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10 Magical Polar Express Train Rides That Will Get Your Family in the Holiday Spirit

Here you'll find inspired train trips for kids, families, or groups of friends many of which, are inspired by the classic 1985 Polar Express book by Chris Van Allsburg—in addition to some more unique adventures designed for grown-ups. Go grab your calendar and book your ticket before these popular events sell out!

All aboard!


By Jessica Leigh Mattern, Country Living

Start a new holiday tradition this year by embarking on one of these magical adventures with Santa and his crew of helpers. We've rounded up the best Christmas train trips for families, many inspired by the classic 1985 book The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, as well as some unique rides designed specifically for grown-ups. Just be sure to book your tickets before these popular events sell out!


Country Christmas Train | Denton, North Carolina

Hop on board Denton Farmpark’s Country Christmas Train in Denton, North Carolina for an evening of festive sights and activities. During your excursion, you’ll visit a church to sing carols, stop by Santa’s cabin, venture through the General Store, make your way through a Gingerbread House, and much more. Tickets start at $13 for adults and $5 for kids, making this one of the most affordable Christmas train experiences across the country.


Santa Express | Blue Ridge, Georgia

Beginning on November 23, ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway’s Yuletide-themed Santa Express out of Blue Ridge, Georgia. Kids will get to chat with Santa, enjoy a reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas, and more during this one hour-long train experience. Tickets start at $47 for adults and $31 for kids.


The Polar Express Train Ride | Cities Across America

Operated by Rail Events, Inc. and Warner Bros., these hour-long rides bring scenes from the classic book (and subsequent Tom Hanks movie) to life. The adventures feature a Polar Express reading, hot cocoa, and a visit from Santa. The train rides take place in more than 40 locations across the country including Utica, New York in the Adirondacks, Bryson City, North Carolina in the Great Smoky Mountains, and more, which means you can get in on all the Christmastime fun no matter where you live. Ticket prices vary by city.


North Pole Express | New Hope, Pennsylvania

On the North Pole Express, operated by the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad, families can sing along to Christmas carols, sip hot cocoa, munch on cookies, and share their holiday wishes with both Santa and Mrs. Claus while they venture through scenic Pennsylvania. Take note: There's an extra special trip planned for Christmas Eve. Tickets start at $42 for kids and $52 for adults.


The Elf Limited | Cass, West Virginia

On board the 60-minute Elf Limited train ride, operated through the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, passengers will journey through the beautiful West Virginia mountainside and forests beside a crew of Santa's best helpers. Kiddos will learn all about what it takes—toy packaging, snowballing, and mischief making—to become one of Santa's elves from characters on board. Tickets are $51 per person.


The Polar Express | Burlington, Vermont

Venture through the snow to the North Pole to see Santa during this 75-minute ride from the Vermont Children's Trust Foundation at Union Station. Conductors lead Christmas carols while chefs serve hot chocolate and cookies. And all passengers are asked to wear pajamas and bring a book to give to Santa, which will be donated to children through the Fletcher Free Library. Tickets are $30 per person.


North Pole Flyer | Cedar Park, Texas

This two-hour North Pole Flyer excursion from the Austin Steam Train Association features an array of holiday festivities that will delight the kiddos, including a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus and a special book reading by one of Santa's elves. And just like the original Polar Express, this Cedar Park, Texas train is pulled by a steam locomotive. Tickets start at $45 and include unlimited hot cocoa.


Christmas Special Dinner Train | Chattanooga, Tennessee

Beginning on November 25, guests can enjoy a delicious meal in vintage dining cars decorated for the holidays on the Tennessee Valley Railroad. With tables available for parties of 2-8 people, you can make this a romantic date night to remember or a festive girls' night out. Tickets start at $80. Groups looking for more family-oriented ventures can ride the Santa's Hiwassee Holiday Train or the Summerville Santa Special both of which, run out of Chattanooga, Tennessee.


Train of Lights | Sunol, California

If you love seeing homes ablaze with Christmas lights during the holidays, then the Train of Lights is the adventure for you. The Niles Canyon Railway train leaves the station while it's still light enough to take in scenic views of the San Francisco Bay area, and on the journey back it will be dark enough to enjoy the glowing lights covering the interior and exterior of the train. Tickets cost $30.


Holiday Express | Across the South and Midwest

Every holiday season, Rudy, the grinning car at the front of the Kansas City Southern's Polar Express train, leads a group of decorated carriages through parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kansas, Missouri, and a few other states. At each of its stops, passengers can hop on to tour the cars, which are decorated to look like a gingerbread house, an elves' workshop, a reindeer stable, and more of Santa's favorite hangouts. This free event typically makes its first stop in Victoria, Texas in late November.


See more at: Country Living

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Travel Magazine: 10 Magical Polar Express Train Rides That Will Get Your Family in the Holiday Spirit
10 Magical Polar Express Train Rides That Will Get Your Family in the Holiday Spirit
Here you'll find inspired train trips for kids, families, or groups of friends many of which, are inspired by the classic 1985 Polar Express book by Chris Van Allsburg—in addition to some more unique adventures designed for grown-ups. Go grab your calendar and book your ticket before these popular events sell out!
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