Journey to the North Pole! (Part II of IV)

Our journey to the North Pole continued to transport us into a memorable adventure my children will not soon forget.  Filled with imagination, the journey inspired my husband and I so much that we were able to delve into the recesses of our childhood fantasies and experience Christmas joy as if we were still children ourselves!

As I take you, the reader into our journey, my goal is for you to envision the special touch of quality time a road trip with just your family offers.  Not just an ordinary road trip, but one that embraces the spirit of Christmas like no other.  Although there was a planned itinerary, we were not prepared for the feelings of childhood glee we experienced on this trip.

In Part I of the journey, I listed the states we traveled through including: Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and North Pole, NY.  As I mentioned, Georgia was in the mix because the year we traveled up the East Coast my son was visiting college campuses.  One of the colleges inviting us to tour was in Georgia.  Being that it was close to Christmas, we decided to make it a trip complete with as many adventures as our car and feet could take us.

Georgia

We spent two days in Georgia.  After touring the campuses, we took the opportunity to visit some sites such as the Georgia aquarium.  It is reported as being the largest aquarium in the world and in our opinion one of the nicest we have ever seen.  We spent at least an hour sitting on the floor staring at the massive tank you see pictured here.  It is worth the visit while in the Atlanta, Georgia area.  We’ve gone twice since this trip.

After spending most of the morning enjoying the aquarium, my family and I picked up lunch and decided to have a picnic at Centennial Olympic Park home of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.  It was nicely nestled in the center of various attractions, including the aquarium, in the heart of Atlanta.  It was there that we took a break to sit and enjoy the beautiful sunny day.  My daughter was able to play for a while in the children’s playground located inside the park.

In the afternoon, we finished our day with a visit to the World of Coca-Cola located within the grounds of Centennial Park where the kids experienced the taste of Coca-Cola products from around the world.  Although this was not part of our Christmas inspired journey, we took advantage of the moment while there.  Then after two days spent in Georgia, we moved on to North Carolina.

North Carolina

As we made our way up the East Coast, the kids had no idea what was in store for them.  I carefully planned our very own Polar Express adventure in Bryson City, NC.  It was hard to contain my excitement, but the thought of their reaction kept me at bay.  At the Bryson City Train Depot, you board a train for  rides on the Polar Express which takes you on a visit to an old Appalachian Toymaker who tells holiday stories.  Also, there are shops that have one-of-a-kind arts and crafts, gifts, food and wine.   There are many other shops with Christmas decor.  The streets of Bryson City are decorated with holiday lights and the little town is glowing with Christmas spirit!

Once aboard the train, it makes its way through the Smokey Mountains on an unforgettable roundtrip journey to their version of the North Pole.  They encourage you to dress the kids in pajamas.  Passengers read along to the story of The Polar Express, you meet Santa, and are treated to hot cocoa and sugar cookies.  Santa rides with you on the return, and christmas carols are sung.  The scenic route of the smokey mountains alone are enough to get you out here to do this event.  The spectacular feeling of cuddling up with your children while reading this story was such a treat!

Since we only had 2 days in North Carolina, this was just about what we had time for.  However, we were able to be a part of a fantastic event, feel the cool crisp air of the Smokey Mountains and were surrounded by its natural beauty.  As I am sure there are many more wonderful things to do in North Carolina for Christmas, we agreed to come back another time to explore all North Carolina has to offer.  From the Smokey Mountains we make our way to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia where Christmas cheer is just as magical as it has been throughout our journey.  In the next part of the series, I will describe how you can be transported to an 18th century Christmas.  It felt as if we were in a production of a Christmas Carol while walking through the town just as Ebenezer Scrooge did centuries ago.

Remember it’s about how you perceive things.  If you allow yourself to relax and embrace with an open mind adventures unique to your family, you will enjoy yourself ten-fold.  Your perception becomes reality.  As I told my kids, imagine that our car is the sleigh Santa travels on every year as he stops town to town delivering gifts.  One of the best gifts we could give them beyond any material object was a chance to imagine themselves in special places with the people they love the most by their side.  Stay tuned!

Related articles:

http://gsmr.com/create-content/event/polar-express/polar-express-0

http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/

http://www.worldofcoca-cola.com/

http://www.centennialpark.com/

Adventures to the North Pole! (Part I of IV) (familyadventuresonline.com)

Five fabulous fall foliage train rides (cnn.com)

Five Great Christmas Movies For The Whole Family (forbes.com)

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Adventures to the North Pole! (Part I of IV)

After Thanksgiving, the pressures of life temporarily had me in its grasp.  I’ve been working on the completion of my Ph.D. while balancing full-time employment and motherhood.  My posts ceased, but I’M BACK!  There is so much to say about Christmas with little time to do it in.  In the upcoming days I will get right to it.

In a four-part blog series I will share one of the best family trips we’ve ever taken.  My vivid imagination and CAN-DO attitude have created some of the most amazing experiences in travels for my family.  They are memorable and slowly coming true with the help of my special “adventurous trips to take in a lifetime” list.

One year we blocked a week and a half of vacation to fulfill our journey, roughly 1,600 miles away by vehicle.  Destination…. North Pole.   It wouldn’t be fun without adding a few stops and adventures along the way.

NORTH POLE… WHERE EXACTLY ARE YOU?

As a child,  I imagined going on a quest to find the North Pole and visit Santa beyond the department store.  The idea was to visit Santa right before he made it out on Christmas Eve to deliver presents, and make it back home in time to receive them.  I, for one, wanted to see the action.  With a lot of careful planning, mission accomplished!

THE EXPERIENCE BEGINS TO TAKE LIFE

One of my favorite movies to watch at Christmas is “The Polar Express.”  The first time I saw the movie was chaperoning for my youngest son’s 1st grade field trip, which is when The Polar Express debuted.  He is now 12-years-old. 

There are many other classic Christmas movies I enjoy more, but there was something magical and mesmerizing about this one.

After some thought, it triggered a great memory of the time I was a child and dreamed of actually traveling to the North Pole on a train.

Wishing to memorialize my ideas, I created a journal book with drawings of how I would get there, what I would want to encounter, and what the North Pole would look like once there.  For a long time I slept with the journal under my pillow and cherished it.

It was a mystical memory I had hoped to replicate someday in real life.  Interestingly enough, the mode of transportation was always a train (similar to The Polar Express).  After watching the movie with my son, I fondly remember leaving the theater with the biggest grin on my face.

Our journey to the North Pole started in South Florida, and involved the following stops:

The last stop was the North Pole’s location, in North Pole, NY located in the foothills of Whiteface Mountain, deep in the heart of the Adirondacks.  Therein lies the village of the North Pole, and Santa’s home!

With the exception of Georgia, we stopped at each of these states to catch a glimpse of Christmas and the beauty of what it holds in different parts of the United States.  At the time of this adventure, traveling up the East Coast was reasonable and within our means.

The next three entries will describe in detail the memories and adventures we created on our travels to the North Pole.  Although you may live in different parts of the world, I hope it inspires you to  find “your” North Pole journey.  Whether its traveling up the East Coast like my family did or creating a magical experience in your own backyard.  In a future post, I will also include great family ideas to recreate in your home without traveling as far as we did to find it.

When your children get older and you’re sitting around the table having Christmas dinner with them, imagine the joy it would bring to hear them say with smiles on their faces and a glint in their eyes, “Remember when_____.”  A shining moment just occurred when the realization that a memory rich in warmth can be a part of Christmas table chatter for all to share.

Don’t stray, and stay tuned for more of the adventurous journey of how we made it to:

THE NORTH POLE!

Related articles

http://polarexpressmovie.warnerbros.com/dvd/main.html

http://www.adirondack.net/holiday/north-pole.cfm

Where is the North Pole? (boymomblog.com)

ALL ABOARD FOR “THE POLAR EXPRESS AT THE MARITIME AQUARIUM AT NORWALK Nov. 25-Dec. 31 (janetserra.wordpress.com)

THE POLAR EXPRESS! The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s Seasonal Service to the North Pole (prweb.com)

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