In Lisle, Illinois, just west of Chicago, a captivating Christmas tale magically comes to life for wide eyed children of all ages. The 2004 animated adventure, The Polar Express, was originally a beloved book written by Chris Van Allsburg and published back in 1985. The movie, starring Tom Hanks, vividly depicts a doubtful young boy’s mystical voyage into the North Pole. In west suburban Chicago, this feel good story about faith and the importance to believe in something, becomes an enchanting, hands-on experience that makes it’s beginnings at the Lisle Metra Train Station every holiday season.
Excited young travelers board the train for a 75 minute Sunday afternoon, festive escapade along Illinois’ smooth rails. Guests are greeted by a fleet of Santa’s elves as they find their seats aboard the train. Once comfortably seated they are warmly welcomed to the Polar Express and soon embark upon an unforgettable holiday journey. While heading towards Chicago’s Union Station and the city’s magnificent skyline, a cheerful narrator reads the famous book aloud. After story time, song lyrics are passed out and children are encouraged to sing joyful Christmas carols. Guests can also participate in some creative holiday trivia and win candy prizes.
Next, Santa Claus comes around delivering good wishes and candy canes while asking each party what special gifts are on their wish lists. Costumed characters like Mrs. Claus, the Grinch, Snow White, Belle, Scrooge and Tiny Tim also pay a friendly visit. As the train smoothly makes its way back to Lisle, children are given little bags of “reindeer dust” and are encouraged to sprinkle the magic concoction on their lawns back home to attract Santa’s four legged travel team.
Finally, each and every guest aboard the Polar Express is presented with a precious golden bell, reminiscent of one of the movie’s whimsical themes: only those who believe in Santa Claus can hear the bells ring.
Other villages in and around the Chicagoland area and also around the country are hosting similar Polar Express events. Some participating Illinois towns include: Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn, LaGrange and Western Springs. Most towns charge over $20.00 per ticket and even more if you’re a non-resident. The Lisle Polar Express only costs $10.00 per person whether you’re a resident or not. Be sure to make reservations at least a month in advance because tickets do sell quickly. This annual event usually takes place in early December but for specific information log onto the town’s website at www.lislechamber.com.