How are tickets sold?

Tickets are sold online only and sell out very quickly – usually in one day.

What does my “Polar Express” Ticket include?

Each ticket includes a Polar Express Train Ride; admission to the Central Pacific Passenger Station where you will pick up your tickets, shop, and enjoy entertainment while you are waiting to board the train; admission to the Eagle Theater where you may meet Santa and have your picture taken by a professional photographer; and free admission to the California State Railroad Museum the day of your visit or any other day before January 1, 2012 (the Museum's regular hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day; these hours of operation will be in effect during The Polar Express Train Ride event).

How long is the event?

The train ride is one hour.  Please come approximately 1 hour before your departure time to pick up your tickets.  You can enjoy the entertainment in the Passenger Station, take your photo with Santa and shop in our gift store.

What can I expect on the Train Ride?

Each Polar Express Train Ride will last approximately one hour.  You will enter the Central Pacific Passenger Station and pick up your tickets approximately 1 hour before your departure time.  You are free to enjoy the entertainers, shop, or climb aboard the caboose.  At approximately 30 minutes prior to your departure time, you will line up according to the boarding point listed on your ticket.  Children ages one year and under, do not require a ticket and must be seated on an adult’s lap while on board the train.  Once on board the train, you will travel to the "North Pole" while we read the story of The Polar Express.  Dancing waiters will fly through the cars as each ticketed passenger is served hot chocolate and a cookie treat.  As the train passes the North Pole, you will catch a glimpse of Santa while the engine switches for the return trip.  As you head back to Old Sacramento, Santa will be on board and walk through each car to give out the "first gift of Christmas" -- the sleigh bell -- to each passenger.  We will all join in and sing Christmas Carols as we pull into the station in Old Sacramento.  Once you de-board the train, walk across the street to the Eagle Theater, where Santa will be available to talk with your child and take a photo.

What can I expect in First Class?

First Class passengers will board the observation car, El Dorado, before the Coach passengers.  Your tickets will indicate whether you are seated in the Interior Parlor or the Observation Lounge section of the car.  Each section of this beautiful 1930s car includes lounge-style seating and freedom to roam about the car.  You may step outside onto the observation deck or look out the large windows.  Each ticketed passenger will receive hot chocolate served in a commemorative mug.  A Car Attendant will be assigned to each section of the car.

What can I expect in the Dining Car?

The beautiful 1950s Southern Pacific Audubon Dining Car holds up to 44 passengers.  Each group of four is seated at a table in dining chairs.  The car boasts handpainted pictures of native birds and a lovely floral carpet.  

What is seating like?

Seats are not reserved.  Our First Class car seats 30 people.  There are two sections, the Interior Parlor and the Observation Lounge.  Please make sure you know which area you are selecting as we cannot change the location once you have purchased your tickets.  The Dining Car seats passengers in groups of four around a table and holds 44 passengers.  Our coach cars hold between 50-76 passengers.  The seats are upholstered bench seats and seat two passengers per bench in groups of four. All seats will be filled so please do not bring car seats or carriers for children under two, as they will need to be in a person’s lap.

Will I receive a confirmation?

Yes.  You will receive an email confirmation; an email address is required.  This will allow us to send the confirmation and any updates about the event.  All tickets will be held at the passenger station and will need to be picked up the day of the event.

When will I receive my tickets?

Tickets are on a Will Call basis and will not be mailed to you.  You will need to arrive 1 hour before your train ride to pick up your tickets.  Hold on to your confirmation email as your proof of purchase.  Tickets may not be picked up in advance.  They can only be picked up on the day of your train ride.  

Where do I pick up my tickets?

All tickets will be held in Will Call inside the Central Pacific Passenger Station at the corner of Front and J Streets and available on the day of your train ride only.  When you place your order, you will receive a confirmation number.  Please note the exact date and time of your tickets when you place the order.  Exact seating is not assigned, however, you may select a specific car at the time you order your tickets. .  All seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, Approximately two weeks before your train ride, you will receive an additional email reminding you of where to park and where to pick up your tickets.  

Can I cancel or change the date if my plans change?

There is a $3 per ticket fee for cancellations.  There is a limited Wait List for tickets.  Ticket exchanges are based on availability.  Contact (916) 445-8270 for Polar Express Customer Service.  Messages will be answered in the order received.

Can I change my reserved tickets from child to adult or from adult to child?

Yes, you can.  If you change from child to adult we will charge the $10.00 difference for the upgrade.

How can I visit the Museum without my tickets?

You may bring your confirmation email to the Museum any time prior to January 1, 2012 for one free admission for each ticket purchased.  The Museum's regular hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day; these hours of operation will be in effect during The Polar Express Train Ride.

Where can I park?

On-street metered parking throughout Old Sacramento is time-limited to 90 minutes or less. Therefore, we recommend parking in one of the City of Sacramento's Downtown/Old Sacramento public parking lots. The nearest and most reasonably priced one is located on "I" Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets, underneath Interstate 5 in Old Sacramento. An online map of City Parking Garages in the Downtown/Old Sacramento area may be accessed at by clicking on "map."

Do the trains depart on time:

Yes.  You will pick up your tickets for The Polar Express Train Ride at the Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station in Old Sacramento, located southwest of the entrance of the California State Railroad Museum on the corner of Front and J Streets. Departure times for your ride on the Polar Express are exact and missed train rides cannot be taken later. You may pick up your ticket from the ticket office inside the Passenger Station starting at 2:00 pm each day.  We suggest you arrive approximately 1 hour prior to your departure time to pick up your tickets.  You may begin lining up for your car approximately 30 minutes prior to departure.

How can I sit with my friends?

Seating is not assigned, it is on a first-come, first-served basis.  All seating except First Class is arranged in groups of four.  If your group is larger than four and you are on the same car, be sure to line up together prior to boarding.  Car attendants will do their best to seat groups together, however, there is no guarantee on seating arrangements.  It is best to arrive early and line up early.

Can we wear pajamas and bring our copy of the book?

Of course that's part of the fun! We encourage the whole family to dress in your warmest pajamas and bring your Polar Express book for the Conductor to sign if you wish.  Do be sure to dress warmly enough to walk comfortably to and from your car, and make sure that everyone in your party is wearing appropriate footwear. You will be traversing streets with packed granite soil and wooden boardwalks to reach the event's starting point the Central Pacific Railroad Passenger Station in Old Sacramento. The Passenger station is covered but it is also open to the elements.  The train cars, however, are nice and warm for your trip.

Restrooms and Diaper-Changing Facilities

There are no restrooms aboard the train.  Restrooms are available in the Central Pacific Passenger Station.  Reminder announcements will be made throughout the hour prior to boarding.  The train ride is one-hour long, so please plan accordingly.

Will my infant need a ticket?

No.  Children under the age of two do not need a ticket.  They must be seated on an adult’s lap while on the train.  Infants cannot be placed in a carrier or car seat on the train, they must be held.

Can we bring our baby stroller?

Strollers and baby carriers are not allowed aboard The Polar Express Train Ride, due to narrow aisles aboard the train and the need for crews to freely move about during the trip. You may keep your stroller with you while inside the Passengers Station.  Stroller parking will be available just prior to boarding of your train. A convenient location will be designated for this purpose, and guarded while your train is journeying to the North Pole!

Access for persons with disabilities

Due to historic, limited doorway widths and steep stepwells, train rides on The Polar Express are not fully accessible to persons with disabilities.  However, our train crews are always pleased to lend assistance when boarding and alighting from the train (provided wheelchairs or other oversize assistive devices are not required during the trip). If you need any assistance preboarding the train, please let them know at the ticket window and a station agent will preboard your family member who needs assistance plus one other person from the party to accompany them.  The remaining members of the party will line up with the rest of the passengers for regular boarding.

The California State Railroad Museum and related "Polar Express" activities are fully accessible to persons with disabilities, except as noted above. If you require special accommodation, please notify us in advance of your visit by e-mailing us via the "contact us" page on our Polar Express home page, or by calling (916) 445-8270.

My child has food allergies; can you accommodate special dietary requests?

Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate special requests.  We will be serving hot chocolate and a cookie.  Parents of children with allergies may bring their own cookies and cocoa.

Will every person receive a bell?

Every person on the train will receive a bell from Santa.

Will the ride be cancelled if it is bad weather?

Winter wind, rain or other adverse conditions are possible, but the Polar Express Train Ride will operate as scheduled regardless of weather.  Most event activities are indoors or under cover. All seating aboard trains is indoors; no open-air cars will be included on the train.  Please check weather conditions prior to your visit and dress accordingly.

Where can I get souvenirs?

This Polar Express Train Ride event will feature a variety of themed merchandise. Cash, checks, and credit cards will be accepted. An extensive selection of railroad-related merchandise is also available from the California State Railroad Museum Store, along with souvenirs, books, videos, posters and gifts. The Museum Store will operate its regular hours of 10:00 am to 5:00 pm during The Polar Express Train Ride event (closing time each evening during the event will be extended until 9:30 p.m. at the Polar Express Store in the Central Pacific Passenger Station) To order before or after your visit, call (800) 417-7245 or visit the Museum Store online. 

If I haven’t read the book or seen the movie will I still have a good time?

Absolutely!  You can read along or just listen as we read the storybook on our train ride to the North Pole.  If you have read the book or seen the movie you will feel like you’ve stepped off the pages as we recreate the story with your child as a part of the cast.

Resale is not permitted and is unlawful

Our policy strictly prohibits the resale or attempted resale of any ticket for the Polar Express Train Ride. In addition, the use of public advertising - such as but not limited to eBay and Craig's List - to resell tickets is not permitted.  Either action will result in the immediate cancellation of the membership.

Museum and Membership Information

We encourage you to browse the website of the California State Railroad Museum further to learn about upcoming events and exhibits, and for information about becoming a museum member. Museum members receive advance notification and advance purchase opportunities for events such as The Polar Express Train Ride, plus year-round free admission to the California State Railroad Museum and free train rides aboard the Museum's Sacramento Southern Railroad April through September (weekends only).

Member Advance Ticket Sales

A limited number of Polar Express Train Ride tickets will be available in advance to members of the California State Railroad Museum and Railtown 1897 State Historic Park on September 27 – 29, 2011.  
You will need your membership I.D. # to purchase tickets.
Max 10 tickets per membership during Member Advance Ticket Sales period.  
Membership must be current at time of order.  
New members must have purchased membership prior to September 15, 2011.  
Memberships purchased after September 15, will not be eligible for 2011 advance Ticket Sales.

Click here for more information on Member Advance Ticket Sales