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Wisconsin Parent

The Polar Express: Bring Back the Christmas Magic

Dec 08, 2015 11:53AM ● By Cynthia Kaump

I received a call from Santa Clarita, Calif., the Saturday afternoon I was slated to review Middleton’s “Polar Express” train ride. The location showed up on my cell’s caller ID. My 6 (soon-to-be 7 year old) teeters on the edge of disbelief in Kris Kringle because of a curmudgeony, grinch-like Kindergartner in last year’s class. She saw the call screen and shouted, “Momma! Santa is calling!” 

It ended up being a bill collector, but I told Finnoulay it was Santa calling to share an address, and that he’d said to me, “Go-ho-ho there in your pajamas to bring back the Christmas magic!” 

 We drove to Middleton’s Greenway station, were escorted to a main building on a golf cart, and soon the Christmas magic was brought to us. We were swallowed by a sea of twinkling lights, excited pajama-clad children of all ages, Christmas tunes, and even Mrs. Claus doling out hugs to tiny passengers. 

First, there is a short stage scene mimicking the beginning of Chris Van Allsburg’s 1985 book, “The Polar Express,” made into a popular animated Warner Brothers movie in 2004. It’s about a boy’s middle-of-the-night train journey to the North Pole to rediscover his belief in Santa. He can only board with a golden ticket. Each child in the crowd receives one upon entrance. Then, waves of patrons walk through a field of lighted paths to their train cars, and service crews are standing by to merrily bring back even more Christmas magic. 

Exactly capturing the story, dancing staffers cheerily greet train passengers with songs, hot chocolate, cookies, a reading of the “The Polar Express,” and the anticipation of what that golden ticket in each tiny hand would bring. 

It didn’t disappoint. Santa and his elves boarded the train after it travelled at the speed of light on magic rails to the North Pole (somewhere in a field in Cross Plains)! The jolly old elf bestowed a silver bell upon every child passenger, capturing the most key element of the story. You see, only those who believe in Santa and the Christmas spirit can hear the ringing bells. Santa and Finnoulay (and every other child) exchanged a few whispers, then a genuinely joyous embrace before he whisked off to another train car while billowing from his belly, “Ho, ho, ho, merry Christmas!” 

“I would NEVER be naughty, Momma, just to do this,” Finnoulay whispered in wonder. 

The train temperature was a little too warm, but you would truly have to be like that curmudgeony, Grinch-like Kindergartner not to enjoy this imaginative trip swirling with Christmas magic. 

Finnoulay’s bell remains nestled under her pillow as I type. With each movement, I hear its sweet jingle. Just as the book and movie close, I shall too…. “Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.” 

The tickets range in price from $25-$85 depending on the date of your trip and additional add-ons. The Polar Express in Middleton runs through December 27th. 

Wisconsin Parent rides the Polar Express