Celebrate Christmas in July: It’s Time to Reserve Your North Pole Express Train Ride
Christmas might be the last thing on your mind, but if you’re hoping for a chance to hop on the North Pole Express Train located in Owosso, MI this year, it’s time to fast forward and look ahead to Christmas now!
This magical Christmas experience is one of our favorite train rides in Michigan and only happens for a few weekends of the year.
Tickets sell out quickly, so NOW is the time to start planning! While tickets typically go on sale in September, the schedule has moved up to July in 2023.
North Pole Express tickets go on sale on July 25, 2023, at 12:00 PM.
2023 North Pole Express Dates: November 18, 19, 24, 25, and 26 and December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17, 2023.
North Pole Express FAQs
What is the North Pole Express Train Ride?
The North Pole Express is a Christmas journey that will have your family feeling like they’ve entered into the pages of The Polar Express.
This four and a half-hour holiday experience includes a train ride from Owosso, MI to a Christmas festival in Ashley, MI where you are dropped off to explore.
Your adventure concludes with a train ride back to Owosso.
Where is Owosso, MI?
Owosso MI is located centrally in Mid Michigan, about 35 miles northeast of Lansing.
Grand Rapids, Detroit and Kalamazoo residents are all within about 100 miles of Owosso.
Drive Times to Owosso MI
Lansing: 40 minutes (35 miles)
Kalamazoo: 1 hour, 45 minutes (110 miles)
Grand Rapids: 1 hour, 30 minutes (95 miles)
Detroit: 1 hour, 40 minutes (90 miles)
What Kind of Train is the North Pole Express?
The North Pole Express includes a ride in the world-famous Pere Marquette 1225 steam locomotive.
How Much Does it Cost?
The North Pole Express offers different ticket packages, starting at $70 per person.
Children 19 months of age and older are required to have a ticket.
Infants 18 months or younger that can sit on a parent’s lap for the entire trip do not need to have a ticket.
How Long is the Train Ride?
The train ride from Owosso to Ashley is just over an hour.
You’ll spend two hours in Ashley exploring the village before boarding the train for the ride back, adding up to a four and half-hour experience:
Train ride (Owosso MI to Ashley MI): 1 hour, 15 min
Exploring Ashley MI Christmas Village (outside): 2 hours
Train ride (Ashley MI to Owosso MI): 1 hour, 15 min
Total Experience: 4.5 hours
5 Tips to Maximize Your North Pole Express Experience
Whether you’re new to the North Pole Express or a veteran, we’ve got five tips from local parents on how to make your train experience a success.
Tip 1 – Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
Alexander Graham Bell said, “before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” His words ring true for any parent who has traveled with kids, and The North Pole Express is no exception.
Dress Warmly in Layers
The experience is four hours, half of which is outside.
We can’t overstate the importance of layers here. Plan to stand outside to board the train and you’ll spend about two hours in the village of Ashley. Snow pants, hats, mittens and warm layers are recommended for all.
Pack Games or a Travel Activity for the Train Ride
The train ride is beautiful, but for small travelers with small attention spans, beautiful scenery may not be enough to get them through.
The North Pole Express experience includes cocoa and carols on the train, which definitely helps pass the time. We suggest bringing a few travel games or books to make sure little travelers stay happy for the ride’s duration.
Don’t Forget the Snacks
Concessions are available, but we still recommend packing some favorite snacks for the ride and during your stroll through town.
Bring Cash – And Be Ready to Spend Some
Some places in the town of Ashley are cash only. There are some free activities, but others are paid and many do not accept cards.
Leave Big Strollers at Home
Due to storage limitations on the train, strollers have to be “umbrella style” and less than 25 lbs.
If the stroller is too big or doesn’t fold, you won’t be able to bring it. Double and triple strollers are not permitted.
Tip 2 – Know What To Expect
Daytime vs. Nighttime Experiences are Different
If you go during the day, the scenery is much more visible. At night the festival in town is especially fun, but you do miss out on the snowy train ride views!
The Town of Ashley is Small-Town Sweet
The town of Ashley is truly a small, rustic town. Nothing fancy, but nothing commercialized either! The Festival has an arts-and-crafts feel that gives the experience of a true small town full of friendly faces and the joy of Christmas.
You Won’t Find Sit-Down Restaurants
If you’re planning on a meal, there are plenty of options, but no sit-down establishments. Think hot dogs or fish fry to take with you while sitting around a toasty campfire, or to carry around with you while enjoying the festival.
Get Ready for Festival Activities
The festival offers carriage rides, arts and crafts for kids, outdoor fires for gathering around, carolers on the streets, and visits with Santa and his reindeer.
There’s a “Sweet Spot” in Ages for the North Pole Express
The ages and personalities of the crowd you’re with can really make a difference on the North Pole Express.
In our experience, the ideal ages for this experience are about three to nine years old.
However, kids and adults of all ages can enjoy some Christmas magic through this unique train excursion.
Tip 3 – Choose the Ticket Package That Best Fits Your Family
Tickets start at $70 per person. Different packages offer different seating, souvenir options, level of service, and amounts of hot chocolate.
Tip 4 – There are Photo Ops Galore
The North Pole Express offers many awesome photo ops, so have your phone or camera ready. We recommend photos in front of the train, with Santa and during some of the activities in town.
Tip 4.1: If you want a photo with Santa, head there first after your arrival in Ashley. The longer you wait, the longer the line to see the jolly man in the red suit.
Tip 5 – Make the Connection to the Book and Movie
In case you haven’t read the Polar Express book or watched the movie (or both) with the kids in a while, make sure you do this before taking the trip.
The connections your family will make to this classic will make the North Pole Express experience even more magical.
Have You Tried the North Pole Express?
Did you love it? Was there anything you wish you knew ahead of time? Leave a comment and let us know how it went!