December 2008 Issue
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Vivian Pospisil and Ilona Westfall
Mark your 2009 calendar now: The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s wildly popular re-creation of The Polar Express sells out every year. Tickets are available only via lottery, beginning in August and ending in mid-September.
The lucky ticket buyers (40,000 people will take the trip this year) are invited to don their sleepwear and climb aboard a festively decorated train that spirits them away for an evening of pure Christmas wonder. The train departs from Independence, Akron and Canton, before heading to Santa’s hometown.
Once on board, the children enjoy hot cocoa and cookies and hear Van Allsburg’s magical tale. They sing Christmas carols as they are whisked by the snow-capped evergreens of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
As the train pulls up to the North Pole, the sight of elves, busy making toys in Santa’s workshop and then loading them into his horse-drawn sleigh, delights the riders. Then, a sleigh pulls up to the train and Santa Claus joins the eager children on board.
“[The kids] are just in disbelief,” says Kelly Steele, director of marketing for the railroad. “They truly believe they’re transported to the North Pole. Getting to see Santa, it’s very magical.”
The train then heads back to the station, with Santa making his way through the cars and greeting each child, the perfect end to an enchanting evening.
Can’t get tickets to this year’s Polar Express? Try one of the railroad’s other holiday excursions: The Christmas Tree Adventure, Saturdays and Sundays Dec. 6–14, offers families the opportunity to ride to a Christmas tree farm and cut their own tree; and Mr. Jingeling’s Holiday Express, Saturdays and Sundays through December, features the Northeast Ohio holiday icon —“Keeper of the Keys” to Santa’s workshop — who hands out his magical keys to passengers.