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November 15, 2021

3 tips for Golden’s famous Polar Express train ride experience

The Polar Express arrives at the Colorado Railroad Museum

One of the best holiday activities in all of Colorado might just be The Polar Express Train Ride Experience in Golden. Not sure what the Polar Express experience is like? Glad you asked!

Whitney Barnett of the Scoop and I both brought our families to Golden last Friday to check it out. The short story is you start in the heated Polar Express Pavilion, where a number of very talented performers re-live the Polar Express story through songs and dances. You then hop on a vintage coach, pulled by a coal-fired steam locomotive, and visit the North Pole (not really, but that’s part of the magic!).

After the train ride around the Colorado Railroad Museum grounds you hop off and visit Santa on another train.

Santa’s train at the Polar Express Experience

Whitney and I had tons of fun! Here are 3 tips we wanted to share in case you’d like to head to Golden this winter to check out the Polar Express:

(1) Dress for fun, but dress for both hot and cold temperatures!

The conductor tells part of the Polar Express story

You’d be surprised how many people wear pajamas and other fun holiday outfits! My husband Alex didn’t dress up, but he finally gave in when he saw many of the other parents wearing fun holiday gear and threw on an elf hat. So don’t be shy – break out that holiday onesie you only wear at home!

Be sure to dress in layers, though. You start the experience in a heated pavilion. Add in hot chocolate and things get warm quickly! Next stop is the train yard for another performance, which depending on the weather could be very cold. The train ride itself is warm, and then you’re back outside before entering another train to meet Santa.

So be prepared for a variety of temperatures!

(2) Get there early so you catch the pre-show and entire story!

Drop off your letters to Santa!

The Polar Express experience is located only a few hundred yards north of the Coors Brewery at the Colorado Railroad Museum. So while it’s relatively easy to get to, the road to the Museum is a smaller two-lane road and can take a few minutes to find since it’s well off I-70 and C-470.

You might think the experience is centered around the train ride – and in many ways it is – and the train ride doesn’t happen until well after your designated show time. So maybe arriving right at show time, or even a little after isn’t a big deal, right?

While not a huge issue if you show up a little late, the pre-show includes songs and dancing and really sets the stage for the train ride itself. Your table has materials for writing letters to Santa as well. Given this, Whitney and I recommend showing up at least 15-20 minutes early so you can enjoy the entire experience.

And if you’re a train aficionado, arrive even earlier so you can walk the Museum grounds and check out all the historic trains!

(3) The Polar Express is a BIG experience, so plan accordingly!

The Polar Express idles at the station

Hot chocolate, a ghost, songs, dancing, a Polar Express bell, a train ride, Santa, a gift store, and more! The Polar Express is an action-packed 1.5+ hours of well-coordinated entertainment. So be prepared, especially if you have small children!

I have two smaller boys (ages 5 and 2), and as we were driving over we briefly told them about a few of the things they’d be seeing and doing. We didn’t want them to be scared, but mostly we wanted them to know that when we said it was time to move on to the next performance and/or experience they’d be ready to go. The Polar Express train itself is large and impressive, and if you attend one of the evening shows I can see kids being both thrilled, as well as a little apprehensive. You can also see a picture of the “ghost” below – not scary at all, but if you have a sensitive little one it might be worth mentioning in advance so they’re prepared.

So there you have it friends! I included a few more pictures below. Also, according to the Polar Express website First Class tickets are sold out, but Standard Seating tickets are still available while I’m writing this Scoop post (so as of November 15th).


Mariel and her son watch the “ghost” perform on the train
Performers sing and dance
One of the trains at the Museum. Show up early so you can check them out!
Holiday display

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