For the second year in a row, we boarded the Polar Express out of Squamish-based West Coast Railway Association. The experience was mostly the same, though 15-minutes longer on the train ride. The conductor on the ride was amazing this time around and they really upped the fantasy factor with small details such as the “spirit” walking the aisle. To draw out the experience, the cookie and hot chocolate were served separately this year, which I liked. We had both Oma and Babby there, which really made the experience fun for our boys.
Although I love the whole experience, it is still a little slow for the young ones since the train does a lot of track switching and doesn’t travel very far. Aiden was a little disappointed that the locomotive was not steam-powered and that it was not snowing, like in the book / movie. He would notice those things, right? We also made the mistake of not immediately lining up for Santa and then having to wait an hour for our visit. Oh well, it meant skipping the mall Santa visit.
Damien woke from a nap about 10 seconds before this photo was taken! Although I put them in PJs, as per the suggestion for the Polar Express adventure, I didn’t think about using the cute PJs for the photo. Oh well, next year!
I also think it’s crazy how different parenting a second child is! We never would have taken Aiden to The Polar Express at this age, or Squamish either. Damien actually is ok in his car seat during the day, so he stayed awake for all but the last 2 minutes of the trip (grr, we hoped he’d nap). He napped twice while we were at The Polar Express and we all went out for dinner before our trip home. Aiden fell asleep almost instantly at around 5:30 but Damien cried the whole way home. Boo for that.
Today we took Aiden out to Squamish to board the Polar Express 2011 run by the West Coast Railway Association. Just like the book and movie, the Polar Express invites children young and old to board a train to the North Pole. The 60 minute train ride includes some of the story over the speakers (sadly, a little too quiet), a cookie and hot chocolate (huge hit) and the singing of Christmas carols.
The train doesn’t go very far during the ride (my geek of a husband tracked it) and made stops during food delivery, but all the kids seemed quite happy with the ride they did get. If you go in the afternoon as we did, it will be getting dark just as you return.
After the train ride, you stop at the North Pole, set up inside the Roundhouse, which is a great open space featuring a few trains to look at as well. There were lots of crafts set up, a gift shop, and a little coffee shop. The line to visit Santa takes some time, but it’s worth it. A visit to Santa brings the “first gift of Christmas” – the reindeer bell. Totally awesome.
Included in the coach ticket is a lanyard with the Gold ticket, the train ride with goodies, access to the North Pole to visit Mr. & Mrs. Claus, one ride on the mini train and access to all the crafts set up on site. Though seating is first come first served, it didn’t appear to be an issue for anyone. The first class tickets, sold out for the year, also include a free collectors mug with the assigned seats.
Next year we will read the story (which we bought there) and watch the movie before the ride too, to really get into it. Even without that, Aiden had a downright fantastic afternoon. He was thrilled with every aspect, even if he didn’t want to sit on Santa’s knee. When asked what he wanted for Christmas, to tell Santa, Aiden said “apple,” then “treat,” both of which we can easily manage. He rode the mini train (huge for him), and was heard to say “Bye Bye Santa” as we left. See all our photos here.
Tips for families: Lots of people got into the spirit by wearing PJs, but do bring warm clothes to put on top. Also bring your camera, as you’re encouraged to snap your own shots with Santa (save on mall Santas?!). I was kicking myself all afternoon for forgetting our SLR. Next year!
Disclosure: We received one adult and child pass complimentary, but paid for the additional two passes.
We purchased a yearly pass a few months ago to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. As BC residents, you can get the yearly pass for less than the cost of a single visit for a non BC resident, so it’s pretty reasonable. Aiden is free, of course. We’ve been several times, enjoying the tree tops adventures, walks around the pond, and just looking around at the plants. It’s a close venue for us to “kill time” at somewhere that’s not a mall!
Now that Aiden’s walking, we’ll be making more visits to the Cap Bridge. It’s a fantastic place for Aiden to toddle around and look at nature on an easier footing. Last night we took him to see the Canyon Lights festival that brings together 250,000 lights along with a few activities. Though we were there early, we were lucky that the lights were flipped on at 4:30, meaning we could rush Aiden home for his dinner and bedtime at just past 6.
As you can see, there are some great photo ops! For those of you looking to get out and do more holiday activities, but don’t want to fight traffic or time to get to Stanley Park or Van Dusen, this is a great alternative!
Today we paid our first visit to the Capilano River Hatchery in North Vancouver. The hatchery runs every day of the year and is FREE – a big bonus! We kind of didn’t know what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised.
Aside from the huge volume of tourists, there was a lot to see and do for families with small children. There are displays all about the salmon and various tanks of the fish of different sizes. The biggest draw is the ladder where you can see the fish jumping up the river in the right season.
The hatchery has a page set up with all the seasonal activities so you can plan your trips accordingly. Great reasons to make this a regular go-to weekend family activity!
Aiden is a morning napper. Yes, he’s still at 2 naps, but his first nap of the day is, by far, his most important. He also takes it super early… usually 1-2 hours after he wakes up. He’ll nap from 1.5-2 hours, and once for 2.5 hours.
Right now, I can see him stretching his morning awake period to 2-2.5 hours and stretching his nap to 2-2.5 hours… and dropping his last nap altogether. I’ve come close one day to having to skip his last nap. There will come a time when that second nap will be ‘needed’ so late in the day that we’ll simply start pushing him to an early bedtime instead.
Now, I don’t mind this. Being a stay-at-home-mom, I can work around Aiden’s schedule and can let him nap any old time he wants. I don’t have to conform to a daycare schedule for naptimes.
The problem is… the world was not designed for morning nappers. The majority of babies, from what I hear from other moms, have their longest, not shortest, awake period in the morning. As they approach a year, this time will lengthen until their main nap is around 12-2 for the day. And most programs are designed with this in mind.
The majority of groups for babies – toddler & me, StrongStart, learning together through play – all run from 9-12:30. If Aiden keeps up with his shifting schedule, this will be when he has his nap. It’s unfortunate, too, because these are great programs. Even some of the paid drop-ins are only available during the morning hours.
There are a few drop-ins that run from 12 or 1-3:30, so I think we’ll be able to participate in programs hopefully 4 times a week…. once we stop the second nap. For now, we’re shifting to a point where he may nap during both drop-in windows. :(