Monday, December 22, 2014

Polar Express 2014

Way back in 2006 we heard about this Polar Express train ride through the mountains.  As relatively new parents of 2 and 4 year old boys, deep in the spirit of Christmas, we thought it would be a great opportunity!  So we bought tickets, grabbed my parents, piled into the manvan and headed north into the Great Smokey Mountains. 

And it WAS a great day!  We enjoyed a drive through the mountains, did some shopping, and had a great time on the train.  We drank hot chocolate from paper cups and took home small jingle bells on tiny pieces of red ribbon.  We had Christmas fun!

Spencer and Quinn - 2006

Even if the actual train ride was a little bit of a letdown*.

*It's hard to be overly impressed with events like this after you have been to Disney World.  I'm not knocking this or any other low budget production.  It's just a fact.  Disney has spoiled us all to expect not only a fun time, but nothing short of immersion into a fantasy.  The Polar Express ride with the Disney touch applied would have had the entire route along the train tracks rid of garbage and undesirable views.  We would not have seen the low income housing units.  We would have been shielded from anything undecorated or unclean.  There would have been fake snow and Christmas lights for miles.  The destination, the North Pole, would have been spectacularly laid out and designed with every detail perfectly in place.  Santa would have a sea of elves and the Christmas cheer would be non-stop from start to finish. 

But one thing would be the same - the people we rode with and the fun we had.  Even the magic of Disney can't top spending a day with the people I love most in this world. 

We decided after that first trip that it was a nice time, but not something we were in a hurry to repeat.

And then we had another set of boys.  And we got to start the whole process over again.  I've written many times about how blessed I feel to be able to relive - quite literally - some of the best parts of being a parent.  (Also the bad stuff...  but it's easy to get through that stuff when you know it's just a passing phase.) 

Sharing Christmas with kids is right up there with one of the best things God could have ever given us as thanks for raising a family.

At 3 and 5 our little boys are smack in the middle of the Christmas sweet spot.  They delight in everything they see.  Driving around looking at lights with them is enough BY ITSELF to renew your Christmas spirit.  They believe - REALLY BELIEVE - in the Christmas magic.  And looking through their eyes it's easy to get swept along in the true magic of the season. 

Christmas with kids is MAGICAL!

We decided it was time to make another trip to the North Pole via the Polar Express.  So we bought tickets, grabbed my parents, and headed north into the Great Smokey Mountains. 

And it was a GREAT day!

We got to town early and had coffee at a quaint little shop.  We wondered around cute little antique stores and had a quick lunch before boarding our train. 

We were delighted in the upgraded insulated cups - with lids - and the addition of a chocolate chip cookie snack.  We laughed and cuddled and thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas music along the way.  We even got to hear the whole Polar Express story before Santa got on board. 

All the boys had a chance to talk to Santa briefly and they all got their bells.  These bells are a significant improvement over the bells of 8 years ago.  These ones are stamped with "The Polar Express" and are Christmas tree ornament worthy.

Beck really enjoyed his hot chocolate!
It was a great trip!  Maybe one we will never do again, but I will cherish the memories we made along the way. 

This really is the most wonderful time of the year!

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