The Polar Express - Chicago Union Station
Updated: Dec 14, 2023
This weekend we took a ride on the best holiday attraction in the city of Chicago and it was magical. When we heard the Chicago Polar Express train ride was coming back to Union Station we did not hesitate to grab tickets. Union Station is a site to see in itself with high marble ceilings and stunning arhichetecure. The holidays sure add a special flair with a gorgeous tree and decor around the main lobby. This is the perfect event to add to your holiday list of activities this year and for years to come!
The Polar Express holds a release countdown on their website so it is important to mark your calendars each year - once they open sales, they sell out quickly! Each coach on the Polar Express offers the same class of service so you won't miss out depending on where you sit or what car you sit in. We loved that you are able to pick your seats from the seating chart, this makes it easy for large parties to find seats close together. Lap Infants under the age of two ride for free with an Adult. Adult tickets are $80 + fees and children ages 2 - 11 are $72 + fees. The tickets are pricey, but well worth the memories. The onboard performace is designed to accomodate all passengers so there isn't a "bad seat" in the coach. Seats are assigned to a designated person upon checkout and held at will-call so be sure to assign someone to pick them up upon arrival. Knowing what we know now, we would have purchased tickets across the isle from each other rather than infront of one another which would have made it easier to interact, this is a great tip for groups planning an event together.
Driving in from the suburbs can be a bit daunting when you have an event to attend, especially when it comes to parking & construction. We posted a questionnaire in our stories (on instagram) and recieved tons of suggestions and advice! Thank you all! Here are some tips:
Spot hero / ParkWhiz
Take the metra to the city
Street parking is avabile - pay to park
We both ended up finding parking one and two blocks away which was very convienient although we didnt mind the walk on a nice 50 degree day in December!
Once inside the station, you enter a designated room with dimmed lights, projected snowflakes and a consciere desk. This is where you will pick up your tickets and wait for the performance to begin! This room has a desk + mailbox for kids to write and mail their letters to Santa. The Polar Express film was streaming in the back corner and there are ample pieces of decor for photo ops located around the room. We made sure to get there an hour early (always anticipate a long line or a hiccup with tickets at will-call). The staff was extremely organized and moved everyone through their reservation quickly. We even had time to tour the station, let the kids run off some energy and check out the food court.
The performance began promtly at noon with two actors kicking off the festivites. Once the golden tickets were waved in the air, the show began and we were led through the grand lobby, into a designated door where a red carpet guided passengers to the coach cars. Police lined the path making us feel safe and secure. The final destination was where the MAGIC began! Dark tents lined with Christmas lights helped to set the stage for what was to come. Each coach car had a sign and number next to the boarding platform (easy and convient) to direct guests. Traveling with a stroller? Not a problem! There was a designated area next to these signs where families could park their strollers - we loved this for the smaller kiddos and parents.
Once on board, our car hosts worked thier way through the coach punching golden tickets and we were served hot chocolate with delicious Walker's Shortbread by dancing chefs. During the trip characters from the story pass through each car performing on board entertainment, just like the movie! We read along with the classic children'sbook, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. Santa and his helpers board the train to greet the passengers and each guest was given a keep sake silver sleigh bell. Much to our suprise the train DOES move - we had a few questions about whether the experience was stationary or mobile. The cast on our car was very friendly and talented, they walked around with a microphone and encouraged the kids to participate by singing along or answering holiday triva. They even remembered Sonny and Remi's names which made the experience all the more magical.
The event lasted about 90 mintues, ending with a dance party to get the kids up and out of their seats. The event is designed for kids and we loved it! We were even offered wipes and napkins when a hot chocolate took a spill! One final piece of advice, don't forget your jammies - holiday flannels are encouraged for the entire family! Thank you Polar Express for this amazing holiday trip! We couldn't be happier with our trip to the North Pole.
X0 - Katie & Amanda