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Riding the Polar Express This Year? Here Are Your Tips!

Fairly certain I risk losing my Mom Card for this admission: But I’ve never read “The Polar Express.” Nor have I, I guess I should add, ever seen the movie.

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to the holidays. My approach can best be summarized by considering Christmas music: If it wasn’t sung by Nat King Cole or Perry Como, it’s not on my playlist. At this point, I suppose I should offer my sincerest “sorry-not-sorry” to Mariah Carey, Wham! and Band Aid.

So yeah, “The Polar Express,” given its 1985 birth year, is not something I’ve acknowledged in my Rockwellian-themed celebrations. The book always seemed nice and beautifully illustrated, but there was a creepy (read: modern) factor to it that I didn’t appreciate.

Until now.

Enter an invitation to ride the Carson City Polar Express on its inaugural night of trips to the Northern Nevada’s North Pole. I extended the invite to my Christmas-loving family, comprised of my three “children” ranging in age from 6 to 20 (hence the word “children” being in air quotes — they are indeed my children, but whether or not they still qualify as my “children” is suspect now that one is almost able to legally drink).
Dylan and Bryerlee at the Polar ExpressJill and Bryerlee at the Polar Express

 

So we traveled through Carson City, up the hill on Highway 50 to the historic V&T Railroad’s East Gate Depot for the journey.

With tickets in hand, we stood in lines ready to board. Christmas carols played overhead, we danced and made friends with the many tiny tots around us, their eyes all aglow. This is when I realized we were somewhat overdressed for the occasion.

Pro Tip #1: Dress your tribe in PJs. 

Once we boarded, we settled in and began taking in the surroundings. These are historic train cars but surprisingly comfortable, but the experience does feel more Perry Como than Wham! Traditional decorations line the “luggage racks” above, though I’m quite confident the lights were LED vs. the more time-honored (and energy-inefficient) Christmas lights from the happy golden days of yore.

Bryerlee on the Polar Express

With everyone on board and merrily greeted by conductors and attendants, the train set off and the entertainment began. The Polar Express staff can more accurately be described as a “cast,” as they all have roles to play, which often includes singing and dancing and sharing images from the book during a group read-along. Oh, and they hand out super-soft loft-house cookies and cocoa that is neither too hot nor too cold — it was JUST right.Cookies on the Polar Express

Dancing to the "Hot Chocolate" song
Dancing to the “Hot Chocolate” song

Cookie!

We traveled at about 2.3 miles per hour (that’s just a guess) to the “North Pole,” signified by small buildings and trees decorated in lights.

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An exuberantly waving Santa stands with Hero Boy from the book, and then it’s time for the big event: Santa boards, and he makes his way down each train car, handing out lyrical silver bells for all to jingle ad nauseam until the train returns to the depot.

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Pro Tip #2: Bring ear plugs (or, alternatively, your patience). 

Overall, it was a magical journey. My “children” loved it, and we found ourselves loading up our Spotify Christmas playlist on the journey back to Reno and singing along.

Well, all except the 6-year-old, who fell fast asleep — visions of sugarplums surely dancing in her head.

Dancing to Frosty the Snowman
My daughter was selected as an honorary snowman and got to dance in the aisle during the group singalong to “Frosty.”

Pro Tip #3: Bring snacks for the car ride there and/or home, as my 6-year-old was uninterested in dinner after the giant cookie and cocoa. 

If you’re seeking out the spirit of the season, book now: Rides are offered on select dates through Tuesday, Dec. 24. Exact dates, fares and excursion times are available by calling 877-724-5007, or by visiting www.vtrailway.com. Ticket prices for children ages 2-15 start at $27 plus additional fees, and for adults, $36 plus additional fees, depending on date and type of experience. Follow them on their Facebook page for more details.

Pro Tip #4: Locals get $10 off coach fares through Nov. 24 when calling 877-724-5007. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to hang a few silver bells on our energy-inefficient tree. Because it’s Christmas time in the city, and we’re definitely feeling the spirit of the season after our recent excursion to the North Pole.

Family at the Polar Express

Family at the Polar Express

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About Mikalee Byerman

Mikalee Byerman
Voted "Best Creative Writer" in 2018 by readers of the Reno News & Review, Mikalee Byerman will henceforth be talking about this distinction ad nauseam because it's the first and only popularity contest this former buck-toothed nerd has ever won in her life. She is a humor essayist whose highly controversial blog, Me 2.0, has been featured on the Huffington Post and TIME Magazine's websites. Her writing also has appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal, Southwest Spirit Magazine and Alaska Airlines Magazine. Her debut book — 100 Things to Do in Reno Before You Die — was published last year by Reedy Press. During the day, she is VP of Strategy for the Estipona Group. Oh, and her name rhymes with "prickly fireman," though FYI, she's neither prickly nor a fireman.

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