I don’t casually throw around the word “perfect,” as I’m learning that excellence is a much more realistic and attainable goal than perfection. But it sounded too Bill & Ted to say that we experienced the most “excellent Polar Express” event this past weekend.
My two boys absolutely love trains. They also love “The Polar Express” movie. Even my 2-year old, Luke, will sit enthralled for almost the whole film. I was ecstatic when I saw that the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore was hosting a special Polar Express Train Ride event. I bought tickets for my dad and myself to take the boys to the 10 a.m. train ride on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
We were told to arrive about an hour before the train ride, and were all lined up inside the museum’s North Car Shop, right alongside a giant steam engine with “Polar Express” written on its side in large gold lettering. A trio of Christmas carolers kept the families singing and entertained during the wait. We dressed the boys in pajamas and bathrobes, and luckily it was warm enough that they didn’t need any more layers. Perfect.
Right before boarding time, over a loud speaker, a narrator began reading from the original Polar Express story. Suddenly the shop filled with the sound of an incoming train. The steam engine next to us came to life with steam billowing out and lights aglow. I got goosebumps as I watched my oldest son James’ eyes widen and a huge grin stretch across his little face. A conductor walked out on the platform and in a booming voice called “ALL ABOARD! This is the Polar Express!” Perfect.
They led us all outside and onto a platform where we passed by the hobo sitting next to a fire with a can of beans and coffee mug in hand. We loaded onto the awaiting train, each receiving a golden “Polar Express” ticket. Inside, the windows were covered in dark blue shades with stars on them, creating an awesome illusion of taking a Christmas Eve train ride to the North Pole. Perfect.
The ride began with a cast of dancing waiters who served cups of hot chocolate (just warm enough, not too hot) and cookies. We then listened to the rest of the Polar Express story as the waiters went up and down the aisle holding the book for children to see. The conductor visited each rider and punched his or her special ticket. As we neared the end of the 20 minute ride (which doubled back to the train museum), the waiters sang and danced to get the children excited for the arrival at the “North Pole.” As we disembarked and walked towards the entrance to the Roundhouse, you could see the “snow” falling inside and the huge candy cane sign that said “North Pole.” Perfect.
Inside the Roundhouse, Elves handed each child a silver sleigh bell, and we got in line to meet Santa. We were lucky we only had to wait a short while to meet the big man in red. A miniature train display was running next to the Santa line which helped entertain the kids. And oh what a fantastic Santa he was, complete with sleigh, reindeer and a cheerful calm demeanor. He was great with my shy Luke, who preferred to be held by Mommy during the picture but gave an excited high five to Santa afterward. James whispered his wish list to Santa and then we all went off to ride the indoor carousel and play with the toy train setups and Lego displays.
After we had our fill of fun, we headed back out through the North Car Shop, exiting through a Polar Express gift shop. Well played, event organizers, well played. As I snuck the bag of purchases into my purse, later to be slipped into stockings for Christmas, I noticed that we made it through an entire outing without any temper tantrums or meltdowns. Now that is what I call perfect.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 4-year-old James and 2-year-old Luke.