The magic of Christmas will always exist for all who believe. Scores of holiday trains around the country embrace that message, offering rite-of-passage journeys that are complete with Christmas treats, music and, of course, meetings with Santa.
Grand Canyon Railway
Courtesy Grand Canyon Railway
The most spectacular Christmas trains operate on historic railways that brim with charm, but few are as magnificent as the Grand Canyon Railway, which runs a 90-minute Polar Express train out of Williams, Arizona, complete with hot chocolate and cookies served by waiters in toques, just like in the beloved children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. Let your kids wear their pajamas for their meeting with Santa. Don’t miss the best Christmas town in every state.
Dates: November 9, 2018, to January 5, 2019
Tickets: From $43/adult, $33/child
Branson Scenic Railway
Courtesy Branson Scenic Railway
This Polar Express train travels from the historic Branson Depot to the “North Pole” and back, all in 90 minutes. The Branson Scenic Railway, in Branson Missouri, operates its Christmas train every weekend, Thursday to Sunday, in November and on nearly every day in the first three weeks of December. There’s an onboard reading of The Polar Express accompanied with hot cocoa and cookies. When you arrive at the North Pole, Santa boards the train to give every child a small gift. Don’t miss the 20 best small towns for Christmas lights.
Dates: November 2 to December 23, 2018
Tickets: From $44/adult, $34/child
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Courtesy Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
The Polar Express ride operated by the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad takes about an hour and 15 minutes. As the name suggests, it travels through part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the North Pole and back to the Bryson City, North Carolina depot. Onboard the train, families can enjoy a warm cookie and hot cocoa while listening to a reading of the beloved story. Santa presents each child with a silver bell, just like in the book. Children under age two ride for free. Need more holiday cheer? These are our 20 best Christmas movies ranked.
Dates: November 9 to December 31, 2018
Tickets: From $65/adult, $45/child