Are you looking for a North Pole Experience review? Read about our experience visiting Santa’s Workshop in Flagstaff, Arizona two different years.
The North Pole Experience is the ultimate holiday adventure for Arizona families. If you are looking for a special Christmas event to attend during the holidays, then I definitely recommend a visit here. My kids loved it so much we took them back a few years later to enjoy the special holiday spirit again.
North Pole Experience Review
The North Pole Experience starts in Flagstaff where you board a magical trolley that takes you to the North Pole. The entire North Pole Experience lasts around 100 minutes and includes Santa’s Toy Hall of Fame, Santa’s Workshop, Santa’s Gift Wrapping Room, Mrs. Claus’s Bakery, Elf University, Area 47 and a visit with Santa himself.
The experience is well choreographed and extremely interactive. It’s a timed tour, so you stay with the same group the entire time but you do get a private meet and greet with Santa for just your family.
Little America Hotel
The Little America Hotel serves as the The North Pole Experience host hotel and Trolley Departure Station. You do not need to stay at the Little America Hotel to visit the North Pole Experience but it may make it easier. We haven’t stayed there and I will share additional hotel options below.
Regardless of whether you stay there or not, you must check in and board your assigned trolley to Santa’s Workshop at the Little America Hotel. The Little America Hotel features over a million Christmas lights and festive decorations throughout.
Your trolley will have two elves to help facilitate your trip to the north pole through a ‘magic’ portal. One will drive the trolley and the other will share important information and entertain you during the approximately 10 minute ride.
Visit Santa’s Workshop
As soon as you arrive at the North Pole (via a magic portal), more of Santa’s elves greet you to facilitate your visit to Santa’s Workshop. As you enter Santa’s Workshop you will see the Toy Hall of Fame with lots of nostalgic toys that will amuse the adults. Alibaster, Santa’s Head Elf will show you some of Santa’s prototype toys in Santa’s Original Workshop.
Then your kids will get a chance to help Santa’s elves make and test toys. Building toys is one of the boys’ favorite stops on the tour. From there you are led into a fabulous gift wrapping room with lots of impressively wrapped presents. You might even get a quick glimpse of Santa here but don’t worry you will get dedicated time with him at the end of tour.
Snack at Mrs. Claus’ Bakery
We might be at Santa’s massive workshop but it’s not Santa’s Bakery. The bakery is all Mrs. Claus’ domain. Eating cookies and snowman soup (hot cocoa) was definitely a favorite of my boys on both visits. Mrs. Claus is there to chat with the kids while everyone enjoys a quick snack.
Attend Elf University
Elf University was my favorite stop during our first visit. An old fashioned classroom is set up for kids to sit and learn a little bit about being an elf. It’s a quite silly and very entertaining lesson. Even on our second visit when the boys were older, they really enjoyed elf school.
Santa’s Mail Room
Next up is Santa’s Mailroom where kids can write a letter to Santa. The details in this room were really fun to look at as an adult. You might even sneak a peek at Santa’s naughty and nice list.
Santa’s Sleigh in Area 47
Area 47 is a top secret hangar in Santa’s Workshop where his sleigh is stored. This room felt much bigger with more details, during our second visit. I think the North Pole Experience continues to add things and improve the experience each year.
Meet Santa Claus
The last stop is a private visit with Santa Claus. Santa spends a few minutes talking with the kids and giving them each a teddy bear. Then there is a time to take a few pictures with Santa. You can take some of your own but an elf with also take pictures so the entire family can be in it. Plus they you a digital copy of your picture with Santa.
North Pole Experience Tips
- Book a day time tour if you have little kids. A late evening tour might overwhelming and result in an unnecessary meltdown. The tour is indoors, so the only thing you might miss during the day is the elaborate holiday lights outside Santa’s Workshop.
- While strollers are allowed on the tour, they recommend baby wearing if possible. I echo that recommendation because there are some tight spaces during the tour.
- Consider wearing matching pjs or coordinating Christmas shirts. You will see many families go all out in their holiday gear allowing for extra fun photos with Santa.
Where is the North Pole Experience?
The North Pole of course. 😉 The magical portal to NPX is located just outside Flagstaff in the middle of the forest. You board the trolley at the Little America Hotel and the trolley transports you to Santa’s Workshop.
Flagstaff is approximately 4 hours from Tucson and just over 2 hours from the Phoenix area.
What are the North Pole Experience Hotel Options?
If you live in Phoenix or somewhere within a few hours of Flagstaff, the North Pole Experience could be a day trip option. Visiting the North Pole from Tucson though makes it a much longer trip. We stayed at the Courtyard Flagstaff on our first visit. and at the Holiday Inn Express Flagstaff on our second visit. Both are good option, although Holiday Inn Express hotels do offer free breakfast and that’s always nice when you are traveling with kids.
The official hotel for the North Pole Experience is the Little America Hotel. It features over a million Christmas lights along with the trolley launch station making it a magical and very convenient place to stay. They offer a breakfast with Santa experience for an additional fee.
How does the North Pole Experience compare to the Polar Express?
It’s hard to compare the North Pole Experience with the Polar Express. Both are located in Northern Arizona. The North Pole Experience is located at the North Pole (duh) by way of a trolley ride from Flagstaff. 😉 The Polar Express is located in Williams, Arizona.
The North Pole Experience is a very immersive and interactive event where children and adults meet Santa’s elves and tour his Workshop. It includes a private visit with Santa and digital photo. Each child also receives a teddy bear from Santa.
The Polar Express is a train ride on the Grand Canyon Railway to Santa’s Village where Santa boards the train. The Polar Express book is read during the train ride. There is also Christmas caroling, hot cocoa, cookies and the train conductor punches your tickets just like in the book. Santa stops and briefly visits with each child on the return trip back to the station. Everyone receives a bell.
How long does the North Pole Experience Last?
The North Pole Experience lasts about 100 minutes from the time you board the trolley to when you return to the Little America Hotel. You do need to arrive 30-45 minutes before your trolley boarding time to check in.
With tours departing often, the check in and trolley queue area can be crowded and hectic. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive and not stress about getting checked in.
How much is the North Pole Experience?
The North Pole Experience admission cost varies by date, time and age but the range is $58-$76 per person. Christmas Eve is extra special and extra costly.
Kids ages 18 months to 17 years qualify for slightly lower prices. Infants under 18 months are free but they do have to be a lap child on the trolley. In addition only children with a paid ticket will receive a teddy bear from Santa.
Is there a North Pole Experience Coupon Code?
There was a North Pole Experience Groupon deal many years ago but I haven’t seen one in recent years. You can save money by booking a tour in November, daytime tours are also cheaper. The NPX Facebook page is another place to watch for limited time specials and discounts. Keep in mind that popular dates and times often sell out.
Is the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff Worth It?
NPX tickets are pricey but it’s worth a splurge at least once for a Christmas adventure. It’s a magical way to spend a Merry Christmas with your kids while they are little.
We visited when our kids were 2 1/2 and 5 and then again at 8 1/2 and 11. They enjoyed it both times, and so did I. We are tempted to go back with our now tween and teen. If we do go again, I will report back what they think
North Pole Experience in 2023
It’s the 15th year of the North Pole Experience. What should you expect when you visit?
- Check out Toy Hall of Fame
- Help elves built toys in Santa’s workshop
- Check out Santa’s gift wrapping room
- Enjoy hot cocoa and a treat in Mrs. Clause’s bakery
- Attend Elf University
- Write a letter to Santa in the North Pole mailroom
- Check out Santa’s new sleigh in Santa’s sleigh hangar
- Then a private visit with Santa Claus complete with digital pictures and a special teddy bear for all kids (with tickets)
We received complimentary tickets to facilitate this review. This post was originally published December 6, 2012.