North Pole Express Tickets Go on Sale September 22: Plan Your Christmas Train Adventure

North Pole Express

The Time is Now to Jump On Planning Your North Pole Express Train Ride

Steam Railroading Institute

405 S Washington St, Owosso, MI 48867

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!

Tickets go on sale on September 22, 2022, at 5:00 PM. 2022 North Pole Express Dates: November 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27 and December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18, 2022.

North-Pole-Express-family-in-front-of-train

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.

Travel Time to Owosso MI
Lansing40 minutes (35 miles)
Kalamazoo1 hour, 45 minutes (110 miles)
Grand Rapids1 hour, 30 minutes (95 miles)
Detroit1 hour, 40 minutes (90 miles)

What Kind of Train is the North Pole Express?

Historically, the North Pole Express includes a ride in the world-famous Pere Marquette 1225 steam locomotive. However, PM 1225 is currently undergoing renovations.

For 2022 only, the North Pole Express will use a diesel locomotive.

How Much Does it Cost?

The North Pole Express offers different ticket packages, starting at $65 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 MI1 hour 15 minutes
Exploring Ashley MI Christmas Village (outside)2 hours
Train ride: Ashley MI to Owosso MI1 hour 15 minutes
Total Experience4.5 hours

6 Tips to Maximize Your North Pole Express Experience

Whether you’re new to the North Pole Express or a veteran, we’ve got six 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. Snowpants, hats, mittens and warm layers are recommended for all.

Bundle up for your North Pole Express Experience

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.

Activities and snacks are a must for tiny travelers

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. 

Wood carving in Ashley MI

There’s a “Sweet Spot” in Ages for 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 $65 per person. Different packages offer different seating, souvenir options, level of service, and amounts of hot chocolate.

Tip 4 – 2022’s Diesel Train = Same On-Board Experience

The Pere Marquette 1225 steam locomotive is undergoing some much needed repairs in 2022. While this important restoration work takes place, the 2022 North Pole Express will use a diesel train.

While the locomotive is different, don’t worry: the onboard train experience and the activities in the village of Ashley will be the same as previous years.

Tip 4.1: The Steam Railroading Institute plans to have the PM 1225 on a display track near the Visitor’s Center in Owosso for photos.

North-Pole-Express-train-with-steam
The PM 1225 will be available for photos this year, but will not be running.

Tip 5 – 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 5.1: 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.

Ashley’s mayor is available for photos!

Tip 6 – 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 ridden 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!



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