Twin Cities Mom Collective

The Northern Express: A Dream by Local Moms


the northern express
Fun fact – Rudolph hands out lollipop flavors other than peppermint. | photo by Sherry Ge

The Northern Express
Camp Fire, 3300 Tanadoona Dr., Excelsior, MN


  • Fridays (December 9 & 16) – 12 pm to 5:30 pm

  • Saturdays (December 10 & 17) – 10:30 am to 5:30 pm

  • Sundays (December 11 & 18) – 12 pm to 5:30 pm

Tickets: Adults – $20, Children – $15, 2 & Under – Free

On an early December Sunday, with the welcoming sun and six inches of week-old white powder on the ground, we ventured to the beautiful lake town of Excelsior to explore the new North Pole-themed winter escape called the Northern Express. Enticed by their alluring Instagram posts, this Minnesota mom of two littles was eager to explore this winter wonderland. (Although secretly, my inner Grinch held low expectations and was looking for any excuse to bail after pushing my own limits at a wine tasting the night before.)

the northern express
The Northern Express welcoming party | photo by Sherry Ge

But as we approached the entrance, a set up that looked like the grounds of a glamping resort, I knew this would be well worth the time. The winter village itself is interlaced within Camp Fire’s 100 acres of wooded land that oversees beautiful Lake Minnewashta. As we strolled and explored cabins that were expertly transformed into Elves’ Academy, Clause’s Kitchen, Rudolph’s Stable, and more, we were greeted by the North Pole’s famous characters themselves. Fun fact – Rudolph hands out lollipop flavors other than peppermint.  One of the favorite first stops was undoubtedly Santa’s Toy Shop, where families gathered around long tables and large fireplaces in this hot chocolate and Christmas trinkets oasis.  Right around the corner is the Christmas Tree Forest, and a few steps away is where we came upon the Insta-famous Northern Express llamas, fully decked out in Christmas garb. 


the northern express
Insta famous – Northern Express Christmas llamas | photo by Sherry Ge

Our rookie mistake was not coming hungry enough. A mistake we rarely make. Nestled around the village were famous local food vendors providing mini-sweets from Thumb Cookies, perfectly hot pizzas from Brick Oven Bus, and even cocktails and spirits to warm the adults from D’Amico Catering just to list a few.  The natural outdoor dining space is enviable for any restauranteur – large bonfires enough to warm dozens, perfectly tucked within the forest of hundred-foot Minnesota giants. If you look beyond Rudolph’s Stable, the striking azure blue from the frozen layer of Lake Minnewashta hits you. There is no better place to enjoy your lunch.

the northern express
Santa’s reindeer at The Northern Express | photo by Sherry Ge

Looking around, the spirited scene looks plucked right out of a Hallmark snow globe. Charming as it is tasteful, from conception to its finest details, one cannot help but wonder about the mastermind behind this magic. Advertised to be “dreamt up by local moms” made this more intriguing. I sought out Wynne Reece, a Twin Cities attorney, and mom, who says the idea was born from the early days of the pandemic. She, her husband, and a small group of young parents developed a vision that involved creating “an immersive and inclusive experience” that put the children and the magic of Christmas at the core. 

the northern express
The Northern Express cast of characters | photo by Sherry Ge

Northern Express is pure wonderment. Its mission behind it all is even more inspiring. The little slice of C.S. Lewis-esque dream world created by a small army of determined parents is a true testament that imagination can come to life. All it takes is a village.

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