The Polar Express in Williams Review


The Polar Express in Williams ReviewToday I’m sharing all about our trip and our review of The Polar Express train ride in Williams, Arizona with a toddler.

There’s a few different North Pole/Santa experiences in Northern Arizona, and we chose to do The Polar Express based on feedback we’d gotten from friends and family who had done both this one and the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff. The Polar Express was generally agreed on as the better option for younger kiddos. 

Keep reading for tips and tricks for making the experience magical, and for where to stay in Williams!



Best place to stay for The Polar Express in Williams

We booked the cutest vacation rental that was a five minute drive to the train station, and I’d rent it again in a heartbeat. Booking info here.

It was a great location, plus the owners had decorated it for the holidays, complete with outdoor lights and inside, there were wreaths, a six-foot tall Christmas tree and other holiday details throughout the home. 

The backyard was also great for parents and kids: 


-for kids, it was huge for running around (and was fully fenced in)

-for adults, it had a hot tub for after kiddos were asleep 

Other backyard amenities for families included a firepit, cornhole set and grill. 

Do most families wear pjs?

The Polar Express in Williams ReviewThere are a lot of large families (extended family with grandparents, adult siblings and their spouses and kids) who coordinate pj outfits. 

The night we were there, I’d say about half of the adults had pjs on, but closer to 100% of all kids wear holiday pjs, and it’s so cute! 

We opted for my two-year-old to wear his pjs and we wore festive, holiday clothing, but not pajamas. 

There’s a few great photo opportunities, so if you do love family photos, plan ahead for something festive to maximize these opps. 

Should I bring a stroller to the Polar Express?

If you’re on the fence about bringing a stroller, I’d recommend not bringing it. 

The distance from the parking lot to the train platform is quite short, and strollers aren’t allowed on the train near passengers. Families who did have strollers had to quickly take their child out of the stroller, break the stroller down, coordinate getting it to the designated stroller area between train cars and rush back to their seats (or leave them at the depot).

If you have an infant and baby wear at all, this is an ideal time for babywearing. 

Is there food available prior to the Polar Express taking off?

There’s a restaurant at the train station, or lots of dining in downtown Williams, which is minutes from the train. 

The Fred Harvey Restaurant (on property) is a buffet style restaurant and can get pricey for families (kids 4+ are $17 and adults are $26).

On the train, riders receive a chocolate chip cookie and hot cocoa. We did pack some mess free snacks (like pouches, puffs, etc.) as well. 

What to bring on the Polar Express

The Polar Express in Williams ReviewThis is a historic train, so things are a bit tight. Only bring what you really need (coats, diaper bag, etc). 

I wish we would’ve brought our own copy of the storybook, The Polar Express. Each train car’s attendant carries the book down the aisle of the train for kids to see each page while it’s read aloud over the sound system onboard, so if we were to do the experience again, I’d bring our own copy to follow along. 


What other activities are there at the Polar Express?

The Polar Express in Williams ReviewThere’s a story time with Mrs. Claus and pictures with Mr. Claus, but the night we were there, the crowds were so intense we skipped these activities because the lines were so big, and the crowds were pushy. 

There’s lots of photo opps, like having kids stand on the Naughty or Nice Meter to see if they might be expecting a lump of coal in their stockings! There’s also staff Elves who wander around the platform throughout the evening. 

Overall, we had a memory making night aboard the Polar Express, but the crowds were intense. 

If your family doesn’t do well with pushy crowds, this may not be a great activity for you. 

We were honestly a bit disappointed with how rude a lot of families were with adults pushing and shoving to get their kids ahead of others at all the platform activities and photo opps. The crowd control by the train staff isn’t enforced, so to us, it felt like there was a lack of common courtesy family to family. I hope this was a one-off night, but it was our experience, so wanted to share!


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