The elves at the North Pole Experience (NPX) have magic down to a science. I shouldn't have been surprised—after all they help Santa fly around the world in one night—but still, NPX is the place to go for a magical holiday experience like none other.
Located in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona, NPX takes visitors to the North Pole using one of Santa's magic portals. I traveled there in late November with my 3-year-old son, mother-in-law, and one of my best friends. I told everyone we were going for my son, but really, I was just as excited (maybe more so!) to experience some holiday magic.
What impressed me the most right from the start is how organized the NPX experience is. Once you book your tickets, they are e-mailed to you, and a day or two before the big day you're sent another e-mail outlining everything you need to know. From weather conditions to outfit suggestions, NPX has thought of it all. Also, their Facebook page is the go-to source for all things NPX related. Once you're there in person, the staff is genuinely friendly and check-in and lines are a breeze.
During our NPX experience, we stayed at Little America Hotel, which is the station for the magical trolley. I highly recommend staying there; the hotel offers special NPX rates (as do a few other Flagstaff area hotels; check the NPX website for more info). The Christmas decorations and lights are top-notch, the rooms are spacious and have everything from WiFi to comfortable beds, and the convenience of having everything in one place is great. Plus, Little America has its own land—an expansive backyard of forest perfect for snowball fights and exploring. My son loved his first time in the snow.
Before we took off on the magic trolley to the North Pole, we enjoyed the North Pole Experience Dinner Buffet at Little America ($29.95 per adult; $14.95 per child age 12 and under). Two words: impressive and delicious. The food (which included a variety of holiday favorites like meats, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc.) was way above caliber that you'd expect for a buffet. My favorite part as the mom of a picky eater? The kids buffet that featured classics like mac n' cheese, chicken tenders and corn dogs. Also, the dessert table…yum. Wear comfortable pants. Find out more about Little America's NPX discounts here.
After dinner we waited for the big moment: getting onto the magic trolley! We had a 5:45 p.m. launch time and I'd recommend going no later if you have little ones; it's a tiring experience, but completely worth it. Again, lines to board the trolley were well organized and elves were hanging about in the lobby to keep kids and families excited for their adventure.
It's finally here!
When the big moment arrived, we boarded one of Santa's magic trolleys, ushered on by a friendly elf. I don't want to give away too much, but it does feel like you travel through a magical portal—complete with flashing lights and a magic chant.
Once at the North Pole, the magic continues. Again, one of the impressive factors is that while there are a lot of kids and families, it doesn't feel too crowded or rushed—think Disneyland type organization and you've got an idea.
As it should be, at the North Pole, it's all about the kids. Elves help them knock on a magic door and they are ushered into the Toy Hall of Fame, where you see all of the best toys Santa ever made. Then, they help to “build” toys in Santa's Workshop; they see a large toy factory; eat cookies and drink hot chocolate at Santa's Bakery; ‘graduate' from Elf University; see the mailroom where all of the letters to Santa go; meet Mrs. Claus at Santa's Office; experience Area 47, where Santa has his secret sleigh; and finish off the experience with one-on-one family time with Santa.
The experience was such a whirlwind that it was hard to take it all in! Some of the highlights that we noticed included:
- The amazing attention to detail. Everywhere are wrapped presents, letters to Santa, elves in character, and more.
- The hands-on activities. My son helped to ‘build' toys one-on-one with an elf, wrote a letter to Santa, sang Christmas carols with elves, met and took photos with Mrs. Claus, and had one-on-one time with the big man himself. He also got a candy cane from Santa, which he proudly ate on the way back to the hotel.
- The emphasis on memories. At the end, you take a family photo with Santa and are given the high-resolution image on a small drive. It was a nice touch and a great photo.
- The trolley is truly magical. It really rounds out the entire experience going to and from the North Pole.
The next day…
Since we stayed at Little America, we were lucky to round out the trip with the Breakfast Buffet with Santa the next morning ($19.95 for adults; $13.95 for kids ages 13 and under). As with dinner, the food was absolutely delicious—it was traditional breakfast fare with an emphasis on kid-friendly options. The best part was that the little ones got to sit with Santa one last time, which was a great way to end the trip. We then enjoyed one more trek through the snow before completing what ended up being such a memorable experience.
If you want to experience NPX this holiday season, book your reservations via their website or phone number as soon as possible. As of November 30, 2013, weekend dates are sold out, but there are still weekday dates available. See the most up-to-date availability here.
Adults: $42 – $55, depending on time of day
Kids: $42 – $49, depending on time of day
Kids 18 months and younger are free
Santa's Trolley Launch Station at Little America Hotel
2515 East Butler Avenue
Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Phone for hotel reservations: 888.469.8819