PALESTINE — I just love everything about Christmas – the beautiful tree, decorations, giving presents, baking, the music and movies. It truly is a magical time of year.

One of the most magical Christmas movies of all time is “The Polar Express,” a tale of a boy who doubts the existence of Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, a magical train called the Polar Express stops outside his house and invites him to board as it heads to the North Pole.

All the magic of the movie is brought to life a mere three hours from Fort Hood, as the city of Palestine takes people of all ages on their own magical adventure to the “North Pole,” complete with your own golden ticket. Upon arrival, families dressed in matching pajamas can take photos together while waiting for the boarding process.

The conductor speaks briefly before giving the “all aboard” call to the passengers with golden tickets. The seating is assigned and it is easy to navigate on the train. Once the train starts moving, a train crew passed out hot chocolate and cookies to all the passengers. The hot cocoa was perfectly sweet and delicious, and the chocolate chip cookie was the soft, crumbly kind. While everyone enjoys their treats, the conductor came through asking for your golden ticket to punch, just like in the movie. This was very cute and the children around me loved it.

While we headed to the “North Pole,” “The Polar Express” book was read aloud, as the crew turned the pages of the books they held. As the story came to an end, the train began slowing down as we arrived at the “North Pole.” Santa waved to the train from his sleigh, while Santa’s elves danced around a giant Christmas tree, waving to everyone. It was more than I expected and the kids on the train loved it.

The train stopped briefly and we were told Santa would be boarding to greet everyone. While waiting for Santa, the train crew kept everyone entertained with a dance party. Santa walked seat to seat, giving a silver bell to each person, taking photos with families and speaking with the children. If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, you know the significance of the silver bell. If you haven’t, you should probably pick up the book or watch the movie this Christmas.

The train drops you off right where you boarded and then you can walk around and enjoy anything you didn’t see before boarding. There are a few gift shops. As I have mentioned in a previous Traveling Soldier, I collect ornaments whenever we go somewhere new. While I could have just used the little silver bell as an ornament, I went ahead and purchased a red ornament that the bell can be placed inside. The ornament reads “The Polar Express” with “The bell still rings for me” at the bottom.

I enjoyed everything about the experience and would highly recommend it for a family. As we look toward Christmas, I wish all of you a holiday season full of the magic of Christmas.