We already brought you The Best Christmas Train Trips For Families. Now, we’re bringing you the most magical Christmas train rides in the U.S. What makes them so magical? Some serve food, some serve holiday drinks, and on one, you can even pick out a Christmas tree to bring home. Most are family-friendly, and all are festively decorated and full of holiday cheer. All aboard! Here are the most magical Christmas train rides throughout the country.
1. Christmas Wine Trains And North Pole Express
Grapevine was proclaimed by its own great state as the Christmas Capital of Texas®. Grapevine Vintage Railroad offers Christmas Wine Trains for adults and the North Pole Express for kiddos. Both feature beautifully decorated coaches.
Adults 21-and-up can enjoy hors d’oeuvres paired with Texas wine served in a souvenir glass on the Christmas Wine Trains. A DJ and Santa Claus provide entertainment during the 2-hour ride. On the North Pole Express, Mrs. Claus hosts PJ-clad kiddos as they go on a ride to pick up Santa. Sadly, Christmas Wine Train tickets have already sold out for the season, but tickets are still available for the North Pole Express.
2. The Polar Express
Everyone knows of the beloved children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg that was turned into a film, but did you know that there are Polar Express train rides in more than 40 cities across the U.S.? Here are a few of our favorites.
Waiters serve hot chocolate and cookies on the Grand Canyon Railway, which runs out of Williams, Arizona. In Missouri, the Branson Scenic Railway takes kids to the “North Pole” in 90 minutes. Santa boards the train upon arrival to give each child a small gift. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s Polar Express train travels to the North Pole by way of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On the train, families listen to a reading of the classic story, then Santa gives each kid a silver bell, just like in the book.
3. Christmas Train Rides At Tennessee Valley Railroad
Chattanooga has close ties to the railroad, so it’s no surprise that you can find many magical holiday train rides here. Departing from Grand Junction Station, the Tennessee Valley Railroad offers holiday-themed rides for all ages, aboard decorated vintage locomotives. Take in festive light displays on the Holiday Lights Train Ride. Enjoy a four-course meal aboard a restored 1924 dining car on the Christmas Special Dinner Train.
On the North Pole Limited, kids write a letter to Santa, which they get to personally deliver to the man himself once they reach the “North Pole.” Riders are treated to a chocolate chip cookie and hot chocolate as they take in light displays along the way. They also get to take home a keepsake boarding pass, a bell, and an ornament.
4. CTA Holiday Train
The CTA Holiday Train is a Windy City tradition. Known as the “L,” the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train system gets decked in holiday cheer each year. Each of its eight train lines takes turns donning thousands of twinkling lights at certain times throughout the season. Santa and his reindeer lead the way on an open-air flatcar decorated with Christmas trees. Another important part of the tradition is that the trains deliver hundreds of food baskets to local community organizations. There’s also a CTA Holiday Bus!
5. Train of Lights At Niles Canyon Railway
East Bay, San Francisco, CA
Speaking of holiday traditions, the Train of Lights has been a Bay Area family favorite for years. The train gets its name because it is lit with festive lights from outside as well as from within. One departure leaves Niles at dusk, while a second takes to the tracks from Sunol after dark. Both take passengers on a 1.5-hour-long roundtrip through Niles Canyon.
Enjoy festive decor, holiday music, and refreshments. A variety of tickets are available so you can look up at the sky through a dome car, ride in antique coaches or open cars, or reserve the whole caboose for your group. Proceeds benefit the Niles Canyon Railway and Museum in Fremont, CA.
6. Holiday Express At Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Blue Ridge, GA
Sing along to Christmas carols, listen to The Night Before Christmas, and sip on hot chocolate on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway’s Holiday Express train. Kids will receive an activity packet to help keep them busy during the scenic 1-hour train ride through Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. They’ll also receive a jingle bell and candy cane.
7. 1880 Train: Holiday Express
Hill City, SD
The Black Hills Central Railroad 1880 Train out of Hill City, South Dakota, lets you choose your own holiday adventure: family-friendly or boozy. The regular Holiday Express train has all of the Santa-filled fun for kiddos, while the Holiday Express Spiked version is for adults only. Sip on a keepsake mug filled with spiked hot chocolate on the 1-hour journey. The depot sells mulled wine that passengers are allowed to bring on board as well!
8. Strasburg Christmas Tree Train
Lancaster County, PA
A holiday tradition dating back over 6 decades, the historic Strasburg Rail Road offers several Christmas trains. Restored in authentic Victorian style, vintage steam trains travel from Paradise, Pennsylvania, and back. On the Christmas Tree Train, passengers get to pick out a pre-cut Frasier fir tree at Leaman Place Grove and have it delivered back to the station. The tree is not included in the cost of the ticket. Christmas carolers sing next to a roaring campfire as the heritage freight car is piled high with evergreens.