Grand Canyon Railway (GCR) has expanded the number of matinees it is offering this year and is accepting reservations for its popular Polar Express runs.
GCR will offer runs this year between Nov. 9 and Jan. 5 with matinees on Nov. 23 and 24 and Dec. 1, 8, 15, 16, 22 and 23. For those dates with two runs, departures are at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Matinees depart at 3:30 p.m.
New for the 2012-2013 holiday season, a character from the book - "the Hobo" - will be available at the railway's Williams Depot for photos with passengers. The railway has also increased the number of Christmas lights - many of them energy-saving LED lights - at both the depot and at the "North Pole," a Christmas light village.
Some weekend dates are already sold out, so Grand Canyon Railway recommends booking early for the best selection.
Closely following The Polar Express book by Chris Van Allsburg, this nighttime trip from the Grand Canyon Railway depot in Williams travels through the starlit wilderness to the North Pole and features a special reading of The Polar Express while passengers enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. The North Pole was extensively renovated recently with enhanced lighting and the addition of features such as storefronts, mailboxes and other structures to give the village a more permanent and three-dimensional look and feel. Upon arrival at the North Pole, passengers are welcomed by Santa Claus and Elf Bernard before Santa boards the Polar Express for the return trip to Williams. Santa makes his way through the passenger cars, greeting every child and presenting each one with a special gift - a jingle bell signifying their belief in Santa Claus. The round-trip journey is a little more than an hour in length.
Most evenings GCR offers two trains. The "Christmas Eve Limited," departing at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., includes special gifts from Santa that are not included during other excursions.
Polar Express reservations can be made by calling 1-888-848-3511 or by visiting www.thetrain.com/polar-express-5679.html. For more information about the Grand Canyon Railway or to purchase other tickets or packages visit www.thetrain.com or call 1-800-The-Train (1-800-843-8724).