Review: Blackstone Valley’s The Polar Express Captivates Audiences

In what’s become a yearly Christmas-time tradition in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, The Polar Express train ride continues to triumphantly provide local families with an unforgettable adventure. From the offering of numerous pre-ride activities to the 90-minute jaunt aboard  “The Polar Express,” the experience will leave both kids and adults alike filled with holiday spirit.

Pre-Ride Activities

Upon arriving at the Blackstone Valley Train Depot, which is always expertly transformed into a Polar Express-themed winter wonderland, guests will find ample parking. All riders have the option of paying $5 for a premium parking spot in the depot lot or grabbing a free spot just a hundred or so yards away from the entrance.

Next, you’ll present your tickets to an employee stationed at an outdoor booth. A doorman will then dramatically open the doors, granting you access into the depot’s lobby. It’s there you’ll spend the next 30-40 minutes prior to boarding the train…

If you’re anything like me, you know that there’s nothing more anxiety-inducing than having to wonder how you’ll keep your kids busy during a prolonged wait. Luckily, parents have little to fear here. During your time in the main lobby, your children will have the opportunity to color, write a letter to Santa (and drop it off in an adorable mailbox), and have their pictures taken in front of Polar Express backdrops.

Hungry? Grab a bag of popcorn and a beverage from the snack stand.

Itching to spend more money? Pick up a Polar Express gift at a sprawling merchandise table.

Before you know it, the train’s conductor will be making an appearance to introduce the theatrical folks who’ll be leading the way aboard their assigned train car. Once you meet your car’s featured host, the conductor will lead the room with a countdown to the words all kids love to hear…

”ALL ABOARD!”

And just like that, you’re trekking through the swarms of other families as you make your way to your assigned seat. Let the train ride begin!

The Polar Express Ride

The 90-minute ride, the event’s main attraction, is jam-packed with holiday activities that’ll make the most stringent Grinches crack a smile. With an onslaught of Christmas joy bombarding your senses throughout the excursion, the trip creates one holiday memory after another. Here’s a list of some standout moments from the trek:

Cast Camaraderie. The script certainly provides the actors with some latitude as to how they interact with their guests. As such, having a host and an elf that play off one another beautifully only adds to the wonder of the show. The powers-that-be definitely spent a considerable amount of time carefully placing actors together.

Visit from Santa Claus. Typically, family visits to Santa (mall or otherwise) is akin to meeting your favorite celebrity at a Comic Con. There’s no time for more than a quick handshake and a darting look toward a camera that’ll inevitably flash before you’re ready. However, The Polar Express provides kids with ample opportunity to shake hands with Santa, tell him what they’d like for Christmas, and perhaps take a selfie with Father Christmas.

While this blogger’s socially awkward kiddos opted for, “None of the Above,” it was great to see interactions with Santa be so meaningful to so many.

Sing Alongs. Who doesn’t love a train car full of people belting out Christmas classics like “Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Jingle Bells?” The harmonizing could have used a bit of work, but one couldn’t help but get swept away by holiday joy.

Hot Chocolate. While I’m sure Blackstone Valley’s Polar Express hasn’t suddenly created the world’s best cup of hot chocolate, the classic drink is nonetheless an amazing hot beverage on a cold winter’s night.

Post-Ride Activities

Not in a rush to get home following your trip aboard The Polar Express? You’re in luck! All guests are welcome to linger in the main entrance for 30 minutes following the conclusion of their ride. They’ll have the opportunity for more family photos and another meet-and-greet with the main man himself, Santa Claus. While my family headed out upon returning to the station, many families opted to hang around and continue taking in the lobby’s sights and sounds.

For Your Information

The Polar Express adventure, graciously brought to us by The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council (BVTC), Warner Brothers, and Navigant Credit Union, is undoubtedly a worthy family outing. That’s not to say it’s an entirely picture-perfect product.

While the overall product is wonderful, there are a few suggestions (for both prospective riders and the BVTC) that may prove helpful as we wait patiently for the 2018 Polar Express season.

  • Buy Early!  Tickets usually go on sale in Late Spring/Early Summer for the upcoming winter. Experienced riders encourage everyone to purchase their seats early. In doing so, you’ll get to choose the seats that’ll work best for your family and find a time that’ll fit.
  • Choose Best Departure Time for Your Child(ren).  With the train running multiple times throughout the day, choose the departure time that will best suit your needs come the big day. Younger children tend to do better with the 4pm show rather than the post-dinner 7pm go-round. With the late afternoon show, you’ll still get the benefit of the dark skies needed to see the “North Pole” in all its lighted glory.
  • Bring Your Patience!  It’s a crowded holiday attraction! There will be a lot going on, and kids will be going crazy. It’s Christmas! Try not to stress over the chaos!

Until next time,

The Pondering Father

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