One of my favourite Christmas films is the Polar Express and something I have always dreamed of doing is the Polar Express Experience. It just always felt like a magical childhood dream to board a train and go off to Lapland to see Santa. The official Polar Express experiences were both miles away from where I live. We’re talking a 3 hour drive away, so it’s just never been feasible to do it. Until last year!
The Polar Express announced a new venue at Cholsey and Wallingford Railway last year and I was so excited! My friend and I booked our tickets the minute bookings opened. I’m so glad we did as it’s super popular and I believe it sold out (hint hint, if you want to go this year book it NOW!). Our golden tickets arrived ahead of our trip. Make sure you take these with you as you’ll need them to board the train.
I used our elf on the shelf elves to deliver the suprise tickets to the kids along with a Polar Express train of their very own (purchased from Aldi in case you were wondering).
The car park for the Polar Express is several miles away from the railway station but there is a free shuttle bus service to get you to and from there with buses running constantly. The staff at both the car park, on the bus and when you arrive at the station are all lovely. They took the time to greet all the kids and chat with them. When you arrive at the station there are a couple of kiosks selling food and hot drinks but we didn’t use them so I’m not sure what specifically was available.
Before boarding the train you will take a seat in a huge marquee and watch a short stage show. The show is interactive and a great warm up to the main event. We really enjoyed it! There are colouring sheets and letter heads to write a letter to Santa at the back of the marquee as well. Once the show is finished you will be called up by carriage numbers to go to the station platform and wait for the train’s arrival.
If there’s one bit of advice I can give you it’s to book your train ride when its dark. The fun and excitement of going out on a dark evening in your pyjamas and boarding a train is just brilliant. The atmosphere with the fairy lights and seeing the train appear in the distance in the dark is just amazing. It really is magic! The music, the chefs waving through the windows, the conductor yelling “All aboard!”. It’s just awesome! And yes, even grown ups wear their pyjamas! In fact I didn’t see a single person who wasn’t wearing pyjamas. It’s all part of the fun!
I don’t want to go into too much detail about the train ride as it would spoil the magic but if you’ve watched the movie you’ll have a good idea what to expect. There will be singing, dancing, hot chocolate, cookies and lots of fun onboard.
And of course you will also get to meet the big man himself, Santa. He will walk through the carriage greeting everyone at their seats and spending time talking and having photos. He then gives each person a silver bell – the first gift of Christmas. We hang our bells on our Christmas tree as a reminder of our amazing trip. I also washed out our hot chocolate cups when we got home and attached some ribbon so we could hang those on the tree too!
Once your train ride ends there is time for a walk around the shop which is full of lots of (expensive!) merchandise. We settled for a fridge magnet and a little snow globe to keep as mementos of our special night. There was also a security check point to walk through which tells you if you are on the naughty list or the nice list. We had so much fun with this! Us Mums were of course on the naughty list haha!
I know this isn’t cheap BUT I think it was worth it and I don’t regret paying it one bit. It was every bit as magical as I’d hoped, if not more! The kids had an amazing time and still talk about it almost a year later. It is certainly a memory we all treasure. I didn’t get any sort of discount and this isn’t an advert. I paid for everything in full and in my opinion it was worth every penny. So if you’re not sure, book it! I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Details of this years Polar Express at Cholsey and Wallingford Railway are on their website here: https://cholseythepolarexpressride.com
Check out my Instagram reel with video footage of our trip on the Polar Express here: Instagram
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the Polar Express or Cholsey and Wallingford Railway in any way. I paid for our tickets in full.