This is the first year Graham’s been “into” Christmas. He understands it beyond just the idea of getting a few presents, which was about all we had last year. Now he insists on the tree and knows who Santa is. He is turning into quite the holiday-lover, which isn’t exactly the easiest thing for his mama, who’s been quite happy ignoring holidays for the last few years.
But when we were invited to ride on the Train to Christmas Town I did not think about it for a second. Sure it was down on Cape Cod. Sure I’d have to leave Tessa and just take Graham. But there was no questions. Trains. Christmas. If there was any holiday celebration that Graham would love, this would be it.
Was Graham pumped? Yes, yes he was. He tolerated the drive down quite well. And lucky for us city folk, the train is right at the edge of the Cape instead of having to cross the bridge and all that nonsense.
There was a real train. They gave Graham a real ticket. We boarded our seats and headed out.
On board there was a crew of elves who served hot chocolate and cookies. There was much singing and merriment. For Graham, who loved the Polar Express (book and movie) he was very excited.
The conductor came around to check everyone’s ticket. Then he punched their initials into it. Another big hit with Graham, who clutched it in his hands on our whole drive home.
But with a kid like Graham, magic can be hard to measure in the moment. He was excited to go, but as it was dark he couldn’t see much out the window. He was excited about the hot chocolate but didn’t drink much. And he spent much of his time curled up in his seat with the activity books they handed out.
But then we reached Christmas Town, Graham could look out the window and see Santa. The train stopped, Santa boarded, and Graham started getting excited. Then we caught sight of him entering the train car.
Yeah, he got pretty excited. We hadn’t done any mall santas or anything, this was his first sighting of the year and he was pumped. We’d already discussed that he could tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas. (“A double-a battery Percy,” as he’ll happily tell you.) But then he started to get nervous. He told me he wanted me to tell Santa for him. It was a tough moment. I don’t want to force him into a situation that makes him anxious, but I also don’t want him to get lost in his fear.
When the moment came, I came out to the aisle so Santa could have a clear view to Graham but Graham could stay in his seat if he wanted to. Santa said hello and gave him a gift.
But my lovely little boy got to his feet and came out to see Santa and smile for a picture.
Is this my new favorite picture of Graham? Why yes. Yes it is. And Santa handled it nicely, I didn’t have to give him any prep to make Graham comfortable. (And real beard. Bonus.)
Since we left, Graham has talked about the Christmas Train several times. He saw a new Thomas train track set and told me, “We have to go back to the Christmas Train so I can tell Santa to get me the ice track.” Yeah, that took a little explaining… But it was a great experience for Graham even if it took him out of his comfort zone a little bit.
So parents, here’s what you need to know:
- The whole trip is around an hour or so. There’s not really room to run around or anything, so you’ll need to make sure your children are comfortable sitting for that amount of time. Not a great time for the littles.
- I’m not sure how much older kids will enjoy the trip. Though several were there, this is the kind of thing that’s magical mostly for the little ones. The elves are sweet but a little slow. And Christmas Town itself may not impress the more experienced kid.
- There is a book-reading portion of the trip followed by appearances from several of the “animals” from the book. The book bit was probably the weakest element of the whole thing. I found the story (about a girl who’s going on the train to Christmas Town without her grandmother who’s too sick to travel) wasn’t too memorable and didn’t seem to leave much of a mark on the kids.
- With multiple kids, you may need extra grown-ups. In our seats there was nowhere to put down our cookies and drinks so mom was stuck holding them for a long time.
- Oh, and if you’re noise sensitive this may not be a good choice. There’s a lot of music played over the loudspeaker and (spoiler alert) Santa’s special gift is a train whistle that he hands out a good while before you get back to the train station.
Tickets are available here. The train runs through the end of December with multiple trips a day.
Thanks to Cape Cod Central Railroad for inviting us to preview the Train to Christmas Town for purposes of this review.