Head north on the Polar Express

All Aboard!” Are you coming? Where, you might ask? This time of year all trains head north— to the North Pole on the Polar Express.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg was published as a children’s story more than 20 years ago. In the book, a young boy who isn’t sure if Santa is real anymore, wakes up to find a train in his backyard. He is transported in his pajamas via the Polar Express to meet the big, jolly guy in person.

It’s Santa’s tradition to choose one of the children from the Polar Express to receive the first gift of Christmas. When the little boy is chosen, he asks for a bell from Santa’s sleigh. To his disappointment, on the way back home, he realizes there is a hole in his pocket and the bell is gone.

But when he awakes the next morning, there is a small package from Santa. Inside is the coveted sleigh bell. When the boy jingles the bell, only children can hear it as long as they believe in Santa. Once they stop believing in the magic of Santa, the bell is silent.

This wonderful book has spawned many offshoots. The Polar Express movie is shown at local IMAX theaters before Christmas, including showings at the Navy Pier IMAX theater. Check your local listings to find one in your area.

Another fun way to experience the magic of the Polar Express is to take a train ride. A variety of local park districts, such as the Glen Ellyn and West Chicago Park Districts, and places like the Blackberry Farm Pioneer Village in Aurora offer Polar Express rides. Children can listen to the story while they travel to the North Pole (a local train station where Santa waits.)

On these rides, children can usually talk briefly to Santa and receive their own magic bell. On some rides, Santa takes the train back home with them so they can visit a bit longer.

Whether you read the book, see the movie or ride the train, the Polar Express is about the magic of the holidays. Thanks to this magical story, the bell can still ring for you.

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