Tips for the Polar Express in Williams, AZ

Christmas is around the corner! Each year the popular Polar Express train adventure rolls through Williams, Arizona and it gets booked earlier and earlier each year. Have you purchased your tickets yet? If so, here are some things you need to know before you hear the words... ALL ABOARD!


My family did the Polar Express three years in a row when my kids were younger. We had a BLAST. Yet there were definitely things I learned along the way. Here are a few things I learned that I would like to pass on to other adventurers who want to take that magical journey to the North Pole.


  1. Book Early. They start planning for the next years train rides almost a year in advance. Space is limited, but they still have some times left! If you can, book a weeknight when the prices are a bit lower. Looking at next year? Plan ahead and book earlier in 2020.

  2. Choose a time. As of this post they have two departures, 5:30 and 7:30. 5:30 is right around dinner time and the train ride round trip is roughly 60-75 minutes. Be sure to eat beforehand or you could have a cranky kid right in the middle of your journey like we did on our first time out. 7:30 worked out great for us. They encourage you to wear pajamas, so we had full bellies all ready for bed when we boarded the train. Also, it just seemed more magical at night.

  3. Arrive at least 30 minutes before departure. You make your reservations online but will still need to pick your tickets up at will call. The train station is also a gift shop and it can get crowded closer to departure time. Boarding starts 15 minutes before departure. There is no need to rush the train though or stand outside in the cold. Once you pick your tickets up from will call, you have an assigned seat.

  4. Cold outside, warm inside. Williams, Arizona is about 40 miles west of Flagstaff. In November and December, that can mean a high possibility of snow and cold weather. Long pants and a thick jacket are fine but once you’re in your train car it’ll be warm. Make your layers easy.

  5. Stay the night. There are a few hotels around Williams that you can stay in. The Grand Canyon Hotel shares a parking lot with the train station which can make travel easy, and they usually have a package deal with the Polar Express. About 5 minutes away you will find a Best Western and Holiday Inn that are just as nice.

  6. Visit Williams the next day. If you stay the night be sure to visit the main street of Williams, Arizona. It was the last stop on the historic Route 66 that got by passed by the I-40. It is rich in history with cool shops and restaurants. If you have a Disney’s Cars fan, they will see the similarities between Williams and Radiator Springs.

  7. Watch the movie/read the book. The train ride is so magical if your little ones know the story. The train staff sing songs from the movie and provide “hot” chocolate and cookies too. If you have the book, bring it along. On your journey to the North Pole, they will read the story (it’s not required, someone will have an extra-large book to show in your car)

  8. Enjoy the Magic. The Holidays can be such an exciting time for families and little kids. It can also be stressful and jammed pack. Yet seeing the magic of Christmas light up in your child’s eyes when they see the magical Polar Express Train in front of them, can make it all worth it. If you’ve been on the fence about riding the Polar Express in Williams, Arizona, I recommend making the journey. It’s one your children will never forget.

You can get more details, and tickets by visiting the Polar Express website here.


Share with us, what are some of your favorite holiday traditions?







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