Dancing waiters. Menacing conductors. Hot chocolate. And a visit to the Big Guy's toy room.
Ask any kid and they'll tell you a ride on the Polar Express is one of the things they want for Christmas. And with so many great winter train rides to choose from across the country, there's no excuse not to make it a holiday tradition.
Here are just a few of the best train trips you can take at Christmas, whether you be young or young at heart.
Polar Express Train Rides
If you want to take the grandkids for a true authentic Polar Express Train Ride, check out the hour-long Polar Express rides from Rail Events, Inc. and Warner Bros. Located in more than 40 cities across the US, including Baltimore, MD; Durango, CO; Dennison, OH, and Miami, FL. There's likely one near you to enjoy. Rides include a reading of the Polar Express with hot cocoa, and end with a visit to Santa's toy shop where he presents each child with a silver sleigh bell. How cool is that? Well, are you coming?
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad's Holiday Train, Cumberland, MD
Enjoy a trek through "WinterLand" aboard the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. The 3-hour trip gives kids an opportunity to meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus, the elves, and even a few reindeer! Dinner guests can feast on a traditional turkey dinner, but there are plenty of snacks available at the snack bar for everyone.
Holiday Express on the 1880 Train, Hill City, SD
This one hour trip that starts and ends in Hill City, SD lets you experience the wonder of the Black Hills of South Dakota, along with the thrill of a visit with Santa. Passengers can enjoy hot cocoa, a sugar cookie, and a special story along the way, and each child receives a special gift from Santa at the end of the journey. For adults, a Holiday Express Spiked is available where passengers can enjoy an adult hot cocoa in a keepsake mug.
The North Pole Flyer, Austin, TX
Everything's bigger in Texas, and this ride is no exception. Travel on one of Austin's diesel locomotives for a two-hour adventure that includes all-you-can-drink hot chocolate and a locally baked holiday cookie. With passengers enjoying decorated train cars and a special reading of "North Pole Flyer" -- a holiday story specifically written for the railroad -- there's sure to be plenty to entertain even the biggest Grinch. Santa will pose for photographs with children before checking his list twice and then handing them a gift.
The Elf Limited, Cass, WV
Join Jinx the Elf on an hour-long jolly journey where elves hoping to make the cut as one of Santa's helpers tackle a bit of holiday training -- packaging, mischief making, snowball throwing and more... kind of like an Elf Olympics, if you will. Trains travel to the Parliament of Pines where Santa makes his choice of which elves will join his team!
Napa Valley Santa Train, Napa, CA
It's California wine country, so of course the adventure starts with a glass or two of red wine, but for kids the Napa Valley Santa Train is more about having a "bear-y" good time. The trip starts with a video presentation on the platform before Santa arrives for family photo time. After that, little ones can help the conductor "Jolly the Bear" get to Santa's workshop for a little fixing up. Everyone gets light-up wristbands to help guide them on their journey, and the kiddos get their own teddy bear to take home after Santa works his magic on them.
New Hope Railroad North Pole Express, New Hope, PA
Leaving from the vintage train depot in New Hope, PA, kids and parents will travel through Bucks County on this hour-long journey. Along the way, Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit with pyjama-clad kids, pose for pictures, and give each child a gift. Hot chocolate and cookies are a must, as are singing Christmas carols with roving carolers and elves.
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
This holiday journey lasts about an hour and 15 minutes as it travels through Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offering stunning views of the mountains. Riders will enjoy a warm cookie, hot cocoa, and a special souvenir of their trip.
The Train to Christmas Town, Gastonia, NC
Take the train to Christmas Town outside of Gastonia, NC and meet Bumblebee the Polar Bear and Wabash the Squirrel, while listening to a live reading of The Train to Christmas Town. When the train reaches its holiday destination, kids get to meet Santa and receive a special gift from him. The Train to Christmas Town also operates in Watsonville, CA and Alamosa, CO.
There you go! With the holidays coming up quicker than we care to think about, now's the time to plan a special train ride with the grandkids. Happy trails! (Er, rails?)