Please Note!: While many of the same museums and tourist railroads host the Polar Express year after year, most dates and/or locations for the event in 2013 are not yet shown. This page will be updated in the future as they become available.
Polar Express train rides have become a wildly popular event at tourist railroad and museums, particularly since the film, The Polar Express, was released in November, 2004. Numerous organizations around the country now host a Polar Express train every November or December before Christmas, which usually features a story-telling of Chris Van Allsburg's magical tale complete with coco and cookies just like in the book. When possible, if it is available, a steam locomotive is used to pull the train.
The Polar Express is a children's book written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, originally published in 1985. As the story goes a young boy is lying in bed on Christmas Eve awaiting Santa's arrival when he hears the sound of a train outside his home, The Polar Express. He is invited by the conductor to come aboard the train, which is filled with children and heading to the North Pole to meet Santa and the elves. During the journey the kids are treated to hot chocolate and cookies, which is what has inspired their serving aboard Polar Express tourist trains today. The story concludes with the young boy being picked by Santa to receive the first gift of Christmas and he chooses a simple, silver bell from Santa's sleigh. Interestingly, though, once he returns home and awakes on Christmas morning he notices that the bell is still in his possession.
(Above is an example of what you will experience aboard an officially licensed Polar Express trip. This scene was captured aboard the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad in West Virginia.) The movie version of The Polar Express is a bit different, and a much longer tale, than the original but for the most part it sticks to the original story. To rail fans and historians the most notable aspect of the movie is that Pere Marquette #1225, an actual 2-8-4 Berkshire-type steam locomotive, which is still operational, was used in the movie to pull the train. It, and its tender, was computer generated to the finest detail, including using the sounds of the locomotive while in operation, in the movie. In any event, for more information about where Polar Express train rides will be operating in 2013 please read on below.
Also, please be aware that only certain organizations operate the officially licensed Polar Express train (some choose not to due to costs), and they are denoted here by the image at right. All other organizations listed here operate Christmas or Santa Claus trains not affiliated with the Polar Express (but are worth the visit!). If you would like your organization's train included here please contact me and it will be added. Finally, I have striven to make sure the information presented is up-to-date, to the best of my knowledge. However, I cannot say with 100% certainty that it is accurate.
Please Note!: This list will be updated as the information becomes available.
The Polar Express Train Rides, 2013 Schedule
Alabama Polar Express Train Rides
Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum: The North Pole Express/Santa Special is offered exclusively by the museum with kids able to meet Santa during a one-hour train ride and receive a small gift from the Jolly Man. The Santa Train is offered every weekend after Thanksgiving (through Christmas) while the North Pole Express is available most Fridays through Sundays from November 23rd until December 17th.
North Alabama Railroad Museum: The Santa Train carries a Christmas theme with the kids meeting Santa. Overall the ride lasts for about 40 minutes and runs three times in December.
Alaska Polar Express Train Rides
No events yet known.
Arizona Polar Express Train Rides
Grand Canyon Railway: Operates the official Polar Express throughout much of November and virtually every day in December. The train departs Williams Depot and lasts a little over an hour.
Arkansas Polar Express Train Rides
Arkansas & Missouri Railroad offers a number of Christmas-themed activities including a Children's Christmas Train, train rides for school events, parties, and even PJ Christmas trains similar to the Polar Express. To learn more please click here.
California Polar Express Train Rides
California State Railroad Museum: The official Polar Express runs every weekend from November 25th through December 18th.
Fillmore & Western: North Pole Express is the Fillmore & Western's own Christmas train offered from late November through late December. It is quite a spectacle with the entire grounds decorated, Santa greets passengers as they board, and a story is read during the ride. The railroad also hosts several other activities such as a Christmas Tree Train, Santa Shopper Train, and dinner with Santa.
Napa Valley Wine Train: The Santa Express Train is offered only by the railroad and features a one-hour ride with the kids able to meet Santa during the trip.
Pacific Southwest Railway Museum: The North Pole Limited is operated in late November through mid-December on the weekends. It lasts for about an hour and a half with elves serving kids hot chocolate and cookies followed by a story reading and finally meeting the Big Guy himself.
Poway-Midland Railroad: The Christmas In The Park is a one-day event offered in mid-December where Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive by train as the community Christmas Tree is lit with lots of other activities held.
Roaring Camp: The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train is a unique experience where riders can ride through the streets of Santa Cruz enjoying treats, listening to music, and visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Sacramento River Train: The Christmas Train is a 90-minute ride from late November through most weekends in December with kids and adults able to experience a whole host of activities from meeting Santa to enjoying treats and listening to live music. Quite an experience!
Colorado Polar Express Train Rides
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: Hosts the official Polar Express every day from November 16th through December 28th. Not only does the railroad feature classic steam locomotives but the views are just as splendid. It is one of the most popular versions of the Polar Express offered around the country and sells out quickly.
Georgetown Loop Railroad: The Santa's North Pole Adventure is offered weekends from late November through mid-December and then everyday thereafter until the end of the year. While aboard the train kids get to meet Santa and enjoy candy, cocoa, cookies, and receive a small gift. This railroad also offers authentic steam locomotives further enhancing the ride.
Rio Grande Scenic Railroad: The North Pole Express is operated from late November through mid-December traveling from Alamosa. During the ride kids get to enjoy cookies, cocoa, a Christmas story reading, and of course a visit from Santa.
Royal Gorge Route Railroad: The Santa Express as three different classes of service and begins in mid-November with trips usually run daily throughout December. Trains travel to the North Pole to see Santa and during the ride kids are able to enjoy treats and a story reading.
Connecticut Polar Express Train Rides
Essex Steam Train: Their Santa Special offers Christmas train rides behind steam locomotives. Trains run every Saturdays and Sundays from November 23rd through December 23rd, during an hour long where the kids able to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus as well as receive a souvenir gift.
Naugatuck Railroad: The Santa Express Train allows kids to see Santa during the hour and a half train ride. Additionally, the railroad offers two similar trains the Northern Lights Limited and Santa's Train Workshop. Visit their website to learn more.
Delaware Polar Express Train Rides
Wilmington & Western Railroad: The W&W's Santa Claus Express offers an 1 1/2-hour trip from late November through mid-December. The railroad also offers the uniqueness of steam-power and the train features chocolate and, of course, a meet-and-greet with Santa.
Florida Polar Express Train Rides
Florida Railroad Museum: The popular North Pole Express and Santa Claus Special offer kids the chance to meet Santa, the latter of which runs only during the day.
Seminole Gulf Railway: The Christmas Light Extravaganza is an interesting train ride/boat trip that showcases the Christmas lights around Punta Gorda. It is offered a few times in December. The railroad also hosts the It Came Upon A Midnight Fear murder mystery play beginning in late November which also features dinner.
Georgia Polar Express Train Rides
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway: The railroad's popular self-proclaimed Santa Express runs from around Thanksgiving to nearly Christmas with daytime and nighttime trips to see Santa available. During the one-hour ride the kids get to see Santa and his elves, sing songs, and hear a Christmas story.
Hawaii Polar Express Train Rides
No events yet known.
Idaho Polar Express Train Rides
No events yet known.
Illinois Polar Express Train Rides
Fox River Trolley Museum: Hosts the official Polar Express on these dates, November 24; December 1-2, 8-9, 15-16.
Illinois Railway Museum: The museum offers the Happy Holiday Railway during early December allowing kids to experience a train ride while enjoying treats on-board and meeting St. Nick himself.
Monticello Railway Museum: Hosts the official Polar Express on November 23-25 and November 30-December 1.
Indiana Polar Express Train Rides
Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum: The museum's popular Santa Trains are offered in December and feature a 45-minute train ride while the kids get to see Santa who gives each a small gift.
Indiana Railway Museum: The museum hosts the official Polar Express every weekend from November 16th through December 16th.
Indiana Transportation Museum: The ITM offers three different Christmas-related trains during the holidays; the Santa's Train, Polar Bear Express, and finally the Holiday Shoppers' Express. Please visit their website to learn more.
Whitewater Valley Railroad: Hosts the official Polar Express trains on these dates, November 16-18; November 23-25; November 30-December 2; December 7-9; December 14-16.
Iowa Polar Express Train Rides
Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad: The B&SV's Santa Express provides kids with an over one-hour train to the North Pole to see Santa Claus while singing Christmas carols, enjoying treats, and listening to holiday tales. The train runs during late November and early December.
Midwest Central Railroad: This tourist line runs its North Pole Express during late November and mid-December departing North Station usually behind one of two steam locomotives, a Shay and 2-6-0 Mogul.
Kansas Polar Express Train Rides
Midland Railway: This railroad hosts the Santa Claus Express for only two days in early December so be sure and book now! The train offers live music on board and, of course, a visit with Santa. Please note that their trains offer all open-air cars so dress accordingly.
Kentucky Polar Express Train Rides
Big South Fork Scenic Railway: Their Santa Express is offered during the first three weekends in December featuring a one to two hour trip to meet St. Nick and receive a small gift.
Bluegrass Railroad Museum: Santa Claus Train
Kentucky Railway Museum: Very similar to the official Polar Express rides the KRM's Christmas Trains offer an hour train ride while allowing kids to enjoy hot chocolate and cookies during their trip to see Santa all while wearing their PJs! Trains are offered throughout December up until the weekend before Christmas.
Louisiana Polar Express Train Rides
No events yet known.
Maine Polar Express Train Rides
Boothbay Railway Village: The fascinating North Pole Express is a quaint but enjoyable hour train ride on a narrow-gauge railroad during three weekends in late November and early December where visitors can enjoy treats on board and the kids have a visit from Santa.
Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad: Hosts the official Polar Express from the day after Thanksgiving every Friday through Sunday until before Christmas Eve. Please visit their website for date and reservation information.
Seashore Trolley Museum: The museum's Kennebunkport's Christmas Prelude is actually just a trolley ride with a Christmas theme offering patrons hot chocolate, hot cider, tea, coffee and other snacks while aboard.
Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum: The recently rebuilt WW&F offers a Victorian Christmas during one day in December only with free rides, a visit from Santa, and horse-drawn carriage rides.
Maryland Polar Express Train Rides
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum: The popular B&O museum offers several different Christmas-related events and activities, including short train rides, during the holiday season. Please visit their website to learn more.
Walkersville Southern Railroad: During the holiday season beginning in late November the railroad offers Santa Trains which allows the kids to see the Big Guy and enjoy treats during the trip.
Western Maryland Scenic Railroad: Some of the longest Christmas-themed train rides available their Santa Express/North Pole Express takes visitors on an over 3-hour journey to Frostburg, steam-powered at that, with Santa riding too.
Massachusetts Polar Express Train Rides
Edaville Railroad: Hosts the official Polar Express during these dates, November 26-28; December 3-5, 10-11; January 2-3.
Michigan Polar Express Train Rides
Coopersville & Marne Railway: Beginning in late November this excursion train features its Santa Train. While Santa is, of course, aboard the train their version is a bit unique in that a princess reads the kids The Polar Express.
Little River Railroad: Featuring real steam locomotives decorated for Christmas their Holiday Express offers kids on board treats and typically runs in late November through mid-December.
Steam Railroading Institute: The SRI offers their North Pole Express beginning in late November. Another long trip that lasts four hours riders and kids get to see Santa, enjoy cocoa and other live musical entertainment. They also offer a Cocoa Class for an extra fare which includes unlimited cocoa, a cookie, and a souvenir mug. Interestingly, the SRI owns the actual steam locomotive used in The Polar Express movie, Pere Marquette 2-8-4 #1225 which usually pulls the train. However, it is undergoing a FRA-mandated overhaul and is out of service.
Minnesota Polar Express Train Rides
North Shore Scenic Railroad: The railroad's Polar Express is not the officially licensed version of the Polar Express although it offers a great experience for the kids nonetheless running from late November until just before Christmas during the weekends.
Mississippi Polar Express Train Rides
No events yet known.
Missouri Polar Express Train Rides
Belton, Grandview & Kansas City Railroad: Their Santa Train is offered only twice a year in late November and early December where kids can enjoy a train ride and see Santa and Mrs. Claus at the depot. Please visit their website to learn more.
Branson Scenic Railway: Hosts the official Polar Express during these dates, November 8-11; November 15-18; November 23-25; November 29-December 1; December 6-22.
Montana Polar Express Train Rides
Charlie Russell Choo Choo: Enjoy splendid views of northern Montana aboard their North Pole Adventure, which lasts for 40 minutes and is offered the first four weekends of December.
Nebraska Polar Express Train Rides
No events yet known.
Nevada Polar Express Train Rides
Nevada Northern Railway: Hosts the official Polar Express from late November through after Christmas during the weekends. To learn more about scheduling and pricing please visit their website.
Nevada Southern Railway: Their Santa Train operates every weekend from December 3rd through December 18th with six trips offered per day. The kids get to see Santa and drop off their letters and the mailbox.
Virginia & Truckee Railroad: The V&T hosts the official Polar Express operating Friday, Saturday, and Sunday November 25th through December 18th behind real steam locomotives.
New Hampshire Polar Express Train Rides
Conway Scenic Railway: Their Santa's Holiday Express is offered from Thanksgiving Weekend through the weekend of mid-December. Trips last nearly an hour with kids enjoying cocoa, cookies, seeing Santa, and receiving a small gift.
Hobo Railroad/Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad: They host Santa Trains from late November through mid-December. The trains operate between Lincoln to Woodstock during the daytime only and last over an hour with kids able to enjoy treats along the way and see Santa.
New Jersey Polar Express Train Rides
Black River & Western Railroad: The North Pole Express/Santa Express takes visitors to the North Pole Station and is operated from late November through mid-December with kids able to enjoy treats, sing Christmas carols, visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and receive a small gift.
Delaware River Railroad Excursions/New York Susquehanna & Western Technical & Historical Society: Hosts the official Polar Express on these dates November 24-25; December 1-2; December 8-9; December 15-16; December 22.
Pine Creek Railroad: On the Christmas Express kids get to ride with Santa and trains depart all day from around Thanksgiving Weekend through mid-December. For more information please visit their website and plan ahead as this ride, which has been offered now for more than 30 years, usually sells out quickly.
Whippany Railway Museum: The museums' Santa Claus Special is a very festive event with the train decorated for Christmas and Santa stopping by to see all of the kids. The ride lasts for about 45-minutes with kids receiving a small gift en route. The train also offers special tickets in the museum's restored CNJ club car Jersey Coast. This event sells out quickly so please plan ahead!
New Mexico Polar Express Train Rides
Santa Fe Southern Railway: The tourist railroad offers a number of Christmas-related events during December including caroling and a storybook train ride. To learn more please visit their website.
New York Polar Express Train Rides
Adirondack Scenic Railroad: Hosts the official Polar Express. Please visit their website to learn more.
Arcade & Attica Railroad: The North Pole Express operates most weekends in December with kids encouraged to dress in their PJs while visiting Santa and enjoying hot cocoa and cookies. Please be aware that these trains use open-air cars so be sure to dress accordingly.
Finger Lakes Railway: The Santa Claus Express offers kids the chance to experience a train ride and enjoy treats on board while receiving a visit from Santa. These trips, offered from around Thanksgiving and into December, usually sell out quickly so please plan ahead.
Medina Railroad Museum: Hosts the official Polar Express on these dates, November 24-25; December 1-2, 8-9, 15-16.
Saratoga & North Creek Railway: Hosts the official Polar Express on these dates, November 16-21, 23-26, 28-30; December 1-3, 5-10, 12-23, 27-30. They offer three classes of tickets so please visit their website to learn more.
North Carolina Polar Express Train Rides
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad: Hosts the official Polar Express every day between November 9th through December 30th. One of the premier events offered by any tourist railroad you can also enjoy the spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains.
New Hope Valley Railway: To learn more about their Santa Trains please click here.
North Carolina Transportation Museum: In A Railroad Christmas the NCTM offers there different events the Santa Train, Cookies and Cocoa with Santa, and the Jingle Bell Express. Please check out their website to learn more.
North Dakota Polar Express Train Rides
No events yet known.
Ohio Polar Express Train Rides
Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Scenic Railway: The AC&J offers their Santa Train usually five weekends a year beginning in late November around Thanksgiving. They decorate their train for Christmas, kids get to see Santa and receive a small gift. Usually rides last about an hour.
Dennison Railroad Depot Museum: Hosts the official Polar Express from December 7-9; 14-16.
Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad: The North Pole Express allows kids to experience a half-hour train ride to see Santa and Mrs. Claus while enjoying treats along the way and entertainment from the elves. It is usually offered from late November through mid-December.
Oregon Polar Express Train Rides
Mount Hood Railroad: Hosts the official Polar Express throughout most of November and December. They also offer three classes of tickets so please visit their website to learn more.
Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad: The Candy Cane Express is hosted during the first three weekends of December where kids can see Santa and the train is all decorated for Christmas and is pulled by a real steam locomotive. They do suggest dressing appropriately the cars are not always heated.
Pennsylvania Polar Express Train Rides
Fayette Central Railroad: The Santa Train uses a restored RDC (Rail Diesel Car) decorated for Christmas with snacks available during the trip while kids are able to see and talk with Santa.
Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad: The Milk & Honey Line offers the Polar Bear Express and Santa’s Surprise Trains from late November through mid-December with kids able to see the Big Guy. Please visit their website to learn more.
New Hope & Ivyland Railroad: The North Pole Express includes an over one-hour train ride where kids are able to see Santa, listen to live music on board, and enjoy hot cocoa and cookies where they also receive a gift during the trip. These trains are also usually pulled by authentic steam locomotives.
Stourbridge Line Rail Excursions: The Santa Express is a long train ride that is nearly two hours in length where the kids get to see Santa. It is only offered three times in December so please plan ahead.
Strasburg Railroad: One of the most popular tourist railroads in the country offers its own version of a Christmas train, the Santa Paradise Express. The train runs from late November through the weekend before Christmas and operate between Lancaster and Paradise. The kids get to see Santa and the trains are always pulled by steam locomotives.
Tioga Central Railroad: The Santa Express operates from late November through mid-December with trips usually lasting about an hour. The kids are able to talk with Santa, receive a small gift, and enjoy the Christmas lights display nearby.
Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern Railroad: The Santa Claus Special is offered only during the first weekend of December this year with kids able to see Santa and Mrs. Claus.
West Chester Railroad: The railroad offers the Santa's Express and Christmas Tree Train on various weekends beginning in late November. Please visit their website to learn more.
Blackstone Valley Tourism Council: Hosts the official Polar Express during most weekends in ;ate November through December. Please visit their website for date and reservation information.
Newport Dinner Train: Operates the official Polar Express every weekend from mid-November through mid-December. Please visit their website to contact them about dates.
South Carolina Polar Express Train Rides
No events yet known.
South Dakota Polar Express Train Rides
Black Hills Central Railroad: Featuring live steam locomotives the Holiday Express is a Christmas-decorated train that allows kids to see Santa and receive a small gift. It is offered for just a few weekends beginning around Thanksgiving.
Tennessee Polar Express Train Rides
Secret City Scenic Excursion Train: Their Santa Trains are hosted during just two weekends in December. Please visit their website to learn more.
Tennessee Central Railway Museum: The North Pole Express is offered only twice in December so please be sure and book ahead. The train also offers three different classes of seating; regular, first class, or dome.
Tennessee Valley Railroad: The North Pole Limited is usually pulled by a live steam locomotive and offers kids the chance to see Santa, listen to story, sing songs, and enjoy refreshments. It is selling out quickly so please book now.
Three Rivers Rambler: Their Christmas Steam Trains are just that, festive holiday trains that are pulled by a live steam locomotive. These trains typically operate every weekend from Thanksgiving until just before Christmas. Please visit their website to learn more.
Texas Polar Express Train Rides
Austin Steam Train: The North Pole Flyer is another Christmas train pulled by an authentic steam locomotive and offers a very long 2+ hour train ride while the kids get to see Santa and receive a small gift.
Grape Vine Railroad: The railroad's most popular Christmas train is the North Pole Express for the kids. However, they also host Christmas Wine Trains and After Christmas Trains. Please visit their website to learn more.
Texas State Railroad: Operating the official Polar Express throughout much of November and December. Please visit their website to learn about exact dates and booking your trip.
West Texas & Lubbock Railroad: Operating the official Polar Express from November 18th through December 23rd.
Utah Polar Express Train Rides
Herber Valley Railroad: The North Pole Express takes kids on a magical ride to see Santa aboard the train. During the trip they can listen to choir-performed Christmas songs, enjoy refreshments, and take in the beautiful scenery.
Vermont Polar Express Train Rides
Green Mountain Railroad/Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce/Vermont Children's Trust Foundation: Hosts the official Polar Express during only December 8-9.
Virginia Polar Express Train Rides
No events yet known.
Washington Polar Express Train Rides
Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum: Hosts the official Polar Express, operating Fridays through Sundays November 23rd through December 16th. Please note that they also offer "Santa Steam Trains" not related to the Polar Express Saturdays and Sundays December 1st through December 9th.
Chelatchie Prairie Railroad: Please contact them to learn more about their Christmas Tree Specials as their website does not provide specific details.
Lake Whatcom Railway: The Christmas Train takes passengers on about a 1 1/2-hour journey during which time everyone can enjoy on board refreshments, listen to live music, and have a visit from Santa.
Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad: Their Santa Express usually runs from after Thanksgiving until just before Christmas during the weekends and typically is pulled by a live steam locomotive. During the trip kids get to see Santa, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, and receive a small gift.
Northwest Railway Museum: The Santa Train has been in operation for more than 40 years now for a 20-minute train ride to the Snoqualmie Depot to see Santa and receive a gift. Kids also receive refreshments during the trip.
West Virginia Polar Express Train Rides
Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad: Hosts the official Polar Express on these dates, November 9-11, 15-18; 23-25; November 29-30: December 1-2, 6-9, 14-15. I have actually taken this trip and highly recommend it to anyone living near West Virginia, it is excellent!
Wisconsin Polar Express Train Rides
Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad: The Santa's Pizza Party is usually offered around Thanksgiving with a 2 1/2-hour train ride for kids to enjoy pizza while riding with Santa. The kids also receive hot cocoa and cookies along with a small gift.
National Railroad Museum: Hosts the official Polar Express on these dates, November 23-25; November 29-December 2.
Wyoming Polar Express Train Rides
No events yet known.
Canada 2013 Polar Express Train Rides
West Coast Railway Heritage Park: Located in Vancouver, British Columbia the WCRA hosts the Polar Express for the first time in 2012 on December 1-2 as well as December 8-9.
For more information regarding Polar Express train rides please click here. If you have never read The Polar Express it is a true classic which your kids or young ones are sure to enjoy (although the story is engrossing enough itself to just read for yourself!). Mr. Van Allsburg has won many awards for his now-classic Christmas tale and the spin-off animated movie in 2004, now also considered a classic, is nearly as good as the book. When the movie came out I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy of the The Polar Express book, which, of course I will always cherish. If you're interested in perhaps purchasing either the book or the movie (or both) please visit the links below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.