After Holidazzle in Loring Park and Winter Lights at the Minnesota Arboretum, we headed out to the second annual Northern Express — a recreation of the North Pole at the snowy Camp Fire in Excelsior.
Many of the activities, from holiday-themed face painting and balloon animals to decorating a “forest” of Christmas trees, were aimed at toddlers and older, but there were some fun photo ops for babies, too. Julian marveled at the costumed characters and inflatables, walked a festively attired llama from Carlson’s Llovable Llamas in a circle, and met his first reindeer and Santa Claus. (No tears!) Numerous vignettes set up throughout the camp depicted Santa’s workshop, the Claus’ kitchen, the North Pole post office, Frosty’s house, and more.
If your children are not of walking age, you’re better off wearing or carrying them as a number of the paths are snowy and not easily navigable by stroller. There are fire pits for warming your mitts and hot cocoa for sale in the main camp building, along with a well-curated holiday market featuring toys, candles, apothecary goods, and edible stocking stuffers. Our biggest complaint about the market was just the congestion; it’s so tight and crowded, we could hardly browse.
The verdict: Tickets weren’t cheap. This cost us $40 for two adults; children under 2 are free but if Julian was older, admission would have cost an additional $15. We’re still glad we went because we got some cute photos (and the Santa they hired is great with kids, even hysterical ones) but this would have been more worth the ticket price if Julian was a little older.
Northern Express runs for two more weekends: December 9, 10, and 11 and December 16, 17, 18. It’s open Fridays and Sundays from noon to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The Northern Express
3300 Tanadoona Dr., Excelsior, MN; no phone.