Ticket Alert: Polar Express in Old Town Sacramento (2021) - 510 Families
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Ticket Alert: Polar Express in Old Town Sacramento (2021)

ALERT: You have to become a member of the California Railroad Museum by August 30 to qualify for early tickets, and you can buy up to 8 tickets per membership. The public sale begins on September 28. 

My favorite family holiday tradition is a ride on the Polar Express in Old Town Sacramento! Passengers take a 1 hour round trip train ride up to the “North Pole” to see Santa and his elves in the workshop. Santa Claus joins the train to pass out a silver sleigh bell to each child (just like the one in The Polar Express movie!) and ask what they want for Christmas, of course.

Polar Express Old Sacramento Santa
The Polar Express in Old Town Sacramento includes a visit with Santa Claus!

These special Santa Claus Polar Express train rides depart Wednesday to Sunday from November 26 to December 19, with multiple departure times each day: 3:30 pm, 5 pm, 6:30 pm, and 8 pm (with an extra weekend matinee at 2 pm). Ticket prices begin at $45 each. There are a few different types of cars – having ridden in all of them at one point or another, I don’t have a strong preference and they’ve all been great. Children under 2 years of age are free and must be seated on an adult’s lap.

New in 2019: Ride an open-air sleigh car and save a bit on ticket prices.

What to expect at the Station:

All tickets can be picked up at the Central Pacific Passenger Station at the corner of Front and J Streets in Old Town Sacramento.

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Arrive at the station up to an hour early to secure your tickets and enjoy the atmosphere. The whole station is full of Christmas cheer. It’s decked out with presents, trees, and, of course, real trains! There’s a mail train, a mailbox, and a letter-writing area so you can write letters to Santa on the spot. There’s a little cafe and some restrooms to use – very important because there are no restrooms on the train! You’ll have lots of chances to take festive pictures with the train and holiday backdrops.

Write a letter to Santa on the Polar Express Old Sacramento
Write a letter to Santa Claus!

If you’ve seen the movie you know that everybody wears their pajamas on The Polar Express. About half of the riders on this one do, which is tons of fun!

Boarding is done in lanes based on which car you’re in, and it is pretty orderly. You can line up early for your train car but to be quite honest it doesn’t really matter unless you’re with a large group, because everyone will get a seat. There may be an appearance from the “Hobo” character in the movie, and a few carols as well.

What to expect on the Polar Express Train:

The station attendants will help your group find a seat in your assigned train car. This may be a table, a couch, or a 2-seat bench, depending on the ticket you’ve purchased.

Soon after departing the station, some lively folks will perform the “Hot Chocolate” song and dance from the movie, and pass out hot chocolates and snickerdoodles to everyone. You can easily sneak your own snacks onboard, especially if you have littler ones!

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Make it a weekend in Old Town Sacramento!

Sacramento all dressed up in lights for the holidays
Sacramento all dressed up in lights for the holidays

We like to get tickets for Saturday and a sleepover in Old Town Sacramento for even more holiday fun. The area is covered in Christmas lights and there are nightly free live-action shows about Christmas and California history that take place on the balconies of the buildings. For a totally walkable weekend, you can stay nearby in Old Town. With one kid or multiple rooms, you can stay on the Delta King, an old paddle boat that’s been restored and converted into a hotel. Or, there is a Riverfront Embassy Suites with family rooms nearby as well.

{More about an Amtrak Adventure to Sacramento here.}

Be sure to save time to visit the California State Railroad Museum, which is a treat for all ages! And, heck, you’re probably a member now, right?

At the train yard Old Town Sacramento
At the train yard Old Town Sacramento

How to buy your tickets to the Sacramento Polar Express:

Tickets go on sale to the general public on October 1st this year, at the Polar Express website. But these tickets sell out fast, especially for the weekend nights! If you become a member of the California Railroad Museum, you can get earlier access to tickets.

Reminder: You have to become a member of the California Railroad Museum by August 30 to qualify for the early tickets, and you can buy up to 8 tickets per membership.

For additional information, contact the Sacramento Railroad Museum at 916-445-8270 or info@csrmf.org

[All photos by Karen Merzenich; all rights reserved]

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