If you or your children love "The Polar Express," I suggest you check out the list below, figure out which event best meets your needs, mark the calendar and buy the tickets in advance if possible. Polar Express-themed trips on Metra trains or trolleys are among the most popular over the holidays. Several, in fact, are already sold out, so I'm not including them here.
Also, if you're looking for a town not listed here, or a different type of Polar Express event, make sure to check out the site Santa in Chicago and its "Santa on the Polar Express" page. It's about as comprehensive as you could get!
- Offered through the Fox Valley Park District, this event is held at Blackberry Farm at 100 S. Barnes Road in Aurora.
- Dates: From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 3, Dec. 4, Ddec. 10 and Dec. 11. A snow date is set for Dec. 17.
- Tickets: $4 per person, all ages. I don't believe these tickets are available in advance, but I'll try to confirm.
- Details: This is a miniature train. Kids will be able to visit with Santa, see a holiday toy train layout and purchase hot chocolate and cookies.
- More info: Click here or call 630-892-1550.
- The Batavia Park District holds its Polar Express event at the John Duerr Forest Preserve on Route 31 in South Elgin. I assume that means the trips involve the Fox River Trolley Museum, which stops at the forest preserve.
- Dates: Sunday, Dec. 11, at 5:40 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.
- Tickets: N/A. You must pre-register and spots fill up quickly.
- Details: The park district says Santa will appear and hand out a gift to every child.
- More info: Click here or call 630-879-5235.
- For the first time this year, the Geneva Park District is holding its "Polar Express" event at Peck Farm Park (aka The North Pole.)
- Dates: Saturday, Dec. 3, from 10:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Departures will leave Sunset Community Center at 710 Western Avenue every 30 minutes. You can stay at the North Pole as long as you like, then hop the next express back. The event ends at 3 p.m.
- Tickets: Cost is $27 for a resident family of two and $40 for a non-resident family of two. Additional resident children are charged $11, non-resident children are an extra $16. You will want to advance register for this event; space is filling quickly.
- Details: There will be live reindeer, a toy workshop, elves, Santa and Mrs. Claus. Kids can make a toy with the elves in Santa's workshop. Refreshments will be served.
- Note: This does not involve a real train. You will ride a decorated bus to Peck Farm Park.
- More info: Click here or call 630-232-4542.
- The Oswegoland Park District's Holiday Trolley Express involves a trolley trip that leaves from South Point at 810 Preston Lane in Oswego and heads to the "North Pole."
- Dates: Friday, Dec. 9 from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 10 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m; Sunday, Dec. 11 from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Trolleys leave every 20 minutes.
- Tickets: $10 each for residents and $15 each for non-residents. If you register before Nov. 28, it can be done online. After that, registration must be done at the Boulder Point Center in Montgomery.
- Details: The "Polar Express" story is read aboard. When you reach the North Pole, you can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, see live reindeer and enjoy hot cocoa.
- Note: This does not involve a real train, instead you ride through the woods on a trolley. Go West Young Mom enjoyed this trip with her family last year. Click here and make sure to read to the end for the update.
- More information: Click here or call 630-554-1010.
- The West Chicago Park District uses the Metra for its Polar Express event, which starts at the West Chicago Metra station in downtown.
- Dates: Dec. 10 at 1:39 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. or Dec. 17 at 1:39 p.m. or 5:30 p.m
- Tickets: $18 each for residents or $22 each for non-residents. You must register by Nov. 23. No registration will be taken after this date.
- Details: You'll hear the story aboard the train, sing Christms carols and meet with Santa. Each child gets cookies, juice pouch and a gift.
- More information: Click here or call 630-231-9474.
- The miniature Waterman & Western Railroad operates a "Holiday Llights Train" every year, although it is NOT a Polar Express-themed event
- Dates: Opens Saturday, Nov. 26 at 5 p.m. The train's website says the train runs Fridays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 4:30 p.m to 8 p.m. in December and that children can meet Santa during those times.
- Tickets: Free.
- Details: You can click here to read about a Go West Young Mom visit to the "Pumpkin Train." This event features 250,000 lights and figures. Free popcorn and hot chocolate in the heated train station.
- More information: Click here or call 815-264-7753.
- Notes: Again, this is not a Polar Expess-themed event. But I thought it was worth including for those looking for a free, drop-in option involving a holiday train.