Holiday Travel

The Ultimate Christmas Adventure on the Polar Express Arizona

The Polar Express ride on Grand Canyon Railway is a truly magical experience for kids...and parents

This year, we wanted to give the kids an ultimate Christmas experience and decided to go big with the holiday magic by taking the kids on the real Polar Express Arizona train ride experience. For parents, Christmas is a crazy, hectic and an expensive time of year. For children, it is the season of excitement, cheer and magic. The best present I could receive as a mom is seeing the look of absolute joy on my sweet babies’ faces as they experience the wonder and whimsy of the happiest season of all.

In my family, Christmas is not just one day of opening a million presents, it is a month long celebration of getting together with family and partaking in seasonal festivities. Don’t get me wrong, presents are fun and my kids get their fair share of goodies thanks to grandparents and Santa, but it is not the main focus of the holiday. Toys, they will eventually lose interest in, but memorable experiences will give them stories they can share for a life time.

For about a week before, we had the Polar Express movie on repeat in our home to get the kids psyched for their impending Christmas adventure. Now, my husband was a bit of a Negative Nancy about this trip in the beginning. “I hope I don’t have to drive in the snow.” “An eight-hour road-trip with the kids doesn’t sound fun.” Blah. Blah. Blah. Thankfully, I am a professional memory-maker. We did it. We loved it. We’re doing it again!!

Disclaimer: Links in this page are meant to help you find relevant information and book attractions easier by linking directly to specific pages on partner websites (i.e. TripAdvisor, If you click a link, we may earn a small commission on transactions. This helps support the cost of running our website, and it adds absolutely no extra cost to you as the consumer. Thank you, we appreciate your support! You can read more on our disclosure policy.

Video of our family on the Polar Express Train with kids:

Save on the Polar Express in Williams Arizona

Polar Express Package at Grand Canyon Railway Hotel

The Polar Express Arizona is a very popular activity and books up fast. In fact, my sister and I booked our package about six months prior to our trip. The package saves you 10% and includes your Polar Express tickets as well as our accommodations and buffet dinner.

I recommend booking well in advance, not only to ensure your spot on this magical train, but who wants to spend that kind of money right before Christmas? Book early so the monetary burden isn’t so intense.

Don’t try to save money by trying to find cheaper accommodations. I recommend The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, because it not only enhances The Polar Express Williams, AZ experience, it makes life a whole lot easier for families. Everything is easily accessible from the hotel, including dining, shops and railway. There is even an area to let the kids play in the snow.

Sometimes with bigger groups it is more cost effective to book the room and train separately, because the resort might upgrade the room to accommodate more people. However, when you factor convenience into the equation, The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is the best value.

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Where to stay near the Polar Express in Williams, AZ

Christmas at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel for the Polar Express

Grand Canyon Railway Hotel

233 N Grand Canyon Blvd, Williams, AZ 86046-2563

Charming. Cozy. Convenient. Festive. Lovely. Yep, that pretty much sums up The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. I’m all about the experience so staying at The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is a major part of The Polar Express Arizona train adventure. The resort is a quaint two-story hotel with a welcoming homey atmosphere, bursting with holiday décor. Families pose in their Christmas jammies for photo opportunities in front of the towering Christmas tree and grand fire place. Hello Christmas card!

Everything you need is at your fingertips. We didn’t need our car for our entire stay, because everything we wanted to do was on the premises. Not having to load and unload my kids into car seats was a nice change of pace.

Parents can take time to enjoy a refreshing libation at the pub or have fun shopping for mementos at the gift shop. I’m writing this blog as I sip hot coffee from my souvenir Polar Express hot coco mug which is fashioned after the mugs the children are served in movie. Hot-Hot-Hot. I got it!

Spenser's Pub at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams Arizona

The onsite pub, Spenser’s, is intimate, warm and perfect for grabbing a refreshing beer or two or three. After checking into our rooms we definitely needed to decompress from the long drive so naturally Spenser’s was the scene of choice. Sipping on nice nutty brown ale and munching on blue cheese chips, while surround by gorgeous Christmas décor, dark woods and cozy lighting. Yes, I think we will make ourselves comfortable. How about another round?

Playing in the snow before Polar Express in Williams Arizona

As much as we adults would have loved to hang out at the pub all day, it was time to let the children burn off some energy before dinner. The snow yard was just outside the doors of the resort, which was great. The kids could play safely, throw snowballs and make snow angels and grandma could observe everything from the comfort of Spenser’s. A win-win for everyone.

Festive meals at Grand Depot Cafe for the Polar Express in Williams Arizona

Before long it was time to change the kids into their Christmas jammies and head to The Grand Depot Café. Just a short walk across the yard a delicious buffet dinner awaits. You pay up front, including the meal, beverage and tip, leaving you free to leave in a hurry if you need to catch the Polar Express train ride or if your child is having a meltdown. My son was in fact, having a meltdown and the only thing that could distract him was the little train that went around the entire café. Chuga. Chuga. Thank you!

Although Spenser’s offers quick and easy breakfast options in the mornings, the entertainment factor such as the moving train set, the fireplace framed by presents and jumbo stockings and even the little wooden train crayon holders on the tables made The Grand Depot Café or pick for breakfast in the morning.

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Best Western Plus Inn Williaims Arizona

Best Western Plus Inn

2600 W Route 66, Williams, AZ 86046-9182

Another great hotel option for families riding the Polar Express in the Best Western Plus Inn in Williams Arizona. The hotel is conveniently located near the Grand Canyon Railway Depot, making it easy for families to catch the Polar Express train without a long commute.

The Best Western Plus Inn offers comfortable and family-friendly rooms, providing a cozy retreat after a magical journey on the Polar Express. During the holiday season, the hotel often decorates for Christmas, creating a festive ambiance that adds to the enchantment of the Polar Express adventure.

Guests can enjoy a range of amenities, including an indoor pool, hot tub, and complimentary breakfast, enhancing their overall stay experience. Plus there is live music at the onsite bar and restaurant. After, enjoy a drink by the outdoor firepit.

We stayed at the Best Western Plus Inn Williams Arizona on a recent trip to Grand Canyon and it was a wonderful stay. I defiantly recommend it.

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What to expect from the Polar Express Arizona Experience

Ride on the Polar Express in Williams Arizona

After the kids were satisfied and their tummies full it was time to get on The Polar Express train, a vintage 1923 locomotive that has been converted into a magical mode of transport to the North Pole. The depot is connected to the café, making this extremely convenient and stress free for families. Besides the cold night air, boarding is a breeze with everything being very organized and efficient.

Hot chocolate and cookies on the Polar Express Train in Williams Arizona

Once comfortable in your seat and tickets are punched just like in the movie, the adventure begins as the chefs immediately hand out hot chocolate and sugar cookies. If you have seen the movie, you’ll know the song “Hot Chocolate” as the train car is filled with music. On the journey to the North Pole the narrative of The Polar Express is told as pictures from the book are displayed for the children to see.

North Pole on the Polar Express in Williams Arizona

When you reach the North Pole the kids leap to the window with excitement. The lights shine through the frosted windows as the Santa waves to them from his sleigh. Santa then comes aboard to greet each and every passenger and handing them their special Christmas bell.

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Dancing on the Polar Express in Williams Arizona

Kids are encouraged to dance in the aisle with the chefs, sing Christmas carols and ring those little magic bells. It was my kids’ favorite part of the trip. My son never stopped dancing and my daughter sung every word to every song. The train is altogether an hour long. Families leave the train with a Christmas song book, souvenir Polar Express tickets and their beautiful Christmas bell. The true spirit of Christmas is seen, felt and experienced in such a unique and memorable way. My cheeks actually hurt from smiling so much.

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Meeting Santa on the Polar Express in Williams Az

Once the Polar Express train is back at the depot the kids have an opportunity partake in more fun. Arts, crafts and various activities are available at the depot. In addition, there are meet-n-greets with favorite characters from the movie. Santa, Mrs. Claus, elves and even the ghost from the movie are all there for pictures opportunities. And of course…. MEETING SANTA!!

Christmas activities and photo ops at Grand Canyon Railway Depot Polar Express

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That’s A Wrap!

We heard The Polar Express train ride at the Grand Canyon Railway in Arizona was amazing. Now we know how amazing it really is! What started as a single event might have turned into a Christmas family tradition. See you there next year!

For more holiday fun, check out some of our other holiday posts!

  • Check out the magic of staying at Apple Farm Inn at Christmas, HERE.
  • See all the holiday happenings at Knott’s Merry Farm, HERE.
  • Find out what is happening at Disney during the holidays, HERE.
  • Finally, experience Christmas under the sea at SeaWorld, HERE.
  • Best Christmas Hotels in NYC, HERE.
  • Best Christmas Hotels in Southern California, HERE.

Disclaimer: Links in this page are meant to help you find relevant information and book attractions easier by linking directly to specific pages on partner websites (i.e. TripAdvisor, If you click a link, we may earn a small commission on transactions. This helps support the cost of running our website, and it adds absolutely no extra cost to you as the consumer. Thank you, we appreciate your support! You can read more on our disclosure policy.

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Polar Express in Arizona

I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".


  1. *Spot on with this write-up, I truly think this website needs much more consideration. I’ll probably be again to read much more, thanks for that info.

  2. Pingback: Ready. Set. Go: Travel Preparation |

  3. I wish something like that had been around when I was a kid. Looks like loads of fun!

  4. I didn’t know this existed in Arizona. What a fun family adventure and you sure did it up right. I loved all the photos showing so many smiles. I was smiling myself when I was done reading the post. Nice job.

  5. What a great day out! I remember when I was little crying so much because I wasn’t allowed to go and see santa (I had done something bad & wasn’t allowed),but I would go to this now!! 😀

  6. Wow, incredible info here. Thanks for taking the time to put this guide together– sounds super festive!

  7. Our kids are all grown, but I remember when the Polar Express came out and the loved it, so they would have definitely enjoyed this experience. I will keep it in mind for future grandkids. I appreciate all the great tips too!

  8. I heard about the one in Seattle, which always books out solid but Arizona?! That’s awesome… Maybe we’ll go this year.

  9. Pingback: Experience Christmas at the Apple Farm Inn - HotMamaTravel

  10. Pingback: Experience the Polar Express Train in Arizona with kids – Come Closer

  11. Pingback: Why You Should Ride ScotRail With Kids - HotMamaTravel

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