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The best guide to throwing an epic Polar Express event! I promise I have everything you need whether its a quiet evening in with your kids our a church party for hundreds!
Alrighty- you ready for the full run-down?? I was in charge of putting on a Christmas party for my ward (church). About 250 people and our budget was $200. I don’t think we made the budget, but really, less than a $ per person? We were pretty close though! And thank goodness for lots of help from some talented people to help me pull it all together!
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Polar Express Party Invitations
Let’s start with invitations, like all good parties do…
see my post here to download & edit this invitation to fit your party needs (or you can always have me do it for you for $10- just email me email@example.com, and please be sure to include all the party details!) If you need additional sizing for a poster I can do that as well just include the size you would like.
Polar Express Party Train Station
When people arrived we had the gym blocked off (with the ticket booth) and the lobby served as our train station. My friend Chelsea took over the decorations for the lobby- doesn’t it look amazing?
She added black duct tape to make this look like a train track right before the party but I didn’t get a chance to snap a photo. She also set up a huge speaker that was playing train track sounds & train whistles to set the mood (you can download here). Have I mentioned how hard it is to plan a party, execute a party AND photograph a party? I was rushing out the door to get home to feed my kids dinner before I took them back for the party when I took this. Hence, no time to move the vacuum! But you will see to the left is our ticket booth where people lined up to get their tickets:
I updated the tickets to say 2022 for all you wonderful people out there planning a Polar Express party this year! You can purchase this file for just .99 with the button below, I SO appreciate your support!
Tickets to the North Pole…. line ’em up!
After each person had their own ticket they lined up on the railroad track to wait for the next train to the north pole. If you look to the right you can see into the hallway, which we fashioned to be our train. We hung up curtains on either side of the hallway to close it off to feel more like a train. Then she hung up black dollar store table cloths along both walls, added some windows that she just “whipped up” (so artistic!), chairs of course, lights along the ceiling, and voila- the hallway had been transformed into our polar express.
Haha in retrospect we really probably should have moved that garbage can!! 😉 As people boarded the train we had our father/son conductor team punching their tickets, and using lots of train talk like “all aboard” “train’s leaving the station, last call”. When the train was full they shut the curtains and informed the rest of the people waiting there would be another train headed for the North Pole in 2 minutes.
This watch is just like he has in the movie and would be a cool accessory for your conductor
Riding the train! Kids came in their favorite christmas pajamas. Then, once we had a full train, came my FAVORITE PART: The Young Men came busting through the curtains on the other end of the train and danced in the aisle to “hot hot chocolate”.
Good lookin’ entertainment crew huh? These hats would be perfect for your hot chocolate dancers, wish I had thought of that then! When their dance was over our conductor announced we had arrived at the North Pole and that we could all disembark. When the passengers went through the curtain they were greeted by our north pole (just in case there was any confusion as to where they were) which we put right in front of the door to the gym they were supposed to go through.
My mother in law made 3 of these- aren’t they awesome? (the other 2 I put on either end of the buffet table). If you are curious how she did it: she went to a carpeting store and they more than happily gave her several long cardboard mailing tubes that they store the carpets in. They even cut them to her specified length (which in this case was like 5 feet). She spray painted it white & hot glued on the red ribbon for the stripes. The top is a Styrofoam ball (similar here) painted sparkly gold. The base my father-in-law made to keep it from tipping over. I have had so many questions about the base I took a picture so you can see how he made it:
I’m so lucky to have her as my party-planning partner in crime! So yes, then they entered the cultural which I tried my very darndest to make look like the North Pole. I have to say my second favorite part of the party was watching people walk through that door. There were lots of gasps “wows!” and looks of amazement.
Polar Express Party Decorations
All the light hanging credit goes to my handsome hubby & awesome father in law and few other awesome burly men from our ward that came to help. It required tall ladders, heavy grade fishing line, and lots of hours. We hung the lights the short length across the gym and then hung the snowflakes & blue poms in a diamond from basketball hoop, to stage, to other basketball hoop, to the wall across from the stage (on fishing line as well). I know they were hating life, but they were good sports nonetheless!
The Relief Society made the snowflakes (as an enrichment night) out of Popsicle sticks. They added glitter after they were painted- they all looked so fantastic and I couldn’t really capture it very well with my camera but the effect of having them all strung around the gym (and on the walls) was truly magical.
The Relief Society also made the coffee filter trees for our centerpieces- bless them! We got the idea (and tons more) from Jenkins Kid Farm. Then I added some greens & pinecones that we cut when we went up to the mountains to get our christmas trees, sprayed it all with snow, then added a few ornaments for a pop of red. Oh and I think i threw some dollar store glittery snowflakes in there too.
The Elders Quorum was awesome and didn’t even complain when I asked them to make a huge polar express train for us to put in Santa’s corner:
And I think we ended up having 10 Christmas trees in total around the gym. I would have put up more if I could have rounded more up…
Polar Express Party Food
So back to the program! As people entered the gym they could help themselves to hot chocolate (of course!) and christmas cookies. (each family was asked to bring a plate of their favorite holiday cookies which they could enter into the contest if they wanted. These amazing gingerbread cookies from Bless this Mess would be perfect!). Unfortunately I only have a photo of the buffet table from before the party:
On the buffet table I displayed the polar express subway art I had made in frames (available in the party bundle) Adults could socialize & eat and the kids got to go to Santa’s Workshop which we had set up in the back of the gym while we waiting for everyone to finish their journey to the north pole.
Polar Express Party Activities
The Young Women had prepared 3 great crafts (coloring book, candy train & north pole out of popscile stick) for the kiddos and dressed up as elfs to help them during the party.
Once everyone was in the gym we had a reading of the polar express. We projected the book up on the screen (via ibooks) so that all could see the pictures as our reader read. Then we had a spiritual message from our bishop, some caroling all together as a ward, and finally….
SANTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He’s thrilled, don’t you think? Santa gave each child a bell from his sleigh to take home.
These tags are available in my Polar Express Party Bundle
A HUGE thank you to everyone who helped pull this party off, I am so happy I didn’t have to do it all alone!!
I want to see your polar express party! Shoot me a DM on Instagram!
Shopping List (partial):
- Conductors hat
- train whistle
- train background noise
- popsicle sticks for snowflakes
- tissue paper “snow balls”
- coffee filters for centerpiece trees(get a few different sizes)
- poster board- dollar store
- Styrofoam balls
- cardboard tube (from carpet store or mailing store)
- red ball ornaments
- foam snowflakes- dollar store
- hot chocolate supplies
- chef hats for hot chocolate dancers
- bells for santa gift
I made two banners for the party, one that said “hot hot chocolate” and one that said “santas workshop”, they are included in the party pack as well.
We got a ton of inspiration and ideas from the following posts, if you are in the Polar Express party market be sure to check them out: