Last weekend my family caught an 8:15am train at Penn Station in New York City and took a four-hour journey to Saratoga Springs. The views from the train overlooking the Hudson River were breathtaking and my kids really soaked up the experience. We brought sandwiches on board, read books, played cards and happily looked out the windows.
It was the first time we had ever taken a long train ride. Not only would we take this ride, but we would also take a ride on the Polar Express , a family-orientated activity in Saratoga, stay in a hotel and return to NYC the next day.
Saratoga Springs, also known as Saratoga, is home to Skidmore College, the Saratoga Race Course, an artist’s community called Yaddo and a slew of museums including the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame and the Saratoga Automobile Museum. Its downtown has an old-time feel and is full of boutiques, specialty shops and restaurants. After checking in, we took a stroll around town, shopped, had lunch at a fabulous Italian restaurant called Boca Bistro. We took a rest and were on board the Polar Express by 5:30pm at the Saratoga Springs Train Station.
The Polar Express was created for kids. They ride in their PJ’s and are given golden tickets to board the train. The cars are decked out in Christmas garland and lights, there is music from the film playing for the first half of the ride, Christmas music during the second half. On-board conductors bring the tale of the Polar Express to life, dancing through the aisles holding a copy of the book showing its illustrations. We were served hot cocoa and cookies and were given a commemorative mug.
Half-way through the ride, we entered the North Pole with a vision of a lit up village outside our windows with elves popping out and Santa Claus boarded the train with his elves to give each child a silver bell and ask the infamous question: “What do you want for Christmas?” It is said that only children and those who still believe can actually hear the bell ring. I’m not sure my kids heard it ring, but they might have and didn’t tell me.
Afterwards, we went out for dinner at the ultimate family restaurant, the Circus Café, which serves popcorn before dinner and homemade cotton candy for dessert before returning to the hotel to get to bed before waking up early to leave for the return trip home.
Right now Amtrak is offering a special that makes it very easy for families to get to Saratoga for a night and back from NYC. They’re offering a coach train that rides up the scenic Adirondack route running between NY and Montreal, one-night accommodation in a local hotel, tickets on the Polar Express (with a gift) and 10% off the Circus Cafe for dinner. The cost is $235 per adult, $75 per child. The Polar Express runs through the 29th.
The hotel that came with the package was The Inn at Saratoga , an old-fashioned, Victorian inn right near the center of town. The furniture in the rooms, including the beds, is large and comfortable. We had an entry room, like a parlor, with a table and chair on which to rest. The hotel offers free wireless Internet, complimentary breakfast, coffee and tea in the lobby, newspapers in the lobby and an old-time bar near the front. While dated and in need of an update, the hotel offers a taste of old-time Saratoga, and the experienced somehow accentuated our stay.
Needless to say, at the end of our 24- hour stay, my son stated, “This was the best day ever.”
I can’t blame him for saying that – it was pretty special.
For Amtrack getaway package reservations, contact your professional travel agent or call Key Holidays at (800) 783-0783.
To make Polar Express train-only reservations, please call 877-726-7245 or go here to reserve up to 24 hours in advance.
Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary transport and accommodations but paid for my own meals and miscellaneous expenses. No opinion was asked of me and all thoughts stated are my own.