From Carson City to the North Pole

By Bryan Akerley

In Carson City we are lucky to live in a town that fully embraces each holiday season with eagerness.


This is mainly due to two things. First, the citizens of this town just seem to love and enjoy the festivities of the holidays, whether it’s hitting the bars on St. Patrick’s Day, honoring the country on the Fourth of July or wrapping the house in twinkling lights and decor for Christmas. Whatever the occasion, Carson City locals celebrate in full effect.


Second, of course, is tradition. In a town packed with history, tradition plays an important part of our lives, and that can be seen the most during the holiday season. It may be family tradition, like a certain meal you prepare this time each year, or a city tradition, like the lighting of the tree in front of the Capitol building. We come together and enjoy the time with our families and loved ones with each occasion.

No holiday tradition is quite as special as the Polar Express train ride. This is an annual ride based on the beloved Chris Van Allsburg children’s book of the same name, in which children board the magical train late at night on a trip to the North Pole and meet Santa face to face.

Photo: V&T Railroad Facebook

The train departs from Carson City Eastgate Depot on the legendary Virginia & Truckee Railroad, the railroad line originally used to transport mined gold and silver from Virginia City in the late 1800s. The train has transformed into the Polar Express from the story, taking you and your family from Carson City straight to the North Pole.

The train runs weekends as well as most Thursdays and Fridays in December for an hour-long ride along the historic track. Cookies and hot cocoa are served as you’re treated to a memorable ride through the rolling desert hills near Virginia City and beyond.

There is also a reading of the Polar Express story, and the journey ends with a personalized meeting with Santa, including a souvenir ringing sleigh bell, just like in the book. There are plenty of other entertainments and surprises along the way, but the best part is taking this ride with family or children of your own. If you make time for any special event in northern Nevada this season, make it the Polar Express. Tickets start at $35 for adults and $26 for children.


Photo: Nevada Northern Railway Facebook

In Carson Valley this weekend you can visit the Dangberg Ranch for a Holiday Open House. Another example of the mingling of community and tradition, the historic ranch opens its doors for Christmas and holiday-themed exhibits. Each one showcases the lives of the Dangberg family as they celebrated their own traditions throughout the early 1900s, including a decorated Christmas tree, old-fashioned toys and games, costumes and dolls, holiday clothing and a detailed dining exhibit. It’s truly a step back in time to see how this family, integral to the founding of Minden and the growth of the Carson Valley, celebrated their holiday.

Photo: Facebook

In creating your own family traditions and honoring those of your childhood, keep these couple of events in mind. If you’ve been taking the Polar Express ride for years, there’s something special about passing it along to a younger member of your family. And if you’re in the depths of Christmas shopping and holiday preparation, it can be humbling to see how an early 20th century family managed through this season.

Whatever you do, have a fantastic time, and happy holidays!

For other events this weekend, visit our Daytime, Nightlife and Community pages.

About the Author Bryan Akerley
Bryan was born and raised in Northern Nevada and is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno. When he’s not writing, he’s keeping up with pop culture as a lover of movies, TV, music and books or out exploring the area through its restaurants, bars and nightlife. Then he’ll unwind by playing the drums or piano or spending time with his corgi, Teddy.