I don’t make it across the river to Vancouver as often I would like too—as often as I should. I have everything that I need right here in Portland. But, Vancouver, Washington, an up and coming city in its own right, has a lot of really cool things going for it: Affordable housing, plentiful jobs, good schools, low crime rates, fine eateries, Vancouver Mall.
In addition to its anchor stores (JC Penney, Macy’s, and Sears, it has many smaller boutiques and music, book, and art stores. There’s also a Gold’s Gym on site, so, you can eat your Cinnabon, then burn off those carbs, and then go shopping. It’s large and well organized and has a great food court. These things, of course, aren’t super unique. Most malls have these things. But, what Vancouver Mall has that sets it apart is an indoor, trackless train. The Polar Express.
The Polar Express is a trackless, five car train located in the heart of Vancouver Mall. While mainly designed for kids (and it’s a great way to bribe bored kids to behave at the mall) it’s really a fun experience for all ages. With a friendly conductor and bright colored cars, it’s a unique experience that doesn’t require much in the way of travel or currency.
I may have mentioned this before, but I have a nephew on the autism spectrum. I’ll admit, it’s hard for me to find ways to relate to him. But I know one thing: He loves trains. So, when I went to my brother and asked if I could surprise my nephew (Colin) with a train ride, my brother jumped at the chance.
The big day came and Colin sat in the car, giddy with excitement. He knew he was getting a surprise but did not know what. He talked about trains and clocks as we drove. I listened and nodded as best I could as we drove through Portland, across the Glen Jackson and into Vancouver.
Upon arrival, he was hungry, so we grabbed some sandwiches at Jimmy John’s and Orange Julius. An that’s when he spotted it. His eyes grew wide his mouth dropped open, he ran and bolted for the train! Before I could shell out the money to pay for the ride, he was already on the train, pumping his arm up and down, asking the conductor to blow the train whistle.
We rode several laps—I couldn’t get him off the train! He was so happy and excited. I felt like it was the most I had ever connected with him. I couldn’t decide which of us was happier. This was a gift as much for me as for him. I am so grateful for it and, with Vancouver Mall only about ten miles from downtown Portland, we can be sure to do it again and again.