With a dash of imagination mixed with some holiday spirit, visitors to the Fox Valley Park District’s Holiday Express instantly re-experience the childhood vibes – hope, anticipation, cheer – that only the season can provide.
Tickets for the annual Yuletide celebration, staged at historical Blackberry Farm, go on sale at 9 a.m. Friday (Nov. 12) on the FVPD’s website. Admission is $8 for all guests ages 1+, and includes unlimited rides on the train and hay wagon, which are both ADA-accessible.
Its features and amenities nodding to the treasured 2004 movie The Polar Express, Holiday Express rolls into the Fox Valley the first three weekends (Thursday-Sunday) in December, beginning Thursday, Dec. 2. Special Needs Night, a low-sensory environment with quieter music and fewer tickets sold, takes place Friday, Dec. 3.
Back after a one-year absence due to the pandemic, Holiday Express delivers Christmas spirit in the form of a life-sized snow globe, complete with a replica steam-engine train that chugs around scenic Lake Gregory.
“The best part about Holiday Express is seeing how much people enjoy it, kids and adults alike,” said Becky Harling, facility manager at Blackberry Farm, who noted that tickets do sell quickly. “The spirit of the season is ageless and, no matter how old we are, the child in us remains.”
Staff at Blackberry Farm uses the entire month of November to transition the park from autumnal glow to holiday magic. Thousands of glittering lights adorn streetlamps, trees and buildings; lighted candy canes illuminate walking paths; and classic holiday music plays in the background throughout the event.
But the three-quarter-mile adventure aboard the train – enroute to the virtual North Pole – is the main attraction, as each rail car is adorned with a swath of holiday garnish and riders are serenaded by festive melodies.
“The train is the centerpiece of the park, and our most popular attraction throughout the year,” Harling said. “And when you add a storyline and a little bit of imagination, the 10-minute ride becomes a magical journey to a faraway land.”
And, of course, no holiday-themed event feels complete without the presence of Santa, whose helpers have transformed Blackberry Farm’s Carriage House into the jolly old elf’s personal workshop – the North Pole Oasis – where kids can whisper their lists of treasures they hope to find under the tree.
Visitors to Holiday Express can also enjoy:
• Listening to storytellers recite tales of Christmas
• Searching for strategically placed golden candy canes and, upon completion, entering to win a 2022 Family Season Pass to Blackberry Farm
• Making crafts in Weaver’s Cabin
• Preparing reindeer food to sprinkle across front lawns on Christmas Eve
• Getting hands-on at the sensory table in Little Farmer’s Junction
• Exploring the Adventure Playground
• Shopping holiday ornaments and decorations in the Gift Shop
Photo opportunities abound at the 54-acre park, and Holiday Express has not disappointed in its 15 years, for families quickly incorporated a December trip to Blackberry Farm into their annual holiday traditions.
For more information about Holiday Express or Blackberry Farm, visit www.blackberryfarm.info or call 630-892-1550.