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.
Is the train wheelchair accessible? Yes. We can accommodate up to four wheelchairs per train ride. When purchasing ticket please let the box office know how many patrons will be in wheelchairs. 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 in each car may vary due to weather conditions and equipment. The locomotive and train cars are historic so on occasion we can run into mechanical issues that may effect our ability to heat the cars efficiently. Conversely, while the weather may be cold outside, the train cars can get hot inside when they are full of people and the locomotive is running! To be safe, we encourage all passengers to dress warm and weather appropriate. 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.
Can I bring my dog or pet on the train ride? No. Dogs and other pets are not allowed on the train for this event, with the exception of service animals, which are always welcome.
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 of our mission!
I’m bringing along an infant. Does he/she need a ticket? Infants not need a ticket. Please note that infants without a ticket must sit on your lap for the duration of the ride. In addition, we are not able to offer cookies, cocoa or souvenir bells to infants. Every passenger aged 2 and above needs a ticket.
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. Please keep in mind that you are attending a winter event in Maine and snow in other parts of the state might not affect our operations here in Portland. Plan accordingly if you need to travel a distance to get to the event. As a rule, the Maine Narrow Gauge will cancel a train only if we feel it is unsafe to operate. In the event of a cancellation, information will be available on the PortTIX website, on the museum’s website, and on our social media pages (Instagram, Twitter & Facebook). Any decision to cancel a train will be made by 10am the day of the event. Be sure to check in these places the day of your ride. If a train is cancelled, ticket holders may choose a refund or to receive a ticket voucher for the following year’s event. 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 for the Polar Express™ sell out each year.
I already purchased my tickets and asked that they be held at Will Call. Where is that located? “Will Call” is the ticket desk 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 departure 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 and ask for the group sales manager. 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? Parking is available in an attended lot directly next to Ocean Gateway for a fee (except on days when there is a city-wide parking ban due to snow). The closest parking garage is the Ocean Gateway Parking Garage at 167 Fore Street. There is a fee for parking in the garage. There are several other parking garages in the Old Port and limited street parking available around Ocean Gateway. 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