Last year, as Christmas rolled around, everyone in town seemed to be talking about the Santa Train at The North Carolina Museum of Life and Science. Tickets were sold out before I even knew what it was. So, this year we had to check it out.
What it is: The museum has a train that visitors can ride. It makes a short loop passing through a tunnel and by part of the dinosaur trail. My two year old has always loved it. During Christmastime, kids can take the train ride to the "North Pole" to see Santa. You can purchase tickets in advance for a specific time to ride the train in the evening because it doesn't run during normal museum hours.
When we arrived for our 6pm train, we headed in the special entrance that they had set up for the Santa Train. We were there a little early to check out what else was there before our ride. They had a booth set up where you could buy various Santa Train souvenirs. Fortunately, our two year old was too young to know about souvenirs yet so we didn't stop. We also didn't stop at the station selling hot dogs and hamburgers from the museum's restaurant Graysons. But it was nice that they had the option.
In front of the train station, there was a large tent covering a tables manned with volunteers and filled with a variety of crafts. The volunteers were friendly and helped our son to make "reindeer food" and a construction paper tree topper. He could have also done some coloring or even gotten his face painted.
After our stop at the crafts we got in line for the actual train. They had decorated the whole museum with lights and other decorations, so my son had a ball looking at everything. Then, the train, also aglow with lights pulled up. We hopped on and took the several minute ride down to the train's turnaround point where they had created a small "North Pole". There were several "elves" and Santa Claus himself. The train stopped and Santa came to each car in the train and asked the kids what they wanted for Christmas and had a little conversation with everyone. While Santa was mingling an elf passed out candy canes.
We returned from the North Pole and immediately headed over to the complimentary hot chocolate table and enjoyed our beverage under the heat lamps. My son was so excited about the whole experience and it still talking about it. It got our whole family in the Christmas spirit and was a great way to start the season.
What we liked: It was the perfect sized outing for young children. We were there for about an hour, so it was short and sweet. At first, I was a bit disappointed that the kids didn't get out of the train at the North Pole, but after the experience I think it was for the best. We were able to ride the train, take in all the activities, and head out while everyone was still in a good mood. That's hard to do in the evening with a six month old and a two year old! All the helpers were also very friendly and seemed to be in good moods.
What we would change: It is pretty challenging to get the tickets that you want for the train. Tickets opened up for the museum members on the November 15th and for the general public on the 17th at midnight. The prime train times are quickly sold out. In addition, tickets are $15 which is pretty pricey. However, children under 3 are free.
Website and other important information: The Santa Train is located at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science in Northern Durham.
Tickets: As of the time of posting, tickets for this year's Santa Train are sold out.
1. A few of the crafts
2. The train station
3. The North Pole
4. Santa Claus himself