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By Joe Siegel
The 2019 Holiday Season will feature an old favorite as the Polar Express begins its journey from the Blackstone Valley Train Depot in Woonsocket on November 15.
The 90-minute ride is a treat for the entire family and features a reading of the classic Chris Van Allsburg book, “The Polar Express,” sing-alongs, hot chocolate, cookies, games and visits from Santa. The journey takes passengers to the North Pole, where there is snow and a 35 foot tall Christmas tree.
This is the 20th year of operation for the popular attraction, which is expected to draw more than 20,000 people.
“We’re actually the longest-running polar express train ride in the country,” said James Toomey, director of marketing for the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council. “Over the years, it’s continued to grow.”
Toomey said there are now 57 trips over the six weekends of operation.
As the years go by, the ride itself continues to transform as a way of staying faithful to the book.
“We keep adding new elements,” Toomey explained.
For a few years, the train departed from Ann and Hope in Cumberland before moving back to the Woonsocket depot, which has been a boost to the city.
“It’s a wonderful to be able to bring thousands and thousands of people into downtown Woonsocket,” Toomey said. “The restaurants are a lot busier and it’s always fun to get the feedback from a family in pajamas showing up at a restaurant knowing that they’re just either getting off the Polar Express or heading there later that day.”
Toomey said the Polar Express serves as a major fundraiser for the tourism council.
“It allows for us to provide environmental education, it helps us to operate our riverboats, our educational boat “The Explorer,” and all our other programs,” Toomey added.
The Polar Express runs from November 15 through December 22. Historic Blackstone Valley Train Depot. One Depot Square, Woonsocket, RI. For more information, visit blackstonevalleypolarexpress.com.