There's the Grinch. There's Rudolph. And there's The Polar Express. Like other beloved holiday movie classics that are adapted from children's books, watching this 2004 film starring Tom Hanks (based off of the Caldecott-winning story by Chris Van Allsburg) has become a holiday family tradition. Of course you can rent it or catch it on TV , but many Louisville-area businesses have capitalized on the movie's popularity and offer some fun opportunities to cuddle up in PJs, enjoy some hot chocolate, and have a great Polar Express family night.
Tonight, November 16 at 7:00 pm, substitute swim suits for pajamas, blow up your float, and head to the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center for a special "dive-in" viewing of The Polar Express . Free hot cocoa and a cookie will be served, and the first 100 children under twelve who attend will receive a special gift.
The Louisville Zoo  also gets on board with the holiday classic, hosting a twenty-minute action-packed, multi-sensory production of the film. The Polar Express 4-D Experience pulls into the station November 17 through January 6. This sounds like a real treat, even for the youngest of kids, and costs $5 per person, or $4 for zoo members. When my oldest son was a toddler, he ran around the house singing, “Hot-hot-hot-HOT CHOCOLATE!” as he re-enacted the scene where the waiters dance and serve the delighted young children onboard the magical train. The 4-D experience promises delicious smells during that number as well as chilly air and snowflakes as the train makes its way to the North Pole to see the Big Man. I can almost hear the "ooohs" and "ahhhs" now.
Of course, if you really want to recreate The Polar Express experience, you can visit area railways and take part in their annual holiday packages. The Kentucky Railway Museum  in New Haven, KY hosts the "North Pole Express" on November 30 at 7:00 pm and December 1 at 6:00 pm. For $23 for adults and $18 for children (tots two and under are free), your family—dressed in PJs, of course—can “travel to the North Pole” to pick up Santa while enjoying hot chocolate and cookies. Reservations are required. "Santa Express," when Santa walks through the train and visits with the children, varies from The Polar Express storyline, but delivers the same excitement, and takes place on December 1 and 2 at 2:00 pm. The Bluegrass Railroad Museum  in Versailles, KY also delivers a similar experience on December 15, 16, 22, and 23 at 2:00 pm. Polar Express packages  are also available at the French Lick Resort  and French Lick Scenic Railway in Indiana on select Friday, Saturday, and Sundays now through December 16. If you haven't taken a holiday train ride with your kids, it's an experience not to be missed.
Depending on how much time you have and how much money you want to spend (or how wet you want to get!), there's a Polar Express family night opportunity waiting for you.
Photos: courtesy of The Louisville Zoo and shutterstock.com/Richard Semik