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All Aboard for Old-Fashioned Fun: Local Holiday Trains

Nurture your holiday spirit — and thrill your family's train fanatics — with these throwback trips.

Blame it on Currier and Ives — or maybe The Polar Express — but there’s something about a train that can make even the Scroogiest member of your family full of the holiday spirit. Local railroads make the most of it this time of year, offering more trips on special holiday trains, face time with Santa, and even a chance to fetch a fir tree while you’re out.

 

Looking to make some memories this year? Here are some prime places to get on board.

 

Strasburg Rail Road

301 Gap Road, Ronks

 

Chances are, you’ve been here before if someone in your family likes trains (maybe it was you, as a kid — Strasburg has been thrilling visitors since 1958). The 45-minute Santa’s Paradise Express is worth another trip. It’s filled with sweet surprises, from live musicians and carolers to a photo opportunity with Santa himself.

 

These daytime trains run frequently, so there’s plenty of steam engine action for the kids to watch. And there’s enough to do here to keep everyone busy for several hours. If you want to make a full day out of it, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is across the street.

 

Strasburg’s Night Before Christmas trains run select days starting November 30 providing a special holiday adventure with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Clinic for Special Children.

 

Santa’s Paradise Express runs November 23 — 25, December 1 — 2, December 8 — 9, and December 15 — 16, multiple times each day. Tickets start at $19.50 for adults, $13.50 for children ages 2 to 11, and $4 for children under 2.

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New Hope & Ivyland Railroad

32 W. Bridge St., New Hope

 

The North Pole Express has all the trimmings: it’s a 60-minute round trip with hot cocoa, cookies, and Santa and Mrs. Claus. Every child gets a gift, and there’s caroling and music, too. And you’re already in New Hope, so there are lots of fun things to do in the area before or after your train trip.

 

The trains run multiple times daily through December 31, including three rides on Christmas Eve. There are no runs on Thanksgiving or Christmas days. Tickets start at $53.99 for adults, $43.99 for children, and $14.99 for infants.

 

West Chester Railroad

230 E. Market St., West Chester

 

Christmas Tree Train is a two-hour event starting with a ride through the bucolic Chester County countryside. Take a ride to the tree farm where visitors will be able to pick their tree and have it placed on the flat car to ride back with you to West Chester. The 8 am train offers coffee, hot chocolate, and doughnuts, and the chance to pick your own tree for $45 (cash only) at Wiggins Tree Farm. Tickets are $21 for adults, $15 for children ages 2 to 12, and free for toddlers between the age of nine months and 23 months.

 

Santa’s Express, a 90-minute ride on the heated and decorated train car, will feature an appearance by Santa, as well as live music. Excursions start November 17th and run through December 23. Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for children ages 2-12, and free for toddlers between the age of nine months and 23 months.

 

Wilmington & Western Railroad

2201 Newport Gap Pike, Wilmington, Delaware

 

Take a 90-minute trip that features a visit with Santa. Trains run at 12:30 and 2:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays between November 24 and December 23. Seating is exceptionally limited. Tickets are $19 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $17 for kids ages 2 to 12 (it’s free for children under 2). You can also rent a caboose for $325 for groups of 20-25!

 

The Colebrookdale Railroad

64 S Washington St, Boyertown (Thanks to Main Line Parent Community member Jessica O. for the tip!)

 

The Twas The Night Before Christmas Train offers a 90 minute train ride on Friday and Saturday evenings in December in a beautifully decorated coach car, a solid visit with Santa (to review the ever-changing Christmas lists), Christmas carols, hot cocoa and cookies for everyone, a reading of ‘Twas the Night before Xmas and a small gift for each child. First Class Parlor passengers enjoy Holiday Music at our Grand Piano!

 

Santa’s Polar Bear Express Train is a longer (2 hour) ride, round-trip, but you can grab brunch, lunch, or dinner in the dining car! Enjoy complimentary hot cocoa and Christmas cookies on this trip where Santa brings a gift for every child, and every child has an opportunity to give their Christmas letter to him.

 

Model Railways

If you can’t ride, watching trains is a fun tradition, too.

Brandywine River Museum of Art

1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford

 

This festive holiday railroad features more than 1,000 train pieces on a 2,000-foot indoor track. Enjoy this model train adventure decorated with holiday decor that is sure to entertain all ages.

 

The museum also hosts various children’s activities throughout the holiday season, including a Children’s Christmas Party on December 5 from 6 — 8 pm, a Breakfast with the Trains event on December 8 and 15 from 8:30 — 10 am, and a Sensory-Friendly Train Morning on January 5 from 8:30 — 9:30.

 

Morris Arboretum

100 E. Northwestern Ave., Philadelphia

 

This outdoor model railway always reopens for a holiday run, starting the day after Thanksgiving. Get your tickets now for the popular “Friday Night Lights” events, which let you see the railway lit up for Christmas. It’s featured every Friday and Saturday in December and often sells out.

 

Reading Terminal Market

51 N. 12th St., Philadelphia

 

From Thanksgiving Day until New Year’s Eve, catch a revamped holiday train display at this iconic Philly market. It’s open from 10 am to 6 pm in the Piano Court.

 

Worth the Drive: Roadside America

109 Roadside Drive, Shartlesville, PA

 

The world’s greatest miniature village is decorated for the holiday season from December 1 through January 31 with twinkling Christmas lights, snowy scenes, and a special limited time Christmas night pageant.

 

 

Lead photograph by Sarah Bond. Casey Kallen and Sarah Bond contributed to this article. 

Contributing Writer

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