Holiday Fun at Union Station
“Holidays at Union Station” will be so brimming with elves, toys, twinkling lights and holiday activities that visitors may dub the historic building “North Pole South” when the event kicks off Nov. 18.
With 14 new attractions and activities, including a spectacular new fire, water and light show synchronized to holiday music at the lake under the outdoor train shed, “Holidays at Union Station” aims to be the biggest and best holiday experience in the Midwest.
For starters, families can clamber aboard the Santa Express, a real train, for a ride through two tunnels and past Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch to Santa’s workshop.
During the ride, passengers will hear the classic holiday poem ’Twas the Night Before Christmas and interact with the conductor and Santa’s elves, each with a personality of their own. As riders approach Santa’s House, they will witness a never-before-seen laser light show synched to holiday tunes.
Trains leave the station at 4:45, 6:15 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, Nov. 18 through Dec. 30. An 8:30 p.m. train runs on Friday, Saturday and every day from Dec. 15-24. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Tickets are $39-89.
Santa Express ticket holders will have access to a bevy of activites at North Pole Village in holiday-attired Union Station as well as a hot chocolate and holiday cookie from Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and a meet-and-greet photo opp with Santa in Santaland (picture packages available for purchase).
Visitors who don’t ride the train will still find enough action at Union Station to fill an entire day there.
Here’s a sampling (some activities require additional tickets and reservations):
- Visitors can attend Elf Academy, then head to Santa’s Workshop to use their new Elf skills to build a toy train car to take home.
- At North Pole Post Office, kids—and adults—can write or draw their holiday wish list.
- Kids can peek into Santa’s office where they might find him reviewing his Naughty and Nice lists.
- At Santa’s Reindeer Round-up kids begin a search of the Village for Santa’s missing reindeer. Kids who find all nine reindeer receive a special prize.
- Families can purchase gingerbread house kits to decorate at home or on site.
- On Saturdays Mrs. Claus will serve cookies and milk while kids enjoy storybook time. She’ll even autograph a copy of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas they can take home.
- Visitors can purchase pizza slices at Babbo Natale’s Pizza Parlor; fudge at The Fudgery where candy makers sing while they work and Santa Express logos items, ornaments, puzzles, train sets and more at Santa’s Toy Shop.
- At Glacier Park, an outdoor area beneath the massive Train Shed, visitors can ice skate atop a 4,700-square-foot ice rink or whoosh down a nine-foot high ice slide on a tube. Glacier Park is open daily (except Christmas) Nov.18-Jan. 6.
Kids can also get a sneak peek at Santa’s sleigh, walk through his Magical Mirror Maze, see the North Pole mini-aquarium, watch model trains fly along tracks, play mini-golf and check out the forecast at Santa’s official weather station. They can meet real reindeer, Blitzen and Baby Rudolph on Nov. 18 and 23 and Dec. 6, 15 and 24.
North Pole Village activities will be open 3-9:30 p.m., Wednesdays through Fridays and 2-9:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Nov. 18-Dec. 30. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas days.
Admission to North Pole Village and Glacier Park are included in Santa Express train tickets. Tickets for the village and park are $5 per person; children two and younger are free.
‘Unlike any other’
Tom Lyons, president Rail Hospitalty and Entertainment, the St. Louis-based company that created “Holidays at Union Station,” studied holiday events in places as diverse as China, Finland and Flagstaff, Arizona to come up with an experience that goes beyond the others.
“We think it’s going to be an immersive event unlike any other in North America,” he said. “We have an unbelieveable footprint at historic, castle-like Union Station.”
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the leading organization funding Type 1 diabetes research, is the official charity of “Holidays at Union Station” and the Santa Express. A portion of sales from “Holidays at Union Station” and a special JDRF ornament sold there will go to the organization.
Special dining options abound at “Holidays at Union Station.” At Reindeer Rise-n-Shine, a character breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays Nov. 19-Dec. 24, guests will meet Santa’s reindeer friends and elves.
A ’Twas Festive Dinner Feast in the Grand Hall is served on nights the Santa Express runs. Entertainment at the buffet dinner includes a 3-D light show playing Christmas-themed shows with indoor snowflakes drifting overhead and characters bringing the beloved ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem to life.
Santa Express travelers get a free kid’s meal with purchase of an adult entrée and stellar views of the light show at Landry’s Seafood. The Hard Rock Café will offer s’mores and hot chocolate snack break and special holiday train menu selections as well as views of the light show from the outdoor patio.
Stay at the Station
Local families as well as out-of-towners can make the most of their time at the events by staying at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton. A section of the hotel has been named “North Pole Lodge” for the holiday season. Rates begin at $99 a night.
Beatles tribute show
Also throughout the season, St. Louis Union Station Hotel will present “The Fab Four – A Beatles Tribute,” a nightly 3-D laser mapping light show across the Grand Hall’s barrell-vaulted ceiling. No ticket needed.
Written by Guest Blogger Kathie Suttin