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.
An annual Yuletide celebration staged at historical Blackberry Farm, 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. “The spirit of the season is ageless and, no matter how old we are, the child in us remains.
“And maybe, just maybe, the Holiday Express experience can rekindle those cherished feelings of belief we all used to have growing up.”
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.
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.
Holiday Express’ $8 admission (get your tickets here) includes unlimited rides on the train and hay wagon, which are both ADA-accessible.
But on the train and in its adjacent depot is where you’ll hear the enchanting giddiness, when kids wait with anticipation and excitement to board the train for the three-quarter-mile adventure enroute to the virtual North Pole. Each rail car is adorned with a swath of holiday garnish, and festive melodies play throughout the ride.
“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 the 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.
“The only thing we can’t control is snow,” Harling said. “Snow just adds to the Holiday Express experience. Snow just feels different.”
For more information about Holiday Express or Blackberry Farm, visit www.blackberryfarm.info or call 630-892-1550.