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Friday, December 28, 2012

Holiday Express (more Christmas traditions!)

Happy belated Christmas, friends!  I hope that whatever holiday you celebrate was full of lots of laughter, love, joy, and time spent with family and friends.  

I have SO much to catch up on, blog-wise.  The time from Thanksgiving to Christmas flew by in a blink, and I have not had time to even catch a breath!  I have several Christmas-related posts that I'd like to get to before January arrives, including Lilly's 11-month update.  Sheesh, it's enough to give me a headache just thinking about it!  

I blogged a few weeks ago about new traditions that we're starting with Lilly around Christmas time.  There are a few that I didn't do this year because I ran out of time, such as making gingerbread houses and baking cookies for Santa.  Seeing as how she's too young to remember this year, I got a bye, but next year I'll have to budget my time better.  ;-)  Anyway, one of my FAVORITE new traditions that we started this year was that we took Lilly to the Holiday Express at Pullen Park.

I think I may have blogged about Pullen Park before - back when I was pregnant with L it re-opened after renovations.  Dan and I spent an afternoon there, and I couldn't wait for Lilly to be born so that we could enjoy the park as a family.  Pullen Park was actually the first public park in NC, and y'all, if you live in the Raleigh area and have never been, you HAVE to go, even if you don't have kids.  There is a playground, carousel, boats, a train, and delicious food not to mention a ton of activities.  Lilly and I have been to meet Dan for lunch several times, and we take family outings there often.  We all love it!  Anyway, every year in December, the park is transformed into a Winter Wonderland.  They put up a TON of lights which  makes the night time train ride amazing, and there are all kinds of crafts, concessions, entertainment (children's choirs, carolers, bands, etc.) and Santa is there!

I should back up and explain that we were lucky to even score tickets this year.  I heard about the Holiday Express a while ago, but forgot to get tickets until around Thanksgiving.  Much to my dismay, when I went to purchase tickets, they were ALL SOLD OUT.  I even drove to Pullen Park to try to be put on a waiting list, and the event is so popular that they were no longer taking waiting list requests because they knew they wouldn't be able to fill them all.  I was seriously heartbroken.  We had the idea to look on Craigslist, and I kid you not, I just happened to look at the exact moment that someone was putting their tickets up for sale, and I was able to buy them there.  I was back on Craigslist a few times after hoping to find another set so that Steph, Jon and Hadley could come with, and literally every other post on Craigslist was by people who either wanted to trade nights or who were looking for tickets - I was able to get the only pair of tickets being sold.  Hooray!  I have already set an alarm on my calendar starting July 1, 2013 (July 1 is when the tickets went on sale this year) that will go off daily to remind me to buy tickets until I get them, so that another sellout doesn't damper our plans next year!

Anyway, I digress.  So the tickets cost $8/each for adults and children over 2, and everything except refreshments is included.  We weren't really sure how much Lilly would be able to do, but we thought at the very least it would be a fun thing to check out to see if we wanted to come back next year.  I am here to tell you that we will be attending this event every year for as long as they have it, because it was beyond fantastic.  The lights were beautiful, the entertainment was awesome, and the whole thing was just amazing.  The crafts were obviously a little old for L so we didn't do those, but seriously I would have paid $20/ticket for it, we ALL had so much fun.

There were so many people in attendance that there was no parking at Pullen - you had to park across the street and take a shuttle over. This is the part that I was the most worried about, because since it didn't start until 5 and L goes to bed between 7:30-8:00, I didn't want to spend a ton of time waiting.  Luckily, there were quite a few shuttles running and we ended up only having to wait in line for maybe 10-15 minutes, so it wasn't bad at all.  We all had on our excited faces:

L LOVED the bus ride (perhaps because she wasn't restrained in a car seat?) but did not love the camera flash.
Mommy and Lilly at the entrance of the park.

It wasn't super dark when we arrived, and we knew Lilly would be hungry sooner than later, so we chose to ride the carousel first and then eat and save the train ride for when it was darker.  

Standing in line for the carousel
L was intrigued by whatever animal that was that she was about to ride...

To say that she loved the carousel ride would be an understatement...
After the carousel ride, we checked out the line to see Santa and it wasn't long, so we decided to go ahead and eat, then see Santa and then ride the train before heading home.  I am not sure whether I have stated my Santa requirements before on the blog, but Santa was a HUGE deal growing up in the Eaker house...I remember driving across town every year to see Santa because the one at the particular store we went to was seriously the best ever.  This was giving me anxiety, because my pictures with Santa from when I was younger are a lot to live up to (ha!).  In other words, I wanted to him to be legit.  None of this fake beard nonsense.  I posted on Facebook about it and asked everyone I knew. In the end, since the entry fee to the Holiday Express was only $8, I was not expecting a lot from Santa and fully intended to drive across town to a mall that allegedly has the best Santa in Raleigh at a later date.  I was VERY pleasantly surprised.  Not only was Santa legit, but the visit with him was included in the price of the arm band AND YOU GOT TO TAKE YOUR OWN PHOTOS.  That alone made it worth every penny we paid and more, because most places with legit Santas make you pay to see him and then again for photos that they take!  I wasn't sure what L would think of the man in the red suit, but she thought he was hilarious:

Santa is legit...look at that beard!
She giggled at him for a full minute before she started trying to figure out how to take that ball off of his hat:

I was very pleasantly surprised at the way the photos turned out.  Hooray, Santa!  It took longer than we anticipated to eat and visit with Santa, so by the time we we'd finished with him it was 7:15ish.  I fully intended to keep Lilly out a little later than normal, so we headed over to see how long the line for the train was.  On the way, we stopped for a few minutes to watch Frosty because Lilly was intrigued...

...and then we stopped again to play with some of the light displays:

I love this one because it looks like she's caroling, too.  Ha!
Unfortunately, since the train ride is pretty much the main attraction, the line was SUPER long.  Lilly was in such a great mood and had done so well with Santa that we didn't want to push our luck (she was already yawning and rubbing her eyes), so we decided to save the train ride for next year.  She's' ridden it plenty of times sans lights and loves it, and it's not like she'll remember that when she was 11 months old she didn't get to ride the train and see the lights, ha!

Someone who was catching the shuttle back at the same time we were was nice enough to snap a family photo for us:

And then we busted out the lovie for the 2 minute bus ride because homegirl was exhausted from all of the activity:

We had such a wonderful time at this event, and I am already excited to go again next year, especially since Lilly will understand a little more.  I can't say enough, if you're in the Raleigh area and have kids, you should definitely check out Pullen Park's Holiday Express.  The Baums can't wait to make many more wonderful Christmas memories in the coming years with this fun new tradition!



  1. I know everyone (including me) always comments on how cute Lilly is but I just had to say that I LOVE your outfit in these pics. So stylish!

    1. You are so sweet, thank you so much! I find that I do not FEEL "cute" very often; you just made my day. :-)


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