Left the desert mid-morning and rode through the pine trees all the way to Williams, Arizona, established 1881.
Our hotel faced the festively-lit reindeer corral and the train tracks. We had the perfect room location.
After a buffet dinner, the kids changed into their pajamas and we prepared to board the Polar Express.
It really was a magically fun night for our whole family. We heard songs from the movie soundtrack, plus Liam Neeson reading the story on CD as we enjoyed our hot chocolate and cookie en route to the North Pole. There Santa boarded the train and gave each child a jingle bell. Heading back to Williams, we sang lots of Christmas carols and laughed at John climbing all over the seat. It was a wonderful ride. More than the program of the evening, I want to remember riding in an antique train somewhere near the Grand Canyon with my young children and the full moon outside illuminating the tall trees.
Back at the station, we met Mrs. Claus, had a family photo taken with a very kind Santa, and walked back to our room in the cold night.
With kids asleep, Kevin and I settled down to read (he also had some candy from the vending machine down the hall). I heard a noise outside the window that I've never heard in my life - the clop, clop, clop of a horse pulling a carriage on the street below. It was as if we'd gone back in time. Or maybe just chose a really great vacation.