Frequently Asked Questions about Polar Express™
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE EVENT
Can you tell me more about the event? Passengers arrive at the Ocean Gateway Visitor Center which serves as our train depot for the event. There they board the train and ride about a mile and a half along Casco Bay on the Eastern Promenade to the “North Pole.” Chefs serve hot chocolate and cookies to passengers on the journey. Holiday decorations inside the train add to the festive atmosphere as guests on board meet the Conductor, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, listen to a reading of the magical story, and sing carols. Santa boards the train from a special outpost of the North Pole and greet passengers, making sure every child receives a bell. For Parents, Grandparents and other Christmas shoppers, there is Polar Express™ merchandise available for purchase in the gift shop along with other holiday gifts. Families can also take a photo with the Conductor at the train depot. Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas. All passengers should ready to board the train at least 15 minutes prior to the train’s departure. Please be sure you arrive early – The Polar Express™ leaves right on time!
Do we get off the train? No. Passengers stay on the train. Santa boards the train at the “North Pole” and will greet passengers in each car.
How long does the ride last? The actual train ride lasts about 45 minutes. We suggest you allow approximately an hour and a half for the whole event. There is holiday music, shopping and an opportunity to have your photo taken with the Conductor at Ocean Gateway while you wait to board your train. Be sure to bring along your camera.
Is the train wheelchair accessible? Yes. We can accommodate up to four wheelchairs per train ride. There is handicap parking available at the Ocean Gateway terminal. Please be prepared to board 20 minutes before your train departure.
Are strollers allowed on board? No. Strollers can be left at the train depot.
What is the difference between a First Class ticket and a Coach ticket? First Class cars are limited to a smaller amount of passengers. In the First Class cars, passengers receive their hot chocolate in a ceramic souvenir mug that is theirs to keep after the event.
Are the cars heated? The train cars are heated with the steam locomotive, however, temperatures may vary due to weather conditions and equipment. Please be sure to dress warm and weather appropriate. Keep in mind the weather may be cold outside, but the train can get hot inside, when it is full of people and the locomotive is running! Easily removable layers are suggested.
What days and times are the trains? Please visit the PortTIX website to view our full schedule of dates and times.
When do tickets go on sale? Tickets go on sale in September each year, usually just after Labor Day. The museum will announce the on-sale date via social media and our website. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest news and information from the museum.
Can I buy the tickets in person? All tickets for this event are sold through PortTix. Passengers can purchase tickets online through the PortTIX website or by calling the box office at 207-842-0800. If there are any tickets still available for a train the day of the event, they can be purchased at Ocean Gateway (where the trains depart) one hour before the first train leaves the station. Advanced reservations are strongly encouraged. Trains usually sell out. Tickets are not available for purchase at the railroad museum.
What is the cost of tickets? Tickets are $24 per coach ticket or $40 per first class ticket. Please note there is a $5 processing fee added to each ticket (bringing the total cost to $29 per coach ticket and $45 per first class ticket). Please visit PortTix to purchase tickets.
Why did you raise the price? Ticket prices were increased in 2015 to reflect the increased cost of producing the event. This was the first time the museum has raised ticket prices since the event began in 2008. The Polar Express™ event is the largest annual fundraiser for the museum. We thank you for your support.
My child is two years old. Does he/she need a ticket? Children aged 2 and under do not need to purchase a ticket. As long as your child can sit on your lap for the ride, a separate ticket is not required for ages 2 and under.
What if I can’t make my train or if there is a snow storm? All ticket sales are non-refundable, unless a train is cancelled. As a rule, Maine Narrow Gauge will cancel a train only if the City of Portland declares a snow emergency or in the case of equipment failure. Should that happen, cancellation information will be available on the PortTIX website, on the museum website, and via PortTIX at 207-842-0800. Any decision to cancel a train will be made by 10am the day of the event. If a train is cancelled, ticket-holders may choose to exchange into another train (subject to availability). Refund requests must be made through PortTIX by January 10, 2017. Please note, processing fees are not returnable in any form.
Can I buy tickets the day of the event? Yes, IF there are any available. Tickets can be purchased for the current day only at “Will Call,” located in the Ocean Gateway building where you will board your train. Tickets still available on a given evening can be purchased one hour prior to the first train departure. Advanced reservations are strongly encouraged as tickets often sell out.
I already purchased my tickets and asked that they be held at Will Call. Where is that located? “Will Call” is located in the Ocean Gateway Visitor Center. This building serves as our train depot for the event and is where you will board the train. The Ocean Gateway Train Depot opens one hour prior to the first train’s departure. Please allow at least thirty minutes before your train to pick up your tickets.
Are there any tickets left? What nights/times are still available? Please call PortTIX at 207-842-0800 or visit their website for ticket information.
Are there any group rates available? Groups of 20+ qualify for a group rate. Please contact PortTIX by calling 207-842-0800 ext. 227 to make a group reservation or email them (firstname.lastname@example.org) to inquire about a group reservation. Group discounts are available for advanced reservations only.
Where do we get on board? Passengers should arrive at the Ocean Gateway Visitor Center at 14 Thames Street to board the train. The Ocean Gateway Visitor Center serves as our train depot for this event. You must be ready to board your train at least 15 minutes prior to your departure time – the Polar Express™ leaves right on time. The museum is NOT open during the event.
Where do we park? The closest parking garage is the Ocean Gateway Parking Garage at 167 Fore Street. Please note that there is a fee for parking in the garage. There are several other parking garages in the Old Port and limited street parking available. The gravel parking lot located directly across the street from Ocean Gateway is a Pay to Park lot. You must pay at the meter station if you wish to park there or you will get a parking ticket from the City of Portland. There is NO parking available at the museum and the museum is not open during the event.
Directions to Ocean Gateway Pier & Parking Garage:
- From I-295, take EXIT 7 (Franklin Street).
- On Franklin Street, go to the 7th traffic light and turn LEFT onto Commercial Street.
- Continue STRAIGHT through the stop sign at Commercial & India Streets.
- At next stop sign, turn LEFT onto Hancock Street. (Look to the right to see Ocean Gateway Pier – building with clock tower. This is where you’ll board the train).
- At next stop sign, turn LEFT onto Fore Street. Entrance to garage is on the right (alternate entrance for garage around the block on the opposite side of the building). Please note there is a FEE for parking.
What are some nearby hotels? Portland has many great hotels and accommodations to choose from. Here are a few hotels that are located within a few miles of the event:
- Hampton Inn, 209 Fore Street: (207) 775-1454
- Hilton Garden Inn, 65 Commercial Street: (207) 780-0780
- Holiday Inn Portland by the Bay, 88 Spring Street: (207) 775-2311
- Portland Harbor Hotel, 468 Fore Street: (207) 775-9090
- Portland Regency Hotel & Spa, 20 Milk Street: (207) 774-4200
- Residence Inn Portland Downtown/Waterfront, 145 Fore Street: (207) 761-1660
What are some nearby kid-friendly restaurants? Portland has many great restaurants to choose from. Here are a few restaurants that are child friendly and are located within a short distance from the train depot:
- DiMillo’s, 25 Long Wharf: (207)772-2216
- Flatbread Company, 72 Commercial Street #5: (207)772-8777
- Otto Pizza, 225 Congress Street: (207)773-7099
- Sebago Brewing Company, 211 Fore Street: (207)775-2337