WILLIAMS, Ariz. - For nearly two decades, visitors to the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams have been taking a different train during the holiday season.
For these visitors, they are not going to Arizona's most famous destination. Instead, they are taking a trip to the North Pole via the Polar Express.
For 19 years, thousands of people have been waiting for their cue, filing in on the Grand Canyon platform in Williams
"This is a trip to the North Pole via a magic light tunnel," said General Manager Bob Baker. "You go through there and you're transported in record time."
Baker has overseen most of the trips for the Polar Express, which is based on the beloved holiday book and movie. No matter how many times he's been to the North Pole, he keeps coming back for more.
"No it never gets old," said Baker. "It's just a really great experience for all who get to take part in it."
The dress code is strict.
Strictly fun, that is.
"You won't look strange, even if you're in the restaurants in Flagstaff on the way here. Pajamas are the accepted attire for the evening," said Baker.
Once onboard, the show really begins. From the moment the train departs, riders, usually a packed house with more than 1,000, are treated to a unique show
Hot cocoa and cookies are always a hit, and everyone gets at least a smile from the ticket takers. Suddenly, the train arrives at the North Pole. All in a record time of 45 minutes.
It's easy to see the light show outside of the train, and it causes enough smiles to light up the train cars.
Also, what visits to the North Pole would be complete without an audience with the big guy himself?
"Never been to the north pole, it was my first time it was fun," said Jason Doran.
Doran and his family think they'll be back, especially if the train is still stocked with...
"The hot cocoa and cookies," said one child.
The Polar Express gets a little more musical on the way back to the platform in Williams, and it's pretty easy for adults to find themselves caught in the wonder of being a kid again, too.
"It's the kids, just the sheer joy on their faces, Santa Claus comes through the train car and gives each of the children a bell, the joy on their faces it's a great experience all around," said Baker.
Some seats are still available for the weekday trips on the Polar Express, but the weekend tickets are tough to come by.
About 150,000 people use the Grand Canyon Railway every year, and about 100,000 of them ride the Polar Express each holiday season.
Grand Canyon Railway Polar Express