Why are different railroad coaches being used this season? What can we expect?
If you are a returning guest on THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride, you may notice that we are utilizing different railroad cars this season. These recently restored coaches seat 85 passengers in a 3 x 2 arrangement facing the center of the car, which helps create a more intimate theatrical environment and offers more options for parties with odd numbers. These cars also feature lower seat backs, which makes it much easier for children (and vertically challeneged adults) to see our wonderful entertainers.
Please note that seats in Chicago will all face towards the middle of the car to create better sightlines and a center stage area for our performers. Seats 41 – 50 will be considered front row if you prefer to sit closest to the action. Each coach on THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride at Chicago Union Station offers the same class of service and all guests enjoy the same quality experience.
What is the Sensory Friendly departure on Dec. 14?
THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride Sensory Friendly Performance
Date: December 14th, 2019
Location: Chicago Union Station
Rail Events Productions has worked to create a performance experience of THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride that is more enjoyable for families with children on the autism spectrum or with other sensory sensitivities.
How is this show different?
The run of the show is similar to our regular departures, however, there will be some design changes to accommodate individuals with sensory sensitivities. These changes will include:
- Additional lighting on board the train
- Limiting flashing lighting effects
- Softer audio levels
- Limited startling or jolting audio effects
- Quiet spaces on board the train
On board, there will cars with passengers and select cars that are the designated Quiet Cars.
The purpose of the quiet car is to have a designated space on board in the event a passenger needs a break from the performance. Since passengers cannot leave the train during the ride, we will provide a quiet space to relax if necessary.
The event space in the Great Hall will open up for check in approximately 1.5 hours early to allow extra time for these passengers to acclimate to the space.
A Social Story is available for interested passengers before their arrival. The Social Story will inform audience members about the sequence of the experience with pictures and language to help prepare children and families for what to expect.
How can I contact a reservations agent?
Reservations agents can be reached at 312-471-2501 during the following hours or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday-Friday: 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Saturday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Sunday: 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
All times are Central Standard Time.
Where is Chicago Union Station?
500 W Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL 60606
Where do we park?
Information about parking near Union Station can be found via Amtrak at https://chicagounionstation.com/travel/parking
We recommend booking convenient and affordable parking in advance through SpotHero.
To reserve your parking spot, visit THE POLAR EXPRESS Chicago SpotHero Parking Page and book a spot with rates up to 50% off drive-up.
Where do we go once we arrive at Chicago Union Station?
A check-in desk is located in the Great Hall and passengers are required to check in prior to boarding. It is required that guests arrive approximately one hour prior to their departure time. Guests receive THE POLAR EXPRESS™ souvenir golden tickets at check-in. Boarding will begin 30-minutes prior to departure. Train doors close approximately 5 minutes prior to departure and trains will not be held for those arriving late. Trains depart and return to the same location at Union Station.
What is THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride?
THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is a re-creation of the classic children’s story on board a real Amtrak train. Passengers are served hot chocolate and a treat by dancing chefs, enjoy a reading of the book by Chris Van Allsburg, and receive the first gift of Christmas (a silver sleigh bell) after Santa boards the train to greet families. Attendants lead passengers in caroling and fun holiday activities on the return trip to Union Station.
How is this event different?
THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride at Chicago Union Station is an immersive event that is officially licensed by Warner Bros. Consumer Products. This is the only officially-licensed THE POLAR EXPRESS™ event in the City of Chicago and features a staff of energetic hosts who lead the train in an interactive, hour-long experience. Each coach is dressed in festive holiday décor and features color-changing LED lighting synched with the activities on board. Combine this magic with the grandeur of historic Chicago Union Station and you have Chicagoland’s newest premier holiday event.
How long is the experience? When should we arrive?
The entire experience at Union Station is roughly two hours in length. It is required that guests arrive approximately one hour prior to their departure time. This allows time to park and check in at the designated area in the Great Hall. Boarding will begin 30 minutes prior to listed departure times. The train ride itself is one hour in length.
What are the differences between Value, Standard, and Peak pricing?
The only differences between Value, Standard, and Peak pricing are the dates and/or times of the rides. Lower demand departures are priced lower to offer those on a budget options and higher demand departures are priced accordingly. The event functions exactly the same on all departures and passengers enjoy the same experience.
How soon should I book tickets?
It is recommended that reservations are made as soon as your group knows which date and time you would like to attend. Tickets are expected to sell out quickly for this popular event.
How do I book group tickets?
Groups of 20+ are eligible for a $5 off discount per ticket and must be booked over the phone at 312-471-2501. Please note that the name of each member of your party is required to complete the check out process, so please have these prepared prior to speaking with a reservations representative.
How do I book active duty military discount tickets?
Active duty military members with the appropriate uniformed service ID card are eligible for a $5 discount on each ticket (up to 10 tickets). To check out, please enter promo code MILITARY2019 and select the applicable military discount ticket product. Please note, the active duty individual must be a member of the attending party and must present their uniformed service ID card for verification when checking in at the event. If the appropriate identification cannot be presented by this individual, you will be charged the difference in ticket price before being allowed on board the train.
Is the event wheelchair accessible?
Yes! Chicago Union Station and the train are wheelchair accessible, however, ADA seating is limited. Access to coaches will be provided by a mobile lift on the train platform and space for wheelchairs is located in select coaches. More information can be found at http://www.amtrak.com/wheeled-mobility-device-services
If a member of your party has a disability and needs additional seating space or a wheelchair space, please contact a reservations agent at (312) 471-2501 to book tickets. These accommodations are comprised of a designated wheelchair space (no seat) and companion seats adjacent to the wheelchair space.
Where can I find food allergy information?
Rail Events Productions does not guarantee an allergen free environment. Cookies and hot chocolate are served on the train. A complete list of ingredients is available at the Will Call desk for your review when checking in. Hot chocolate contains dairy products.
The Snickerdoodle Cookie is nut free and is produced in a nut free facility. The ingredient list for the provided cookie is as follows:
Bleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar Margarine (Palm Oil, Water, Soybean Oil, Salt, Mono-and Diglycerides, Artificial Butter Flavor, Calcium Disodium EDTA [preservative], Vitamin A Palmitate), Egg, Shortening (Palm Oil), Invert Sugar, Water, Whey Protein Concentrate, Artificial Flavors, Salt, Cream of Tartar, Baking Soda, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Cinnamon Ground, Oil (Soy).
Can we ride a train to the event?
Are there restrooms on board the train?
Each coach has onboard restrooms that are available to passengers. In addition, Chicago Union Station has a number of wheelchair accessible restrooms.
Do infants ride for free?
Children under two may ride for free provided they are not occupying a seat and ride on an adult’s lap. A free infant ticket must be selected at checkout and the name of the child must be provided on the reservation. This is to ensure every passenger can be accounted for in case of emergency.
What should my family wear?
Families are encouraged to wear warm pajamas just like passengers from THE POLAR EXPRESS™ book and film. Passengers will spend time on an unheated platform as they board and disembark from the train, so appropriate winter attire is also recommended.
Where does the train go?
The train follows a point-to-point route through the tunnels, rail yards, and neighborhoods along the Chicago River just west of the Chicago Loop and South Loop. This route includes several changes in direction that are incorporated into the presentation on board. It is important to note that this is not a scenic sightseeing trip. The emphasis of the event is on the live, immersive onboard entertainment.
Are tickets refundable?
Like sporting events, concerts, and other live events, tickets for THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride are not refundable.
Can I change my reservation to a different date or time?
Changes to the date and time of a reservation must be made within 24 hours of purchase and are subject to pricing differences. If seats are available on another date/train, our reservations agents will do their best to accommodate your request. However, no guarantees can be made that your reservation can be changed. Please contact an agent at (312) 471-2501 to request a date or time change.
Will the event take place if there is snow or other inclement weather?
Trains will continue to run in snow and other weather conditions. However, trains may be cancelled or postponed at Amtrak’s discretion due to weather or operational considerations. The event may also be cancelled or postponed if the State Highway Patrol closes major roads and freeways due to snow. Full refunds will be offered in these scenarios.
No Alcohol Policy
THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is a family-friendly event and no alcohol is sold or allowed on board the train. Intoxicated passengers or those found in possession of alcohol will be removed from the event without refund.