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All aboard: Brightline’s Polar Express is magical 

Jennifer Jhon
Contact ReporterSouth Florida Parenting

Want to experience the magic of Christmas? Brightline has just the ticket with The Polar Express, a special train that takes riders to “the North Pole” on Saturdays and Sundays – plus Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day – through Jan. 1.

“The Polar Express,” a children’s book made famous by the 2004 movie starring Tom Hanks, is all about believing in the big man, aka Santa Claus, and this train makes that belief easy.

‘This is a critical year for you’

The ride depicted in the movie is re-created on The Polar Express, a one-hour trip that leaves from and returns to Brightline’s Fort Lauderdale station. Riders get a special golden ticket that is stamped once you board the train.

Entertainers are assigned to each car – greeting guests as car hosts, punching tickets to create a shower of gold above each guest, and playing out scenes and singing songs from the movie.

They also play the part of the chefs who balance trays of hot chocolate while they sing and dance down the center aisle of the train cars.

‘Would anyone like some refreshment?’

The hot chocolate, thankfully, is served warm – not hot – in lidded paper cups to minimize messes, and the drinks are accompanied by delicious, individually wrapped sugar cookies in small paper bags.

The packaging makes it easy for families with food allergies to bring their own individually wrapped cookies and drinks and still stay in the magic of the moment.

Window or aisle?

The entertainment on board the train is almost constant, but it is well-done and not intrusive. Guests are encouraged to participate in the festivities, but they can also sit back and enjoy the show quietly. The action of The Polar Express happens inside the cars, making the aisles the premium seats. The window shades are pulled down to minimize distractions.

The first gift of Christmas

The wonder of The Polar Express is how perfectly timed the experience is. The ride includes one stop for a caribou crossing and another at the North Pole for Santa to board. While we waited for the big man, car hosts helped with a reading of “The Polar Express,” letting guests turn the pages and examine the illustrations in the award-winning book.

When Santa arrived, several children raced up the aisle to give him the letters they had written on special postcards provided inside the Brightline station. He then visited each young guest, giving them their first gift of Christmas: a silver sleigh bell.

Jingle bells

With the sound of bells filling the car after Santa’s visit, the caroling came easy as the train returned to the station. Car hosts led the singing, and the kids got some of their hot-chocolate-and-cookies energy out with vigorous ringing.

It was loud, but it was also my favorite part of the trip. My kids, who are on the “is he or isn’t he” line, couldn’t stop talking about Santa and the “B” for “belief” stamped on their golden tickets. Seeing their amazement made the experience more real and left me longing to be a kid again.

If you go

Brightline’s Polar Express trains begin and end in Fort Lauderdale. The 10 a.m., 12 and 2 p.m. rides are priced at value rates ($50-$55) in November and standard rates ($60-$65) in December. The later trains, at 4, 6 and 8 p.m., are ticketed at standard rates in November and peak rates ($65-$70) in December. Christmas weekend is priced at peak rates for all trains, and November rates apply to trains after Christmas. The experience is the same for each guest, regardless of ticket price.

Passengers should arrive one hour before departure to park, go through security and check in at Brightline’s Fort Lauderdale Station, 101 NW Second Ave. Guests can receive a 25 percent discount on Smart rides to Fort Lauderdale from West Palm Beach and Miami using the code BLPOLAR, and ages 12 and under ride free.

Each seat has a tray for hot chocolate and cookies. Limited, facing table seats can be purchased in parties of two or four at an adult rate, just choose those seats during checkout. Use the promo code EARLYBIRD to save $10 per ticket on Nov. 17 and 18.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit ftlthepolarexpressride.com or call 754-209-0214.

editor@sfparenting.com, jjhon@sunsentinel.com, 954-574-5316 or Twitter @sfparenting

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