It’s the fifth day of sharing ornaments and today is all about something we did with the two older boys when they were quite young. I absolutely love picking up ornaments from places we visit because it gives us a reason every year (and years down the line) to recall the fun and exciting moments created there. Today, we’re going back to when we lived in Arizona. You’d be surprised at what we were able to find to do during the Christmas holiday in the desert. In fact, we saw snow, wore coats and even felt cold! Here’s the story about the time we took the boys on the Grand Canyon Railway’s version of the Polar Express.
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Twenty-Five Days of Ornament Memories
Day Five – The Polar Express Adventure
Whoa – we’ve made it 20% of the way to Christmas and through this holiday series! While that’s exciting and thrilling ~ it’s also quite scary. Why? Because I haven’t even STARTED Christmas shopping yet! LOL. I’m having too much fun sharing these stories with you guys ~ even those these posts are so easy to write.
Today is all about an adventure we took the older two boys on back when they were little. I think our middle son had to have been just under the age of two and the oldest was just about ready to turn five. The movie The Polar Express (based on the 1985 book) had just come out that year and was growing in popularity. Imagine how surprised I was to hear there were actual Polar Express adventures that could be taken around the country. Who knew there would be one in Arizona!!
A Little Background First
While we lived near Phoenix, which is all sand and cacti, there are some more New England style landscapes found further north. Just about three hours straight up from Phoenix and just east of Flagstaff is a town called Williams. In that region of the state, which looks to be at the northern tip of the Coconino National Forest, there is much more greenery and potential to see snow in the winter.
There in Williams, visitors can also find the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel. The railway was established back in 1901 (the same year Walt Disney was born). While it suffered through some fear of closing down when automobiles came into the picture and road tripping became popular (around 1968), they somehow found a way to preserve the railway and keep history alive over the years. While the train doesn’t take travelers to the Grand Canyon anymore, the station still serves as an educational and entertaining journey for those who visit.
**You can find out more about the history of the Grand Canyon Railway here: Grand Canyon Railway
Our Northern Adventure
Since both boys were into the Polar Express, I was beyond elated when I came across the news that there was one just a few hours away! After chatting about the idea with Hubby and finding he was all “on board,” I was off to design a fun and exciting adventure for our family!
Before we knew it, we were packed and headed north to meet Santa just before Christmas!
It was everything I dreamed it would be – and more! We explored the grounds, enjoyed a meal at the Fred Harvey Restaurant there on the property and then changed into matching pajamas before boarding the train that evening.
The ride was exciting – filled with singing, storytelling and treats! I know this will sound crazy, but it was the boys’ first time having hot cocoa and cookies (long story and there are health reasons involved). So, it was a very memorable trip and the smile on those adorable little faces meant more than the world to me.
The Best Memory of All
In the story The Polar Express, we all know that one of the pivotal moments is when Santa hands out “the first gift” of the season. It’s an iconic scene that tugs at everyone’s heart strings when they read it in the book or see it in the movie.
When our adventure reached “the North Pole” during our train ride, we all saw Santa just outside the train. He was waving to us as the train came to a stop. The man in the bright red suit got out of his sleigh parked there in the snow and then made his way to the back of the train.
Our little family of four just happened to be in the very last train that evening. In fact, we were in the very last set of seats in our car.
So, what does that mean?
That means that we were the first ones to see Santa as he boarded the train that evening to ride back to the Grand Canyon Railway Station with us.
As he boarded the train, he belted out a merry “Ho, Ho, Ho” and wished us all a very Merry Christmas. Santa then turned to his right and looked straight into the faces of my very excited little boys. Santa smiled at them both, crouched down just a little and started talking with them. As he spoke, he slipped his hand into his bag and pulled out…the first sleigh bell.
At that moment, I wanted to cry.
HE HANDED THE VERY FIRST CHRISTMAS GIFT OF THE SEASON (so to speak) TO OUR OLDEST!
(and the second to our other son)
The magical grin that appeared on our four year old’s face was priceless. It became the brightest memory of the trip for me. In fact, I think he wore that smile for the rest of our adventure!
If you can “believe it,” we still have that bell to this day…(I just don’t know where the boys put it this year…..Boys???)
Have you ever taken a Polar Express Adventure with your kids?
It truly was as amazing as we had dreamed it would be. If you’ve ever taken a ride on the Polar Express (anywhere in the country), I’d love to hear your story. Share your adventure down below and whether or not you picked up an ornament to mark the occasion!
Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or just the idea of being with family and friends this time of the year, we all have traditions. We all have those things that bring us back to holidays from times past. My hope is that these posts bring you back to a place in your life where you smiled, felt joy and experienced happiness.