Thursday, November 22, 2012
Polar Express with Mount Hood Railroad - Our Experience
On Wednesday, November 21 my children dawned their PJs and we headed out for the evening to go on our scenic journey towards Hood River, Oregon to go on the Polar Express at Mount Hood Railroad. We stopped along the way and a magnificent rainbow arched across the sky. We took highway 14 on the Washington side and I was sure glad we did because the scenic drive was so gorgeous. It was raining a lot though so I didn't get my camera out for most of it. We fist saw Cape Horn and it is pictured above. We also saw some absolutely breathtaking waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge. We couldn't tell which ones we were seeing from the highway, but some of the waterfalls include: Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Horsetail Falls and Multnomah Falls. Even from the distance we were, they were all spectacular. We caught a glimpse of Beacon Rock as we drove. It was large and it looked like it was cut out from the surrounding landscape. We also passed the Bonneville Dam which I also would have loved to see up close. Then we passed the Bridge of the Gods. The wind blown trees along the highway were one-sided because of the high amount of wind that goes through the valley, hence the name of the nearby river, Wind River. There is also a stretch of highway 14 that goes through a total of 5 tunnels that I counted located between Stevenson and White Salmon in the lovely valley of Skamania. Then we went over Spring Creek and I wish we could have stopped to go see the fish hatchery that was there.
We finally arrived at the toll bridge to Hood River, Oregon and went across. We arrived at the Mount Hood Railroad and got the tickets at the call desk. While we waited for the train to arrive we looked at the many items in the gift shop and display cabinets. Then it was time to board. As we were boarding we were greeted by the train chefs :) The last picture of the chef is our train car. Brian wanted me to take a picture of the train wheels because they looked neat.
We seated ourselves and put our coats and bags in the upper rack. We had coach seats and I guess they are more traditional like the seating you see in the Polar Express movie. The train car was decorated with nice Christmas garlands, lights, bows, and ornaments. It felt very festive.
As soon as all the passengers had boarded the conductor greeted each family and punched the Polar Express golden tickets we were given. He was punching them close to Delbin's head so he got some clippings in his hair.
Then we were underway on our ride to the North Pole. Shortly after we were moving we were served cookies on a napkin and hot chocolate in Styrofoam cups. I was expecting mugs and plates, but I guess this was coach, so not as fancy. I wish we had gotten carbohydrate information for Delbin (he has type 1 diabetes) ahead of time because it took forever for the servers to track any down. They do not have the nutritional information on their website and for those of us with diet restrictions this would be very helpful. They also almost forgot about giving us any refreshments after a while passed and we had to remind them. Unfortunately they didn't have any straws and I was ill equipped as well with no sippy cup for Zari. The cups were easily spilled in the hands of my toddler, so I tried to manage by letting her have a couple of sips here and there, but this was very tedious. At least the hot chocolate was not scalding.
As we got closer to our destination the Polar Express story was read to us. The reader stopped to show the pictures to us at every page turn which was nice. He also tried to put as much feeling into the reading as he could muster. I am sure reading the story over and over gets a little old after a while.
We were interrupted many times while on the train by a loud "bum", Hobo Jo, (one of the characters of the movie) that said crazy things and tweaked the kids' noses as he passed. He interacted well with the kids and was pretty funny to watch.
We finally got to the North Pole and were directed to look out the far window. The inside lights were fairly bright and since it was so dark outside by contrast we couldn't see much except for the Christmas lights and dancing shadows of the elves. I would have loved to see Santa's reindeer better that were looking at us from below. We never got off the train to actually see Santa's workshop and the North Pole like I thought we were going to do originally. I was also thinking that the display would be better seen in the dark and that was why I picked the 4:30pm departure time, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. They really need to have the outside display more lit up next year!
Then after we waited a bit Santa's elves and the jolly man himself joined us on board the train for a picture and gave my kids each a large bell like the one given in the movie. The Santa definitely looked the part with his real beard. The elves were dressed merrily, although my husband said that I would have made a better elf because of how short I am in comparison. Santa was definitely the best part of the whole train ride.
The trip was fairly short. It basically consisted of the ride to the North Pole and a reverse leg back on what I believed to be the same track. On the return leg of the trip we sang Christmas carols. Most of the passengers were trying to remember the words and it felt a bit awkward to be singing in front of strangers, but at least we were trying to make it heart felt.
Even with everything not going as I had hoped we enjoyed our first time on the Polar Express at Mount Hood Railroad. My children will treasure the bells that they received and remember this time we had as a family together. It was a nice retreat from everyday life.
For my participation in the US Family Guide Polar Express Promotion I received 4 FREE coach seats valid weekdays in November and chose to buy 2 more for my girls to go also.
Thanks to USFamilyGuide.com for providing me this opportunity and Polar Express at Mount Hood Railroad for hosting it. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for posting this review.