The Polar Express at Union Station 2020

This year things have been switched up a bit but the big news is that The Polar Express is back at Union Station in downtown St. Louis! Grab your masks and grab your kiddos and head downtown for a unique holiday experience unlike any other in St. Louis!

Even in the time of Coronavirus, an important St. Louis holiday tradition will continue to bring joy to families. The Polar Express returns to St. Louis Union Station for the 2020 season with some changes to allow for appropriate social distancing and safety.

The popular family event has been recreated as Believe! THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience for 2020. The beautifully decorated trains will remain stationary under the Union Station train shed this year for a walk-through event. Guests will interact with the The Polar Express characters and Santa Claus in whimsically decorated tents and on the Station’s Purina Performance Plaza.

Believe! THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience is the magical story of a boy’s search for the real meaning of Christmas, based on the beloved children’s book and hit film.

The event begins November 20 and continues through December 30, 2020. 
After beginning their journey, guests will feel the approach of a mysterious train and see the Conductor inviting them to board THE POLAR EXPRESS™. Set to the motion picture soundtrack, non-moving train tours will transport passengers into the magic of the beloved holiday classic.
During the experience, hot chocolate and cookies will be served by dancing and singing chefs and guests will read along with the children’s book,The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. Santa and his elves will visit with children and give them the first gift of Christmas, a silver bell.
Characters and helpers will wear masks and masks will be required for all guests over the age of nine per St. Louis City Health Department guidelines. 

Timed tickets will be available from 1 to 9 p.m., Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with the last ticket sold at 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, the event will be open from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. with the last ticket sold at 8 p.m. Timed tickets will allow for appropriate attendance sizes and social distancing during the event. Ticket prices range from $27 to $45.

More information about dates, fares and event times is available by calling 314-942-6942, or by visiting www.STLPolarExpressRide.com. Families are encouraged to wear their holiday pajamas for the experience. 

THE ST. LOUIS WHEEL & MORE
Admission to Believe! THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience can be combined with tickets to ride the St. Louis Wheel or to explore the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station. The 200-foot-tall observation wheel will be open daily from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. for views of the glittering downtown holiday lights. Additional activities on site include the St. Louis Aquarium, open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and during holiday breaks. The St. Louis Carousel, an 18-hole mini-golf course at the Wheel plaza and the St. Louis Ropes Course and A-Maze-Ing Discoveries Mirror Maze inside Union Station also are open during the event.

St. Louis Union Station will continue its popular holiday fire and light show set to Christmas music on the train shed lake during the season. THE POLAR EXPRESS™ movie will be shown every night during the season.

Guests can get a head start on their holiday shopping at The Winter Market, which offers a holiday shopping experience inside the event space. Carnival games, strolling entertainers and holiday lights add to the festive atmosphere.

ROOM PACKAGES AT THE ST. LOUIS UNION STATION HOTEL
Guests can save 20 percent on their Believe! THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Experience tickets when they purchase a hotel package at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton. The hotel package includes tickets to Believe! THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience and deluxe accommodations or an exclusive holiday-decorated suite with turn-down service for the complete seasonal experience.

Book a hotel stay here: 
https://www.stlthepolarexpressride.com/hotel-packages

NEW THIS YEAR: PANCAKES WITH SANTA
Select Saturdays and Sundays in December, families can enjoy a special Pancakes with Santa breakfast in Union Station’s Grand Hall. Pancakes topped with strawberries and fun whipped cream Santa faces are served with bacon and milk for the kids or coffee for the grownups. Seatings are available at 9, 9:45, 10:30 and 10:45 a.m. on December 5 & 6, 12 & 13, and 19 & 20, 2020. Santa will visit with every child during the event. Tables will be placed at appropriate social distances and only one group will be seated at a table. Masks are required per City of St. Louis Health Department requirements.

Tickets are available at:
https://www.stlthepolarexpressride.com/pancakes-with-santa

There is so much to do this year at Union Station. It is worth a trip to visit and see what all the excitement is about. Our little family of four felt very comfortable wearing our masks, walking around, and enjoying everything Union Station has to offer. Just remember the three W’s. Wear your mask, Wait 6 feet apart, and Wash your hands!

Halloween at Union Station!

All Aboard! The Union Station Halloween Experience brings family fun to the fall season in St. Louis, October 9 – 31.

Created for children 12 and under and their families, the Union Station Halloween Experience is a themed walking journey through the historic railroad terminal’s stationary rail cars. Each train car features a spooky theme including pirates, witches, dark creatures and a candy wonderland. 
Guests can purchase tickets and start their Halloween journey inside a huge tent filled with a not-so-scary maze, a series of boo-rific decorated rooms and a big barnyard where guests 12 and under receive a free pumpkin.
Onboard the rail cars, characters read a story with clues and interactive elements to solve the Riddle of the Werewolf. Kids get a special treat at the end of the journey.

The Union Station Halloween Experience is open daily, October 9 – 31 from 1 to 9 p.m. with the last ticket sold at 8 p.m.

My two kiddos LOVED the Halloween Experience at Union Station. It was just the perfect amount of scary for them. My son is six and he was holding my hand so tight while walking through the spooky maze. My daughter is ten and wasn’t as scared but just loved how everything was setup.

With a magic show, a balloon artist, and much more, the first part of the Halloween Experience was already worth checking out. The second part, which consists of going through several train cars that are decorated with some crazy Halloween flair was just as fun. Listening to the story and putting together the clues provided a unique experience that kids and adults should really enjoy.

Ticket options allow guests to incorporate package deals with Union Station’s other attractions, adding a visit to the St. Louis Aquarium and the 200-foot-tall St. Louis Wheel at a reduced price.

Timed tickets for the Union Station Halloween Experience are $20 per person and may be purchased on site or online at: https://www.stlouisunionstation.com/halloween-train-ticketing.

With normal Halloween plans changed due to COVID-19, the new event has been created with guest safety in mind. Just 12 people will be admitted to each train car at a time to allow for appropriate social distancing. Masks are required and family groups will be seated separately. The train cars and tent areas will be sanitized throughout the day according to Union Station’s strict safety protocols.


STAY AND PLAY
Hotel room packages with Halloween Experience tickets start at $150/night for families that want to continue the Halloween fun with an overnight stay at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel after the event.
Parking for the event is $5 per car.

ACTIVITIES ON THE PLAZA
A fall festival market tent will house shopping and activities on the Purina Performance Plaza. Halloween items will be for sale, including decorating kits for pumpkins distributed during the event. 

Fun festival-style food and drinks will be available on the Plaza and Soda Fountain, Union Station’s popular retro diner, is adding Halloween Freak Shakes to the menu.


HALLOWEEN ON THE WHEEL
Scan the skies for witches and ghosts from the top of the St. Louis Wheel. The 200-foot-tall observation wheel at Union Station will be lighted in Halloween color themes during the event and a scary soundtrack will play on the Plaza. Hourly fire and light shows will entertain families on the Union Station lake. 


UNDERWATER SCARES
The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station gets in on the Halloween fun with underwater pumpkin carving. The Aquarium’s talented divers will create Jack o’ Lantern treats for the fishy residents of Shark Canyon. Carving demonstrations will take place on Saturdays and Sundays during dive shows at 11 a.m. and 1:30 and 4 p.m.

The Union Station Halloween Experience is located under the historic train shed at 201 S. 18th Street, St. Louis, MO 63013.

Hiking Through a Pandemic

What do you do when everything is shut down and there is nowhere to go? You go hiking over the hills and through the woods, that’s what you do.

With playgrounds, skateparks, businesses, and just about everything else shut down during this pandemic we had to go elsewhere to keep from getting cabin fever and that elsewhere was the various parks that were still open that had hiking options available… and apparently, just about everyone else had that idea too. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

We went everywhere that we could and a few places we weren’t suppose to visit, but I won’t list those. It is such a major accomplishment when you knock out a trail. Especially when the kids come along with us. They are great hikers and love finding and identifying rocks, plants, and other things found out in the woods. We have been using the app All Trails to find cool spots to hike and explore and we have been using the app Seek to help us identify plants along the way.

We also have started taking grocery bags with us and picking up liter that we find on the trails as well. It is astonishing how much trash people will just leave on a trail. Did you really think taking a 32 ounce styrofoam cup with you on a 3 mile hike was a good idea? Apparently so, which is why we are now cleaning up after you.

Read up on the 7 principles of the Leave No Trace project. It is a great resource and helpful guide on how best to mind your manners while out exploring.

So where have we gone? Well, all over. We want to explore more, so if you have a recommendation please share in a comment or reach out on social media. Here is a list of just a few of the trails we have checked out this year.

Loutre River Trail
Saint Stanislaus Trail
Connors Cave
Spring Brook Trail Loop via Devil’s Icebox Trail
Castlewood Loop
Old Chain of Rocks Bridge
Fort Bellefontaine Loop Trail
River Scene Trail Loop
Spring Branch Trail
Wildflower Trail
Mina Sauk Falls Trail
Rock Quarry Trail
Hogsback Trail
Trail Among Trees
Klondike Park Katy Trail
Elephant Rock State Park

Like I mentioned, we started to use the app All Trails this year to keep track of the trails we have rocked. It is a handy app that gives you some nice GPS data and other information about the trail you are on. It’s not a bad tool to have when you are out there in the wilderness. It also helps keep track of other cool stats over the lifetime of using the app. I kind of wish we started using it sooner as I think my stats would be much higher had I did.

All in all hiking has become one of our families go to activities. We just love getting outdoors and exploring the world around us. I have some video and photos from some of these hikes that I hope to put together at some point, but most importantly with all that is going on, getting out and getting back to nature this year has been a perfect way to be mindful and balance yourself.

Stay tuned for a future post where I share what I have in my hiking bag and why my wife thinks it is way too heavy!

Giving Yourself a Break: Top Ways to Spend Your Me-Time

This has been a difficult year for many of us. Alongside the usual stresses of day to day life, almost all of us have had to deal with the consequences of a worldwide pandemic. Back in January, who could have anticipated that we’d spend the majority of this year battling against the effects of a potentially deadly virus. Coronavirus and Covid-19 have posed a huge health threat, have caused the implementation of social isolation and social distancing (posing a threat to our mental health and emotional wellbeing) and have also ravaged the economy, causing countless companies to collapse and countless consequent job losses around the world. We’ve all had a lot on our plate. On top of this, many of us have faced around the clock childcare alongside trying to take care of everything else, as many schools have been closed for months on end. It’s not all too surprising that your stress levels may be pretty high right now. If this is the case, it really is important to take some me-time and schedule it into your calendar. Sure, you want to put everyone else’s needs foremost and you can. But also make sure to schedule some time in for yourself where you can kick back and relax for a while. Here are some good ways to spend your me-time.

Go For a Walk

You’d be amazed what going for a simple walk can do for your wellbeing. This activity goes above and beyond the physical benefits of getting out, stretching your legs and getting some mild aerobic exercise in. It gives you time to think and reflect. Plus, being out in nature can be pretty calming in and of itself too. While the majority of us don’t live next to sprawling and stunning scenery and landscapes, think of a local nature spot you can visit to just see something nice in the quiet and calm.

Game

So many of us enjoy gaming. It gives you an outlet where you can escape from the real world and live a fantasy for a while. Plus, you can game safely from the comfort of your own home without having to come into contact with others to communicate with them. Whatever games you’re into, whether that’s Animal Crossing, casino games with an Online Casino Guide or anything else, make sure to play responsibly and don’t get too immersed. You still need to keep up with your other commitments. This should just be an occasional release.

Bake

Lots of people have really got into baking over the past few months. There’s probably been a point where local stores have experienced a lack of baking essentials like flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and more. But this is because baking is relaxing, fun, engaging and you get some sort of (hopefully) delicious treat at the end! Try a few recipes to see how you get along.

These are just a few different activities you might want to try out when you take a little break and incorporate some me-time into your schedule! Hopefully, you’ll find some fun!