And it only took us about 20 minutes to get there on the Branson Scenic Railway.
Before I tell you about it, I have a message from our sponsor … er, something like that. : )
Pardon the interruption … Don’t forget to go here by Dec. 9 and enter for a chance to win an adorable flap book of animal babies and their mamas titled “Somewhere so Sleepy,” by Diane Muldrow, which retails at $7.99.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program …
We didn’t tell Beans we were going to ride the Polar Express in Branson until we were loading our bags into the car Saturday morning. To say he was excited is the understatement of the season.
He managed to reach some level of calm for the three-hour drive and then he and Tallulah were all atwitter about checking into the hotel and putting on their Christmas pajamas before we picked up our tickets.
Our train was to leave at 4:45, but we had to be at the ticket office by 3:45, and honestly I’m a little type A when it comes to worrying about things going wrong and disappointing the little people, so we got there even earlier – maybe 3:25. Which was maybe a mistake. Actually, in hindsight, maybe we should have gone earlier so we would have had time to find a warm spot to hang out for a while before the trip. The depot is tiny, and there were lots of excited kids (and their families, of course) there waiting to board, so we were all crowded on the platform in sub-freezing, wind-blowing cold for a loooong time.
T didn’t seem to mind so much.
She was probably just on some sort of adrenaline high from racing up and down the lobby of the big hotel across the street from the train station. We fled the crowded depot/gift shop when she got exceptionally squirmy and started demanding to “Walk!! WALK!!” We were told to be back at the depot no later than 4:30, though, because sometimes the train boarded early (On this day, I don’t think early was in the plans.).
Anyway, as we started to board, it started to snow and Beans wanted to know why it was snowing in just that one spot. “Is it real?!” he wanted to know. I shared my theory that that snow must have been leaking out of the box on the roof directly from the North Pole because we were so close.
Someone read an excerpt from The Polar Express as we started rolling, and someone else in a white coat and a tall red hat walked around showing us pictures in the book. Before long, we were each handed a cup of hot cocoa (I wouldn’t necessarily describe mine as tasting like melted chocolate as described in the book, but it was decent.) and a sugar cookie.
We were at the North Pole in no time.
Really, we had prepared him for that reality, and he didn’t seem too let down that he had to stay put.
Besides the North Pole, we got to see some pretty scenery before it got dark, and after it got dark we ogled bookoodles of pretty Christmas lights, including the big drive-through display the city of Branson adds to each year.
Santa and an elf raced through our car a few times, stopping briefly to chat with some of the kids.
Tallulah didn’t mind that he didn’t stick around. In fact, she might have broken my collarbone if he’d stayed a minute longer.
Beans observed that the elf he saw with Santa was larger than the ones he saw on the movie and in the book. But, he reasoned, there are probably different sizes of elves at the North Pole because they each have different jobs to do and some jobs might be difficult for smaller elves to do. (Huh. That works for me.)
On one of their rushed trips through our part of the train, the larg-ish elf made sure each child got a bell – just like the kids in the book/movie.
One of our two bells has disappeared (hopefully temporarily). Beans says his sister’s is the one that’s missing. She’s not verbal enough to argue, so there you go.
We ate pizza after our train ride, our kids already cozy in their pajamas, and then we stopped in the plaza at Branson Landing (across from the depot) to watch the musical lighted fountain with the huge torchlights. Beans was mesmerized and wanted to stay all night. Matt and I were frozen, and Tallulah hated that fountain with a purple passion so we dragged him back to the hotel, where he quickly found something else to do.
I was excited about going on the train when I bought tickets a couple of months ago, and then as our trip approached I got nervous. I had read all those mixed reviews and I was worried that it wouldn’t be as much fun for Beans as I had hoped.
Overall, though, I would have to say that despite the cheese factor that might have colored the experience for the adults, for the kids – at least for my kid – it was magical. And really, I couldn’t have hoped for anything more than that.