during the holiday season, but you can also book a year in advance.
When is the best time to book tickets?
The sooner the better! We bought ours in October and noticed all the Saturday tickets were already gone. If you have a large party I’d book them no later than summertime. If you’re taking a small family as we did, you can probably still book a weekend timeslot up through October.
I’d put a calendar reminder on your phone to remember to book them at a time you have some extra cash. AKA, use your tax return or a bonus earlier in the year and purchase them then.
22 Tips for Preparing the Getting the Most Out of the Polar Express Williams AZ Experience
Before Your Trip
Tickets open for the next year as soon as the current season starts. So in November you can start booking a year out. I’d try to get them sooner or later! There’s still availability through November, but weekends sell out by October. Try to get them by September at the latest!
Try to snag a 5:00/5:30 time slot.
We did the 7:30 train because we went on a Friday, and that worked best after work. Our kids did well, but we noticed several melting down in the last 30 minutes. It’s a lot of fun and excitement that wears kids out! We hope to go again next year, and we’re planning an earlier time slot.
One more note, you get much better pictures with that pretty golden hour lighting before the earlier ride. I think that makes the earlier time another reason we’d recommend it! (But for the record, our magical very dark later time was wonderful too! I just think younger kids may enjoy earlier timing.)
Request to sit on the Santa side.
We didn’t have this option booking online. But you can definitely call the box office to book, or call shortly after you book online. If all else fails, ask when you pick up tickets. I’d call the office and ask if they can make this happen. We did not get this side, and felt so lucky a set of parents behind their children offered to swap seats with our boys for the magical moment. Had we known better, we’d have made the call to confirm we had at least one bench on the Santa side.
Wear Christmas pajamas (even parents)
You’ll want to make sure everyone has pajamas for the train ride. Sure some people don’t wear them. But it’s way more fun to wear family Christmas pajamas, or at least kid’s Christmas pajamas. We bought these Polar Express Pajamas and they were so perfect for the event!
Read the book several times before you go.
Help your family remember the fun details of the story by reading the book. It makes every moment from ticket pick up to when you step off the train more magical!
Watch the movie at least once before your trip.
The Day of Your Polar Express AZ Experience
Pick up tickets early!
It gets busy at the ticket pickup location. As soon as you drive into Williams, I’d make a stop at the box office and get your tickets.
Bring your own camera.
It’s worth getting some great pictures. There weren’t photographers on the train, so I’m glad we had both of our phones and our DSLR with us.
Pack your own copy of The Polar Express
There’s a moment where they play an audio recording of the book read by the author. The performers will have a large copy and walk up and down the aisle so this tip is optional. But they invite families to pull out their own book copy and we instantly wished we would have brought ours!
Make sure your phone is fully charged (or you have an external battery charger).
I went with a phone half charged, and an hour in I was getting pretty nervous I’d miss the big moments and held back capturing footage. I was using my phone for work on the drive-up. I wish I’d had my external battery charger with me!
Eat before you go.
There’s a fair amount of sugar on the train. It’s also a two-hour ride. I’d opt for dinner before you go.
Get there 2 hours early
The website will tell you that an hour early is recommended, but I’d say make it two! There’s a lot to do, many photo-opts, and plenty of magical experiences before your train takes off. Get there with plenty of time to do it all!
Try to take pictures before the train ride
If you’re on the earlier train, you’ll snag some beautiful golden hour lighting. But either way, you’ll get an excited anticipation face instead of a tired one.
Find the conductor and ask for a golden ticket!
He will punch each child’s name or initials and it’s the cutest experience some kids miss. Make sure you have time before your ride to ask for one!
Wear Santa hats/winter caps
The moment we got on the train I regretted not bringing our Santa hats! So many families wore winter hats with pom-poms, elf hats, or winter beanies. It was a fun and cute addition!
Bring a coat, but make it one that’s easy to get on/off since the train car is heated
That’s it! Just plan accordingly with your coat/jacket.
Wear shoes instead of slippers
I debated this one while we were packing. But the moment we got to the train station I knew shoes were the right choice! There’s plenty of walking around the station. Also, it does snow quite a bit at The Polar Express Williams, AZ. I think you’ll be happy you and any children are in shoes.
Bring wet wipes
There’s hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. I’ve never been so glad to have a way to clean off chocolate! And for the record, I brought some backup pajamas just in case there was a messy spill. Luckily there wasn’t, but I”m glad I was prepared!
During Your Polar Express Experience
Watch the Santa picture line, it gets long!
We waited an hour after the train ride to snap a picture with the big man. We wish we would have jumped in that line faster and earlier in the evening!
Use the bathroom before you get on the train
There are bathrooms on the train. But every minute is really fun and magical. I’d try to use the bathroom about 20 minutes before the train ride.
Don’t miss the conductor show!
Get a picture on the train before you start or shortly after.
Before the car is crowded or once everyone is seated, you’ll want to get your picture. It’s the calmest time and best lighting
We are already planning a trip one more time while our kids are still young! It was one of the most magical and amazing experiences we’ve had as a family!
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