Polar Express Party- The whole shibang!


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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!

polar express party collage

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 Ideas, pin me!

Polar Express Party Invitations

Let’s start with invitations, like all good parties do…

polar express party invitation example
Polar Express Party Invitation Template

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 partylikeacherry@gmail.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?

polar express train station
Polar Express Train Station Decoration ideas

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:

free printable polar express tickets 2021
Polar Express Train Tickets Printable

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!

Polar Express Tickets 2023
Polar Express Tickets 2023
Polar Express Ticket Printable

Tickets to the North Pole…. line ’em up!

polar express ticket booth
Polar Express Ticket Booth

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.
hallway into polar express pic

windows close up train
Polar Express train DIY

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.

polar express conductors

This watch is just like he has in the movie and would be a cool accessory for your conductor

riding the polar express

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”.

hot chocolate dancers

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.

north pole polar express party
DIY North Pole using a carpet tube!

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:

polar express pole base closeup
polar express pole base closeup

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

polar express party ideas
Polar Express party decoration ideas
polar express party set up
Polar Express table centerpieces, coffee filter christmas trees!

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!

hanging lights in gym for polar express party
Polar Express party decorations
Popsicle snowflakes for polar express christmas party

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.

centerpiece closeup

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.

christmas party centerpieces

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:

santa's corner polar express christmas party

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…

gym overview
gym corner

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:

hot chocolate toppings

hot chocolate toppingschristmas party buffet table

north pole 2
DIY North Pole out of a carpet tube!

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 Bundle
All kinds of printables (over 30 pages!) to help you with your Polar Express party including "Santa's Workshop" banner, "Hot Chocolate" banner, train tickets, bell tags, food labels and more.

Polar Express Party Activities

santas workshop
Santa’s Workshop

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's lapSANTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  He’s thrilled, don’t you think? Santa gave each child a bell from his sleigh to take home.

polar express bell tags 4X6  

These tags are available in my Polar Express Party Bundle

Polar Express Party Bundle
All kinds of printables (over 30 pages!) to help you with your Polar Express party including "Santa's Workshop" banner, "Hot Chocolate" banner, train tickets, bell tags, food labels and more.
polar express party ideas and free printables

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!


Polar Express Party Shopping List & Digital Bundle

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.

santa's workshop banner free printable
Santa’s Workshop banner
Polar Express Party Bundle
All kinds of printables (over 30 pages!) to help you with your Polar Express party including "Santa's Workshop" banner, "Hot Chocolate" banner, train tickets, bell tags, food labels and more.
hot chocolate banner free printable
Hot Chocolate Banner

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:

Bridgey Widgey

Honey I’m Home

Jenkins Kid Farm


36 thoughts on “Polar Express Party- The whole shibang!

  1. Alia!!! You did an AMAZING job! That Cultural Hall is the best North Pole I’ve ever seen. The lights really make a difference. Tell your Hubby and Father-in-Law I said ‘Good Job!’
    If we’re in charge of the Christmas Party next year, I will definitely share this idea. 🙂
    Sheena Perron recently posted…LDS Greats $30 GIVEAWAY

  2. It makes me so happy that you found inspiration from our party! Yours turned out fantastic!!! I love it!! Great job!! So glad to hear that you got your whole Ward involved in putting all of the different elements together! Honestly, I think that’s why so many ppl showed up to ours.

    Thanks for all the links back to me! Oh, FYI Honey I’m Home Blog is a real time friend of mine who lives in a different state. She’s the sweetest!! I got a lot of inspiration from her too, as well as Bridgey Widgey. I love idea swapping!

    Last year we did another great party. The Grinch. And maybe in this lifetime I’ll get the photos posted. lol. We just finished this year’s party this past weekend, and it was gorgeous as well, but thankfully I wasn’t in charge this time. Maybe I’ll get around to posting that too. Haha.

    Anyway, you’re amazing! Keep up the great work!

    Cindy Jenkins recently posted…Frozen Hot Chocolate

    1. Yes I was SO glad to have your post as a starting point- thank you so much for all the help! I would love to see your Grinch party!! That is what I was thinking for next year, although I should really just keep my mouth shut b/c I don’t think I have it in me to do it again next year!

  3. UN.REAL. I am in love with this party!!!!!! Seriously, you pulled off such a fabulous party for your ward. They will be talking about it all year, I’m sure. Thanks for sharing all the details. I spent a solid 10 minutes reading every word of this post and storing away these ideas for future use. I want to do it all!!!
    Aimee recently posted…Reindeer Cupcakes

  4. This is amazing Alia! I love how you so creatively put your budget to good use too! Definitely one of the best ward Christmas parties I have ever seen. Wish I could have gone!!

  5. I want to be in your ward! We just moved to a really old people ward and our ward party was just a dinner with my crazy loud kids and a bunch of old people! LOL This party looks amazing!

    1. That is so hard! I hate feeling like my kids are the only ones making noise! One year our party wasn’t very organized and the kids just ran around the tables like crazy people the whole time- which is what ends up happening if it isn’t structured!

  6. Hi. I love your site! My son wants to have a Polar Express Party for his 6th birthday and you have so many amazing ideas! I am having trouble downloading the invitation and editing it. Do you still edit invitations for a fee?

  7. I’m in charge of decorations for our wards polar express party this year! Yours looked amazing! Just curious about the North Pole carpet tubes, did they need a base or did they stand up on their own? Thanks

    1. Yes, the north poles did have bases. My father-in-law- made a wooden base for each of them. Good luck with the decorations- thats a big task! I hope you get helpers 🙂

  8. I’m using all your ideas for our party this year! Thank you for sharing! I may have a couple questions as I tackle our ward party. One of them being, what color are the table cloths? Are they plastic?

    1. I’m trying to remember b/c the RS bought our table cloths. I think they were silver and yes they were plastic, but heavy duty plastic if I remember right not the super cheap ones. But yeah then I didn’t have to worry about spraying fake snow on them and things 🙂 Good luck Laura!

      1. Alia
        Where did you get the table cloths from???
        (I am inactive but they have asked me to do the WCP this year!! I am freaking out!! Getting help so,me time is like pulling teeth… any suggestions… also how did you attach the lights to the walls… How many hours did you put in that day …. Did the men go in the morning??? How long did you HOLD them on the train, did you wait till it filled up?????? did you have music playing?? How much was your budget…. Can you post more on how to make the christmas trees out of the coffee filters??? I am so nervous I have only been asked to do this one day and already dying….. would love any help/suggestions anything you can think of SINCERELY Michelle mimi320@comcast.net (You don’t by ANY chance live in UT)?????

        1. Hi Michelle! Deep breaths! You can do it! No, I don’t live in UT, I am in northern cali :(. The key is DELEGATE! There is plenty of time since it is only september, to give each auxiliary an assignment. For example I asked Relief Society to make the snowflakes and centerpiece trees (if you follow the links at the bottom of my blog to the other blog posts, one of those gives you detailed instructions on how to make the trees). I asked Elders Quorum to make the cardboard train. Young Womens was in charge of “santas workshop” (little activities for the kids), High Priest was in charge of arranging the story telling of the polar express and the santa clause visit. Bishopric was in charge of being the conductor and ticket takers, young men was in charge of the “hot chocolate dance”, and me (primary) did the rest, ie decorations, hot chocolate bar, oversee everything. As for setting up, we started the day before. I dont know how many ward meet in your building or what availability there is but I reserved the day before and the day of so I could set up. I invited the whole ward to come the night before to help string lights (we got about 6 men that showed up). I had pizza for them to eat and they went to town! I wanted the whole ceiling done the night before so the next day I could focus on the floor (tables, chairs, buffet table etc). It took them about 4 hours I would say. They used heavy gauge fishing line that they strung from one end of the gym to the other to hold the lights up. I actually went into the gym a couple times to study everything on the ceiling to plan it out. We had a few (whish there were more) hooks already in place along the ceiling that helped a lot. As far as the train ride it was about two minutes. Just long enough for the young men to do the hot chocolate dance and for the conductor to say something like “we’ve arrived, please disembark”. Our budget was like $200 which is ridiculous, I spent more than that but not by too much, like around $250 probably. Anyway, just remember- delegate!! 🙂

          1. by the way if there are multiple wards that meet in your building you might ask the other wards if they all want to work together to set up the gym and then you can all use it for your parties. It was a ton of work and it was kinda sad to take it down the next day, I thought, “dang too bad the other ward can’t use this too!”

  9. This is amazing!!! Your printables will save me sooooooo much time and effort this year. Thank you for sharing your talents with others!

  10. Hey Alia! Love your party! How did you hang your craft stick snowflakes on the walls? That burlap type wall material is sometimes impossible to stick anything to it with tape! Any ideas?

  11. I’ve this idea! I’m making North Poles for our ward polar express party and I have a couple questions. What did you use to connect the pole to the base and how did you make the north pole sign that is attached to it? Thanks!

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this! We loved your blog so much and decided to do a Polar Express theme for our ward Christmas party this year. It was a huge success! I mean, we did end up spilling quite a bit of hot chocolate in the hallway, but that’s what a carpet cleaner is for haha Thank you again for sharing.

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