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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

South Elgin: Polar Express ride at An Almost Winter Day

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee
With snow on the ground today and Christmas carols playing in the stores, it is now undeniable that ye olde holiday season is upon us. Here in the land of Kids Who Love Trains, that means I should be gearing up for the seasonal delight of many a family: The Polar Express Christmas train ride. These rides, put on by many park districts and other community groups, feature a reading of the popular storybook by Chris Van Allsburg and a visit by Santa. Unfortunately, despite many years as mom to a railroad fanatic, we have never actually participated in any of the dozens of December rides in the area because:
  1. I'm a cheapskate frugal manager of my family's financial resources. 
  2. Crowds = cranky parents. (Someday my kids may share with therapists the humiliation of being  dressed in matching neon  -- and easy to locate -- outfits whenever we hit the town, but that means I was, in fact, successful in not loosing them amid the mob.)
  3. I'm still learning to plan family activities more than 24 hours in advance. 
It's that last point that is the real issue here for anyone wanting to enjoy the Polar Express experience. I would love to give you a full listing of all your Christmas train ride options. Fortunately, that work has been compiled by other sites so all of us can get a jump on our holiday scheduling for 2014 because if you, like me, don't already have tickets in hand for a St. Nick on a train experience, we're probably out of luck. These events are hugely popular and sell out weeks, if not months in advance. Generally, it's just not a "Hey, what should we do this weekend?" kind of activity. Don't despair, though, if someone in your house had their heart set on a festive ride on the rails. For the procrastinators among us, or those who are simply ready to jump into the holiday spirit nice and early, South Elgin has an event to try. 

This Saturday, Nov. 16, South Elgin's SEBA Park will be the site of An Almost Winter Day. Several Christmas-themed activities are planned, including a ride from the Trolley Museum to the Jon Duerr Forest Preserve as a reading of the Polar Express is presented. No reservations are accepted, so plan your afternoon accordingly. Kids and their families will also be able to enjoy activities such as a petting zoo, s'mores making, sleigh rides, and cookie decorating. Santa is expected at 4:30 p.m. and the community's Christmas tree lighting will happen at 5 p.m. at the Footprints in Time Plaza. Everything gets started at 3 p.m. and wraps up with the the tree lighting. 

By the way, as you are making plans for last-minute Christmas activities this year and thinking ahead to next year's calendar, keep in mind that what was once a "Polar Express ride" may become a "Santa train ride." Concerns over copyright infringement mean that groups offering these rides either need to pay royalties (and raise fees) or redesign their program. The show will go on, but the name of the activity may change. 

Also, tickets for the 2014 Polar Express ride at the Fox River Trolley Museum go on sale June 1, 2014!

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