The Polar Express Train Ride rolls into St. Louis, Missouri’s Union Station this holiday season, whisking pajama-clad passengers off for a roundtrip experience to the North Pole to relive the classic Christmas story authored by Chris Van Allsburg – The Polar Express. In three short years, the train ride has received raving reviews, quickly becoming a family favorite holiday event showcasing the newly renovated 123-year old Union Station as the centerpiece.

Since 1894, the downtown St. Louis skyline has included a castle-like landmark – St. Louis Union Station. Once considered the gateway to the West and the world’s largest and busiest railroad station, St. Louis Union Station at its peak during World War II handled 300 trains and 100,000 people a day. The Romanesque-style building is constructed of Indiana limestone, with red-tile roofed turrets patterned after buildings in the medieval walled city of Carcassone, France. The main waiting room known as the Grand Hall boasted a 65-foot barrel vaulted ceiling with a two-ton wrought iron chandelier and stunning stained-glass windows – it was the place to see and be seen. Joan Crawford, Joe DiMaggio, President Harry Truman, to name a few, all made appearances at Union Station.

The last passenger train departed Union Station in 1978, leaving the impressively constructed building dormant until 1985 when HOK, a worldwide design, architecture, engineering and urban planning firm, rehabilitated and transformed Union Station into one of St. Louis’s most visited attractions. Upon completion of the $150 million renovation, Union Station re-opened as a multi-use complex with retail shops, a 539-room hotel, event spaces and restaurants. Although the sophisticated building has undergone various renovations throughout the years, it still remains a popular attraction offering its visitors a sense of historical elegance and of course, nostalgia.

In 2014, Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM), a lodging and hospitality management company, purchased Union Station and the hotel. “There is still an element of intrigue as you walk through its archway doors, take in the magnificent Grand Hall and sense the magnitude of people that traversed the halls to meet loved ones, say goodbye or welcome them home,” stated Todd Hotaling, LHM Vice President of Revenue and Marketing.

In 2014, Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM), a lodging and hospitality management company, purchased Union Station and the hotel. “There is still an element of intrigue as you walk through its archway doors, take in the magnificent Grand Hall and sense the magnitude of people that traversed the halls to meet loved ones, say goodbye or welcome them home,” stated Todd Hotaling, LHM Vice President of Revenue and Marketing.

Immediately recognizing the grandness and history of Union Station, LHM decided to take a page from history and offer train excursions. “We purchased several rail cars, including refurbished dining cars, passenger cars and two dome (observation cars) that provide a great experience for riders,” Hotaling explained. “Union Station provides stationary or local excursions on the rail cars for private events and has run the Polar Express holiday experience for the past three years.”

The Polar Express Train Ride replicates the magical story of a boy’s journey to discover the real meaning of Christmas. “Union Station has brought the magic of the holidays to over 100,000 guests now since we started,” Hotaling remarked. “The unique train experience provides those in the Midwest a viable destination for the holidays that is easily reached and simply magical!”

Guests arrive at Union Station with golden ticket in hand ready to be punched, board their train car and settle in to begin reliving the magical story of The Polar Express. As dancing chefs serve hot chocolate and cookies, passengers enjoy an interactive reading of The Polar Express over the loud speaker before arriving to the North Pole to pick up a special guest – Santa Claus! “Santa boards the train and visits with every child to hear what they want for Christmas and leaves them a special gift of the holiday – a silver sleigh bell,” Hotaling described. “The cheer on kids’ faces when Santa comes on board, the laughter they experience with the Conductor and our singing chefs is truly enchanting.”

The Polar Express returns to Union Station set to the music of The Polar Express motion picture soundtrack and other Christmas carols led by the chefs – passengers will find themselves singing, dancing on their ride back. “There is no other experience like this during the holidays for families near and far,” Hotaling stated. “Make an evening out of it! The AAA Four Diamond historic hotel is completely renovated and offers a grand experience by itself. It will be an experience that won’t be forgotten!”

In addition to The Polar Express Train Ride, St. Louis Union Station will host a series of magical holiday dinners in the beautiful Grand Hall during Polar Express season, featuring 3-D light shows projected on the expansive Grand Hall ceiling and visits with Santa’s elves. Unveiled in 2016, the Fire and Water Show, synchronized to holiday music, is displayed on Union Station’s one acre lake under its train shed. A dazzling 100-foot LED light bar shines on the water to create different effects and eight lotus pods shoot fire up to 25 feet into the air, emitting a fog illusion.

St. Louis Union Station inspires and captures the essence of history, fun and entertainment featuring an incredible holiday lineup – a must-see destination for visitors and locals alike.

To learn more about the Polar Express and Union Station in St. Louis, visit STLOUISUNIONSTATION.COM.

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