All aboard ‘The Polar Express’ at the Vancouver Mall

New interactive exhibit remakes Santa-visiting experience

VANCOUVER — It’s the most wonderful time of the year already at the Vancouver Mall, and it’s all aboard for their new, interactive “Polar Express” experience.  

The Vancouver Mall’s new, interactive “Polar Express” exhibit is on display now, complete with elves and Santa. Photo by Jacob Granneman
The Vancouver Mall’s new, interactive “Polar Express” exhibit is on display now, complete with elves and Santa. Photo by Jacob Granneman

At the heart of Vancouver’s largest shopping center towers a brand new interactive set with special effects, augmented reality features and of course Santa Claus himself. 

The exhibit is a partnership between Parker 3D, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and the Mall to bring a modern take on going to see Santa this holiday season in Vancouver.

“By taking some of the most iconic scenes from such a treasured holiday movie and combining them with the artistic talents of our very creative design team, we’ve developed an incredible multi-sensory experience,” said John Carter, CEO of Parker 3D, in a press release. “[It] will engage, entertain and amaze families waiting to visit with Santa Claus as well as teens and senior citizens looking for a new and interesting way to experience the holidays.”

Santa Claus himself is at the Vancouver Mall, ready to take pictures with all families and children. Photo by Jacob Granneman

This weekend, a new free app designed especially for the exhibit will launch. With the app on your smartphone, you will be able to see an augmented reality of the train and Santa’s workshop from the North Pole. Multiple “selfie” stations are also included, with a professional photo booth with a green screen as well. 

The exhibit is one of four being launched at Centennial locations, (the company that owns and operates the Vancouver Mall), around the nation. In the future, these exhibits will rotate between locations so customers have a new experience each year.

“When we looked at some of the different films that families would watch year after year after year, wew worked with Parker 3D to really bring “The Polar Express” to life,” said Colleen Heydon the senior vice president of marketing for Centennial. “We knew we wanted a set themed after something that is iconic to families around the country for the holidays.”     

In addition to “The Polar Express,” the other exhibits feature sets from “A Christmas Story,” “Elf” and “Elf on the Shelf.” Each of the other three will be visiting Vancouver over the next three years, Heydon said.

“The Polar Express-themed holiday experience at Vancouver Mall is very different from the traditional ‘Santa sets’ that people are accustomed to visiting,” says Tracy Peters the general manager of Vancouver Mall, in a press release. “With … some of the most iconic scenes from “The Polar Express” film, guests will become so immersed in the experience that they will enjoy their journey to see Santa as much as the visit.”

The exhibit opened to the public on Nov. 14 and will remain open through Christmas Eve with photos taken with Santa during the entire time. Between now and then, several special events will be held at the set.

On Nov. 16, the official public welcome for Santa Claus and “The Polar Express” will be held from 10 a.m. to noon. Music, gingerbread house decorating and holiday treats for the first 100 registered guests will be included. 

On Nov. 30, the “Wake Up Santa” event will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. During this event, children and their families will have to help wake Santa up from his nap after Thanksgiving. The Mall’s “Believe-ometer” will gauge the crowds holiday spirit and wake up Santa. Children can wear their pajamas to the event and will be able to decorate a pillowcase to take home. 

The “Santa Cares” sensory-friendly event will be on Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. This event will be geared towards children with special needs to visit the set and get their pictures taken with Santa before the Mall open and is busy. The event is free but advance registration is required. 

“Santa Paws” allows for pets to visit the set with their owners, and will run from Dec. 4 through Dec. 18 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Then, the final event, “Flick with St. Nick” will be held at the AMC Vancouver Mall 23 theater on Dec. 7. Tickets will cost $10 and all proceeds will be donated to Share.

“It really modernizes the way families come and see Santa Claus at a shopping center,” Heydon said. “I think it’s really about creating memories that last a lifetime. It is about Santa Claus, no doubt, people come to visit and have their annual photo with Santa, but this experience is something that they just won’t ever forget.”

For more information on “The Polar Express Exhibit” visit  

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