I’ve always loved trains. Maybe it’s the childhood nostalgia—the dreams and ideas we have as kids often turn into the best family traditions. The feeling that you could end up anywhere and that you’re along for the ride. That you’re forced to slow down and sit with your thoughts and fellow passengers. Or maybe because my husband proposed to me on one, and it feels like the place where our family started. 

Train rides feel like a much slower and more intentional form of travel, and holiday train rides feel so festive. Large open windows encourage travelers to take in different landscapes with no traffic to navigate. The fall and winter seasons so clearly mark the passage of time in our lives and as a parent I’m always on the lookout for memorable experiences to gift and as an experience as a family. 

What better way to create a new yearly tradition than traveling to visit one of these magical holiday train rides with your family? 

Related: 9 memorable family Christmas traditions you can start with your loved ones

Look for a special holiday train ride near you in the options below

1. Grapevine Vintage Railroad (Texas)

Grapevine Vintage Railroad offers wine train excursions for adults and polar express train rides for kids, complete with hot cocoa, elves and a visit from Santa. 

2. The train of lights with Niles Canyon Railway (California)

Enchanting holiday excursion! Enjoy this 1.5 hr ride through Niles Canyon filled with refreshments, music and cheer aboard their antique coaches and open cars that feature holiday lights and decorations inside and out.

3. Nevada Northern Railway (Northern Express Ely, Nevada)

Wear your comfy and cozy Christmas pajamas and jump aboard “Santa’s reindeer flyer”! Passengers will board the train at the depot in Ely, Nevada before starting their trip to the North Pole. Kids will get to meet Santa and hand deliver their Christmas letters. They’ll also get to hear a story read aloud about Santa’s Reindeer Flyers.

Related: 20+ matching family holiday pajamas that are perfect for photos and cozy time

4. Christmas train rides at Tenessee Valley Railroad (Chattanooga, Tennessee)

Take an imaginary train ride to the North Pole, visit with Santa, enjoy refreshments and the lights.

5. Durango-Silverton Polar Express Train (Durango, Colorado)

Prepare to sip Hot Cocoa, eat warm cookies, sing songs and visit with Santa as the Polar express ride carries you over snowy tracks to visit the North Pole.

6. Polar Express Ride with the Catskill Mountain Railroad (Kingston, New York)

Santa will board to take pictures with kids and Santa’s helpers will be aboard the ride to read this famous story to your family and help you celebrate the holiday season.

Related: Gather around the tree for these 10 entertaining Christmas games for kids

7. Holiday Train Rides on the Strasburg Railroad (Ronks, Pennsylvania)

Santa’s Paradise Express runs from just after Thanksgiving through Dec. 22nd. They even have a special ride you can book passage on the Night Before Christmas Train, where a reader in costume will recite the classic Christmas poem to passengers wearing their best Christmas pajamas. 

8. Santa Train (Northbend, Washington)

This Santa’s train has been running since 1969 with the Northwest Railway museum. This train ride offers a meet and greet with Santa, photo-op and hot cocoa and cookies while you wait.

9. The Polar Express with the Branson Scenic Railway (Branson, Missouri)

Passengers receive a special gift and visit from Santa, while the Polar Express is read aloud and hot chocolate and cookies are served.

10. Great Smoky Mountains Polar Express Ride (Bryson City, North Carolina)

This is one of the best polar express train rides around. Plan on arriving an hour before your departure time along with music, dancing and carols.