How to Plan a Wintertime Polar Express Vacation in Arizona

How to Plan a Wintertime Polar Express Vacation in Arizona image by Melissa Hincha-Ownby

Williams, Arizona is the home of the Grand Canyon Railway. Each year, beginning in November, the Grand Canyon Railway opens its Polar Express service. As travelers on the Polar Express make their way to the North Pole, they share in the story of "The Polar Express," a book written by Chris Van Allsburg. Hot cocoa, cookies and a surprise visit by Santa Claus await the mostly pajama-clad passengers. A trip on the Polar Express makes for a fun wintertime family vacation.


Step 1

Visit the Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express webpage to determine this year’s availability dates. The Polar Express is usually active from the beginning of November through early January.

Step 2

Choose your desired date and time; there are both weekend and weekday nights available. The train leaves each night at 6:00 p.m., but certain nights have a second train available. Trains that run on nights with two runs will have a second, 8:00 p.m. departure time.

Step 3

Browse the Polar Express Package to see if it suits your vacation plans. The package includes your trip to the North Pole, a one-night stay at the adjacent Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and dinner and breakfast at the Railway Max & Thelma’s Restaurant.

Step 4

Check for hotels in nearby Flagstaff, Arizona if there are no rooms available at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Flagstaff is about a 30-minute drive from Williams along Interstate 40. The Flagstaff Convention & Visitors Bureau website has a comprehensive listing of hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and cabin rentals in the Flagstaff area.

Step 5

Call 1-800-THE-TRAIN to reserve your train ride. The Polar Express tickets sell out every year so it is important to make your reservations as early as possible in the year.

Tips and Warnings

The weather can be very cold, especially for an 8:00 p.m. departure. Bring blankets to use while you wait for your train to depart. Plan at least two days for this trip if you are travlling from anywhere outside of Northern Arizona, as driving times can be long. Those who are prone to motion sickness may find that the rocking motion of the train makes them feel a little queasy.

About this Author

Melissa Hincha-Ownby has been providing web content since 2006. Hincha-Ownby writes for a variety of online publications including the Mother Nature Network, Suite 101, and "Attachment Parenting International." Hincha-Ownby is entering her final semester in the Technical Communication program at Arizona State University.

Photo by: Melissa Hincha-Ownby

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