FAQs

Where is Chicago Union Station?

500 W Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL 60606

Where do we park?

Limited parking at the Amtrak Chicago Union Station Self Park is located at 320 S Canal Street Chicago, IL 60606. Information about daily parking rates can be found at http://www.chicagounionstation.com/parking.html

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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.

New to SpotHero? Click here to download the SpotHero app.

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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 Amtrak 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.

Are there different classes of service?

Each coach on THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride at Chicago Union Station offers the same class of service. Seating is a traditional layout on Amtrak Horizon coaches that have been decorated extensively for this magical event.

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.

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. There will be a number of fun activities for families to enjoy while waiting. 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.

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.

Is the event wheelchair accessible?

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 at the front of select coaches. More information can be found at http://www.amtrak.com/wheeled-mobility-device-services

Where can I find food allergy information?

When booking your tickets, please inform a reservations representative if anyone in your party has a food allergy or special dietary needs. Please also inform your car’s onboard staff members as you board the train. Cookies and hot chocolate are served on the train. The cookies do not contain nuts, but may come from a facility that processes nuts. The hot chocolate contains dairy. Anyone with a food allergy or special dietary needs is welcome to bring an alternate treat or drink item on board.

Can we ride a train to the event?

Amtrak and METRA both offer a number of options to ride regional or commuter trains to Chicago Union Station. Visit www.amtrak.com and www.metrarail.com to view train schedules and stations. Please be sure to plan ahead and allow sufficient connecting time in case of train delays.

Are there restrooms on board the train?

Each coach has onboard restrooms that are available to passengers, including some that are wheelchair accessible. Chicago Union Station has a number of 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.

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.

Did you have a great time on board? See where else the train can take you. Consider Amtrak for your future travel needs.