WICHITA, Kans. (KSNW) – The only thing more fun than a train chugging down the tracks is what’s waiting at the other end!
“Ho ho ho!” bellows Santa, as he and Mrs. Claus wave to kids at O.J. Watson Park.
More than a dozen boys and girls, dressed in pajamas, are with their families on board Wichita’s version of the Polar Express, called the Watson Christmas Express!
The train is decorated with bright, red bows, shiny bells, and wreaths on each car.
To prepare the children for their adventure, they first listen to a reading of the famous book by Chris Van Allsburg.
Holding gold tickets, they then take a ride to Santa’s Workshop, set up at the north end of the park.
“I think he’s gonna ask what we’re gonna want for Christmas,” says 9-year-old Diana Haines. “I don’t know what I’m going to say yet.”
But perhaps the bigger question– is she naughty or nice?
“Oh, naughty, definitely,” jokes her 12-year-old brother, Nathaniel. “I’m perfectly nice.”
“I’ve been listening to my teacher,” says 5-year-old Eleanor Begley, smiling.
“She’s a good kid,” agrees her mother, Trish. She says Eleanor has memorized her Christmas wish list, which includes a Barbie camper.
It’s the sixth year for the park’s holiday train ride, delivering kids to the North Pole 56 times this season.
Once there, they get right in with the big man himself.
“C’mon in!” beckons Santa, from inside a wood cabin decorated with lights and greenery.
“How are you doing?” he asks a boy as he hoists him up on his knee. “What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?”
“A snowboard,” says one boy.
“A Nerf gun,” replies his brother.
No matter what they ask for, Santa gives each child a silver bell, like in the Polar Express book.
“Santa’s got you the first gift of Christmas!”
The kids also warm up around a campfire, make s’mores, drink hot chocolate and sing “Jingle Bells.”
Soon, it’s time to go, and as the train heads back from the North Pole, Santa has good news for the rest of us.
“You know, I’ve found that all the girls and boys in Wichita this year have been really good!”
The Watson Christmas Express runs several times on Friday, December 27, and Saturday, Dec. 28.
Tickets are $16 for those 2 years and up.
Click here for more details and how to register.
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