Since my toddler LOVES trains, and because this year he was old enough to fully appreciate Santa, I went online searching for something akin to Santa train rides (or a Polar Express experience). I discovered that in Owosso, Michigan, you can buy tickets to ride on the actual Polar Express train — the Pere Marquette 1225 — through the Steam Railroading Institute. The tickets include a stop at the North Pole, and a visit with Santa… and apparently the event sells out quickly. The only thing left, when I got to their booking site, was the caboose — which is for 12 people, and could be rented out for $1500. Not exactly what we were looking for… at least not this year, right?
So I finally found a (more local) alternative. The Southern Michigan Railroad offers Santa train rides in Clinton, Michigan! There were tickets available, both in coach and in the caboose (it costed about $40 for the three of us – baby was free). The 30 minute train ride started and ended at the Clinton Station; and after the ride you could visit Santa inside said station.
The Santa train ride, believe it or not, was perfect for us this year. Toby is nuts about trains, but the 30 minute train ride was just the right length. Anything longer and he would’ve been jumping out of his seat; someone was antsy to see Santa. We reserved seats in the caboose, but due to logistics, on the day of our ride, we did end up sitting in coach. No matter, the ticket price was the same.
When the train arrived back at the station, everyone piled out and raced to the train station to see Santa. Toby loved every minute of it. He was actually so enthralled with the model trains inside the station that he ended up telling Santa he wanted a train (another one, hah) for Christmas. Go figure. Zack happily joined his big brother with Santa for a photo op — we did have to pry that long beard out of some baby fingers afterwards!
Here are some pictures from our train ride to see Santa; enjoy! Click on an image to open in gallery view mode.
The whole Santa experience has been interesting for us this year. We also saw Santa at the country club. And when making plans for dinner that night, we were a little unsure how to proceed (that whole “two Santas” thing). Fortunately, we’d read The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear #afflink, which tactfully addresses why there are Santa bears in all the malls, how Santa can visit houses without chimneys, or travel without snow.
And when the boys get to the age where they begin to question the magic of Santa… I just found the perfect response: How to Ensure You Don’t Botch the “Is Santa Real?” Conversation. Seriously. Read that post. It is magical. And so sweet. And is the perfect way to focus on the giving, sharing, joyful aspects of Christmas rather than the “let down” of a shattered dream about Santa. I’m not sure how my parents handled the Santa conversation; frankly, I don’t remember. But Santa was only an accessory to Christmas for me, growing up.
And that’s how we want things to be around here for our boys. Yes, Santa is great. I want them to experience the magic of Santa… the joy of setting out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. But Santa has his place. He’s not the main reason for Christmas, but a symbol of selfless giving. I don’t want Santa to get the credit for the best gifts! (yes, I’m selfish that way, lol). So we’ve relegated Santa’s offerings to the stockings… and one or two gifts to be placed under the tree in the wee hours of Christmas morning.
How do you celebrate Christmas? Do you acknowledge Santa’s “existence” or do you fill your kids in on the real deal? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!