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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.