Arizona Polar Express Train Rides (2023): A Complete Guide

Published: April 8, 2023

By: Adam Burns

You can experience officially licensed "The Polar Express" train rides at the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, one of the most upscale heritage railroads in the nation.   The Polar Express is a beloved Christmas story that has been enchanting children and adults alike for decades.

The story has become so popular that many places around the world offer Polar Express train rides during the holiday season. These train rides are designed to bring the magic of the story to life and create unforgettable memories for families. 

The Polar Express is a children's book written by Chris Van Allsburg that was first published in 1985. The book tells the story of a young boy who takes a magical train ride to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. The train is called the Polar Express, and it is filled with other children who are also on their way to meet Santa Claus. During the journey, the children are treated to hot chocolate, visit with Santa, and receive a special gift.

Other Family Christmas Activities

If you are interested in some other things to do with the family during the Christmas season, Arizona offers a wide range of activities during the holiday season, from festive light displays to winter wonderlands. 

Phoenix ZooLights

The Phoenix ZooLights is a magical winter wonderland filled with millions of twinkling lights. It is one of the best light displays in the state and has been a holiday tradition for over 30 years. Visitors can explore the zoo while enjoying the beautiful light displays, live music, and festive treats.

Glendale Glitters

Glendale Glitters is a spectacular holiday light display featuring over 1.6 million LED lights. Visitors can stroll through historic downtown Glendale and enjoy the dazzling light displays, holiday decorations, and live entertainment. The event also features food vendors, holiday shopping, and carriage rides.

Ice Skating

Ice skating is a classic winter activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Arizona has several ice skating rinks, including the CitySkate Holiday Ice Rink in downtown Phoenix and the Polar Ice Rinks in Chandler and Gilbert. These rinks offer public skating sessions, skate rentals, and special holiday events.

Christmas at the Princess

Christmas at the Princess is an annual holiday event held at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort. The event features a four-story Christmas tree, ice skating rink, holiday light displays, and visits from Santa Claus. Families can also enjoy holiday-themed activities, such as cookie decorating and ornament making.


Tlaquepaque is a charming arts and crafts village in Sedona that celebrates Christmas in a unique way. The village is decorated with beautiful holiday lights, and visitors can enjoy caroling, hot cocoa, and a visit from Santa Claus. The event also features live entertainment and holiday shopping.

ZooLights at Reid Park

ZooLights at Reid Park is a holiday light display located in Tucson. The event features over a million lights, live entertainment, and visits from Santa Claus. Visitors can also enjoy hot cocoa, holiday treats, and carousel rides.

In conclusion, Arizona offers a wide range of family-friendly Christmas activities that are sure to create unforgettable memories. From dazzling light displays to magical train rides, there is something for everyone to enjoy during the holiday season. So gather your loved ones, bundle up, and get ready to experience the magic of Christmas in Arizona.

Guide Information

Grand Canyon Railway

(Williams): The Grand Canyon Railway operates the former Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe's "Grand Canyon Branch" from Williams to the Canyon's South Rim (64 miles).

The Santa Fe even had its own train named for the national park and the railroad hauled many tourists to the site annually. 

However, as highways improved and Amtrak took over intercity passenger service (1971), the line's need dwindled to the point it was sold to new operators in 1988, forming today's Grand Canyon Railway. 

While the scenery alone regularly draws tens of thousands its opulent services, where guests can travel back in time to experience the golden age of rail travel within climate controlled cars, does as well. The accommodations go beyond the train as lodging, an RV park, and even a pet resort is also available.   

You can also pick from a variety of packages that includes both lodging (at the Grand Canyon) and the train.  For the Christmas season the railway operates official The Polar Express events from early November through late December.  The train departs Williams Depot and lasts about 90 minutes.

The Polar Express Dates: 

  • November 10 - 12
  • November 15 - 20
  • November 22
  • November 24 - November 27
  • November 29 - December 4
  • December 6 - December 11
  • December 13 - December 24
  • December 26 - December 30

You may also be interested in the Grand Canyon Railway's exclusive, VIP event, "The Ultimate Polar Express Experience."  This experience will take the entire family on a train ride with Santa Claus within one of the railroad's private, first-class passenger cars.  

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