By Michelle Gillan Larkin
The mercury hit the 70 degree mark this past week, which means it’s the perfect time to start thinking about — yep, you guessed it — Christmas! Alright, while it may be a bit too early to make your list and check it twice, it’s not too soon to book a ride on a Christmas train—particularly the North Pole Express and Santa Special at the Essex Steam Train in Connecticut. Ticket sales are already well underway, and tend to sell out before anyone has even had the chance to say, “trick or treat.”
Operated by the historic Valley Railroad Company and located in Essex (about an hour and a half north of Westchester), the North Pole Express takes riders on a magical, evening-time journey to the North Pole. Each car of the vintage locomotive is transformed into a stage for a live musical performance of “The Night Before Christmas,” followed by a festive singalong with Santa Claus and his better half. Hot chocolate and sugar cookies are served by Santa’s elves, and kids (who are encouraged to wear their jammies) will be handed a small gift by the big guy himself. Tickets to this 90-minute ride are selling like hotcakes, and cost $32 or $65 for a first class seat. Kids under two ride free on a lap.
If a daytime excursion is more your speed, then the Santa Special is your ticket to ride. Here, too, passengers will get an up close and personal with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, plus Rudolph will be on board to spread the holiday cheer, along with a big, stuffed penguin named Pablo. Santa’s elves pass out token gifts to the kids, presenting possibly the perfect photo op for this year’s Christmas card. Just like the more popular North Pole Express, tickets are being snatched up for this hour-long ride and cost $20 or $40 for first class. Again, lap kids under two don’t cost a dime.
Essex Steam Train, 1 Railroad Avenue, Essex, CT; 860-767-0103