Parents: every year, you do it.  Scrimp and save.  Chase and hunt.  Buy and return.  All in pursuit of those perfect gifts for your household's Nice List.  But what if, all along, that perfect thing wasn't really a thing at all... but an experience?  What if you could give your kids something truly filled with the magic of the holiday season?

That Christmas magic is right here in Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region. And with two new ways to get there, we're bringing the wonder of the North Pole closer than ever before.

The New Northern Star Trackless Train 

Experience Midland's Newest Holiday Adventure:
The Northern Star Train

Each year, Midland spreads major amounts of holiday cheer as the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School opens its doors for the holiday season to families far and wide. As the World's Oldest Santa Claus School, this place gleams and glistens with the true spirit of Christmas. Mall Santas of the world, take no offense; but there is something unexplainable about giving the gift to your children of seeing Santa in a place that truly smells, looks, and feels like it could be his year-round home.

And now, for the first time ever, there's a new element to the Santa House experience: free rides through the holly, jolly heart of Downtown Midland aboard a fun-for-all-ages trackless locomotive, The Northern Star Train. Kids and parents will enjoy a 10-15 minute ride together along merry and bright Main Street, all inside a heated passenger car.

So before or after you bring your kiddos to meet and greet the man with the big white beard, hop next door to the Midland County Courthouse where the Northern Star Train will take off during Santa House Season. Be sure to check out the full 2014 schedule for the Santa House and Northern Star Train before planning your visit.

What to know:

  • The Northern Star Train runs from the Midland County Courthouse along main street, loops around Dow Diamond, and back to the Courthouse.
  • The train will run the same days and hours as the Charles W. Howard Santa House, with the exception of no weekday afternoon hours from December 15-23, only weekends.
  • Dress the kiddos warmly and in lots of layers; the train car will be nice and toasty, but you'll want to be bundled up as you wait for your turn on the train or your visit with Santa.
  • Don't forget your camera! You'll want to capture all the beautiful sights as you roll through Downtown Midland in all its Christmas glory.

 Girl With Santa at His Village


Recreate The Magic of The Polar Express
Santa's Village at North Pole USA

Just because the North Pole Express steam train no longer rolls into Chesaning bringing thousands of kids in their pajamas in the true style of The Polar Express book and film doesn't mean you can't still visit Santa's Village at North Pole USA - the tinsel-covered, fun-filled destination of kids everywhere.

Nestled on the Saginaw County Fairgrounds in the charming village of Chesaning, Santa's Village is a magical place where your kids can soak up the true feeling of the classic Christmas favorite, The Polar Express. This cheerful village features carnival rides, giant slides, a LEGO Christmas town, model train display, holiday face painting, Kris Kringle's Market, live entertainment, kids' craft stations, visits with Santa, and enough Christmas-themed fun to wear out even the most energetic little ones.

 Santa's Village Live Entertainment for Kids

Carnival rides and activities are included in the low admission fee; Adults and kids 6+ are $10, kids ages 3-5 are $5, and children 2 and under are free! Professional photos with Santa and holiday treats from a variety of vendors are also available for purchase.

Santa's Village at The North Pole USA is already open for the season and runs every Saturday and Sunday from Thanksgiving ‘til Christmas, Noon to 7pm. You can follow Santa's Village on Facebook to stay up-to-date on all the holiday happenings taking place at this magical village.

 Santa's Village Crafts

Special thanks goes to the following foundations which made the purchase of Midland's new Northern Star Train possible: Midland Area Community Foundation, Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, Charles J. Strostacker Foundation, and E.G.L. Currie Foundation. Volunteers are still needed to assist with the train passengers. If interested, please call the Midland Area Community Foundation at (989) 839-9661.