Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

No extra nights for Holiday Express this year, but city could consider it for 2012

Posted December 7, 2011

Tickets for Pullen Park's Holiday Express sold out Monday, leaving plenty of parents frustrated that they won't be able to take their children this week.

The event features carousel rides, a lighted train ride, visits with Santa, live music and more. The city, which partners with the Crabtree Rotary Club on the event, has put up about $15,000 in holiday lights around the park and train tracks. It runs Thursday to Sunday. Tickets went on sale in August.

This is the third year for the event, but it's the very first time that all four nights have sold out, said Cara McLeod with the city's parks department. The city limits the number of tickets to 1,500 each night to help with crowd control and ensure that it is a fun experience for everybody.

Those ticket limits came around after the first year of the event when visitors packed the park and many waited in long lines for the rides and other activities.

I have some personal perspective on that very first Holiday Express.

That year, my husband and I took our older daughter, then a toddler, and it was such a bad experience that my husband has had no interest in returning.

That chilly night, we waited at least one hour to ride the train. We stood in line for another 45 minutes to see Santa Claus. We got on the carousel pretty quickly only because we got there just as the event opened and made it our first stop. We trudged out well after our daughter's bedtime. She was miserable and cold. We were miserable and cold. And while she had a good time once we finally got to the front of line, there were clearly too many people there.

The city heard a lot of feedback after that first year. In response, staff added a night and limited ticket sales for the event's second year. That year, the Friday and Saturday night tickets sold out, but there were still plenty available on Thursday and Sunday for walk in traffic.

McLeod tells me that the city needs to assess whether the interest in the event this year is because Pullen just reopened after a major renovation or because there is a true demand for an event like this.

If the city were to add mare dates to the event next year, staff also would have to factor in the cost of security that's required to make sure all those lights are not damaged when the park is closed or the cost of labor to put up and take down the lights more than once.

McLeod said these are all things the city will consider once the the Holiday Express is wrapped up this year. She wants to make sure that I make it clear that the city is making "no promises" when it comes to any extra nights next year.

The city also welcomes feedback about ticket sales or from those who do attend on ways to make it better.

People can email their thoughts to prcontact@raleighnc.gov.

And if you don't have tickets to the event this year, also remember that Pullen's rides are closed to the general public Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They will only be open to Holiday Express ticket holders during the hours of the event.

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  • babbleon Dec 9, 2011

    I don't regret the Pullen tix - the hour long waits for the rides is no fun. Head over to Chavis if you want to ride a carousel - we have been doing that a lot the last year and it's a fine experience.

    The city should really spend a little time promoting their other great parks.