Riding the Blackstone Valley Polar Express and Train Rides with Santa
Make family memories on the Blackstone Valley Polar Express in Woonsocket or other train attractions in nearby towns.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Nov. 26., 2018 from an earlier version.
The magic begins when confetti suddenly explodes inside the train station and snow begins to fall outside right before children board the Blackstone Valley Polar Express in Woonsocket. The conductor waves to happy families as train cars patiently await passengers at the historic Blackstone Valley Train Depot. The train cars have names like Dasher, Dancer and Prancer and Comet and Cupid and Rudolph. Children laugh and smile as they are greeted by peppy costumed characters who get them excited for an adventure to the North Pole.
The Blackstone Valley Polar Express is a special local holiday attraction because the author of the book, Chris Van Allsburg, lived in Rhode Island. He wrote the book in 1985, and it’s been a treasured tradition for families all over the world ever since.
Many of the families that ride the Blackstone Valley Polar Express are decked out in holiday pajamas. Some even wear matching pajamas as they head to their seats. Each child gets a song book filled with Christmas carols that also doubles as a coloring and activity book to keep them busy on the ninety-minute train ride. Everyone gets cozy in their seats as the train begins to depart and the reading of the Polar Express begins. The journey includes a reading of the book, sing-along songs, hot cocoa for each guest served in a take-home commemorative travel mug and cookies.
Halfway through the trip, the train pulls up to the real North Pole. Look out the window, and if you are lucky, and the snow cooperates, you might see Santa’s sleigh tracks leading up the hill. There will be a large group of elves dressed in red Santa hats that greets the train by a gigantic Christmas tree, waving and smiling and sharing their excitement with the kids on the train. When the train arrives at the North Pole, the children will also meet Santa, who will walk through each train car, present each child with a magical silver jingle bell and stop a moment to snap a photo.
Soon the Christmas carols will be sung in each train car – if you don’t know the words, just peek inside the song books given to each child. The performers on each train have amazing singing voices, especially in the Dancer car, where I was a passenger. Jeff Gamache has such a great voice he could release his own Christmas album. The ride finishes with a few songs and games, maybe even some holiday bingo, where every kid miraculously wins a candy cane. The conductor will also make the rounds to punch everyone’s keepsake golden ticket. Finally, the music is turned up and the Polar Express finale is a dance party in the seats and aisles with kids jamming out to jingle bells. The Blackstone Valley Polar Express is a way to create a family memory that is as timeless as the book itself.
Before or after the journey, families can also take photos in several Polar Express holiday-themed backdrops, meet Santa for a photo opp and participate in a raffle to win various train-themed gift baskets. There’s also an area where kids can color and write letters to Santa, and post them in the mailbox that delivers them right to the North Pole. Blackstone Valley Polar Express excursions are happening Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 16 through December 23. Tickets are $48–$101 per person. Get tickets! 1 Depot Square, Woonsocket, 401-495-1213, blackstonevalleypolarexpress.com
Now departing Portsmouth Junction, guests can enjoy a breakfast train ride with Santa. Only sixty tickets are sold for each trip, so children gets lots of time with the man in the big red suit. Choose between pancakes, French toast or scrambled eggs with sides of bacon, sausage or homefries. Kids get milk or juice, and adults can sip coffee or tea. The ride boards at Portsmouth Junction on Sundays at 10 a.m. on December 2, 9, 16 and 23. It’s a ninety-minute ride. The train features First Class table seating for four individuals, so smaller groups will be seated with other people. Tickets are $34.95 per person, not including tax and gratuity. Waiting List available only. Melville Station, One Alexander Rd., Melville Marina, Portsmouth, 401-295-1203, trainsri.com/breakfast-with-santa
Edaville in Carver, Massachusetts, not only offers the annual Christmas train as part of the Festival of Lights, but it also runs a special weeknight Where’s Santa? train ride. Guests will board the train with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves for a forty-five-minute interactive ride, during which Santa or Mrs. Claus is missing, and they with try to find him or her. Each guest will munch on a cookie and sip chocolate milk while singing Christmas songs and dancing with elves who will hand out jingle bells. Guests also get a special gift. Ticket prices include the Edaville Festival of Lights and Thomas Land. This package is available on Wednesday and Thursday nights On December 5 and 6 at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. and December 12 and 13 at 5, 6 and 7 p.m. plus December 17, 18, 19 and 20 at 5, 6 and 7 p.m. Please arrive thirty minutes before scheduled boarding time. Check here for available dates. Tickets are $49 per person, and can be purchased online. 5 Pine St., Carver, Massachusetts, 508-866-8190, edaville.com