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Indiana Polar Express Train Rides (2024): A Complete Guide

Last revised: January 1, 2024

By: Adam Burns

Official "The Polar Express" events are hosted at two locations in Indiana, the Indiana Railway Museum in French Lick and at the Whitewater Valley Rail Road in Connersville.  More information about both may be found further below.

"The Polar Express" trips today are a popular holiday-themed train ride that has become a beloved Christmas tradition in many cities and towns around the world. It is based on the classic children's book "The Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg and the subsequent hit movie adaptation.

During the train ride, passengers are transported into the world of the book, complete with hot cocoa, caroling, and a visit from Santa Claus himself.

Passengers are encouraged to wear their pajamas for an even more immersive experience. The train ride is typically set up with a conductor who punches tickets, servers who deliver hot cocoa and treats, and characters from the book who interact with passengers.

The train is typically decorated with lights and other festive decorations to add to the holiday atmosphere. The journey is often set to holiday music and narrated by a reading of the book.

Other Activities

Christmas at the Zoo (Indianapolis Zoo)

The Indianapolis Zoo hosts an annual Christmas celebration, complete with thousands of lights, holiday music, a Santa's village, and a chance to see some of the animals after dark.

Christmas Nights of Lights at the Indiana State Fairgrounds

The fairgrounds are transformed into a winter wonderland each year with over a million twinkling lights, an interactive light display, and visits from Santa.

Winterlights at Newfields

(Indianapolis): The gardens and grounds of the Newfields art museum in Indianapolis are transformed into a magical holiday wonderland with over a million lights and seasonal treats.

Santa Claus, Indiana

This small town in southern Indiana is named after Santa Claus and is a festive place to visit during the holiday season. Visitors can see the giant Santa statue, visit Santa's Candy Castle, and take a drive through the Santa Claus Land of Lights.

Ice Skating

Many cities and towns in Indiana set up outdoor ice skating rinks during the winter months, providing a fun and active way for families to enjoy the season.

Christmas Parades

Parades remain a popular holiday event for many communities not only in Indiana but throughout the nation.  Several towns and cities in the state host Christmas parades, featuring floats, marching bands, and of course, Santa Claus.

2024 Dates Will Be Included As They Become Available!


Indiana Railway Museum/French Lick Scenic Railway

(French Lick): When you have been around for more than 50 years you are bound to have an impressive collection.  That is the case at the Indiana Railway Museum which, since its 1961 founding, has amassed over 65 pieces of rolling stock, including operational diesel locomotives. 

While the organization is primarily focused on the state's rail history their collection is a mishmash of equipment owned by railroads which never Indiana, such as the Chicago & North Western, Rock Island, Seaboard Air Line, and others. 

IRM was first able to offer excursions following the 1978 acquisition of a former Southern Railway branch between West Baden and Dubois (passing through French Lick and the  Hoosier National Forest), which totaled 16 miles. 

Today, 10 miles are utilized for passenger trains while the remainder is operated for freight service as the Dubois County Railroad.  

The Polar Express Dates: 

Whitewater Valley Rail Road

This organization takes its name from the original company which opened along the Whitewater Canal between Valley Junction (west of Cincinnati) and Connersville, Indiana in 1867. 

The WWVRR would go on to join the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis, a subsidiary of the New York Central & Hudson River (which later formed the modern New York Central System). 

The CCC&StL was also known as the "Big Four" and would comprise most of NYC's network in western Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. 

With the creation of Penn Central in 1968 many secondary routes like the current Whitewater Valley Rail Road were deemed redundant, unprofitable, and superfluous. 

After its formation in 1972, the preservation group was able to purchase 18 miles of the line between Connersville and Metamora in 1983.  Today, they have a substantial collection of diesel locomotives and a few steam switchers. 

Despite its rural location the Whitewater Valley Rail Road puts on a fine attraction for the public offering several different rides and events throughout the year such as a mock train robbery, holiday specials, murder mysteries, and much more. 

The Polar Express Dates: 

The WWVRR also offers other Christmas-themed rides including the Santa Claus Limited and Metamora Holiday Special Excursions


Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives. 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website. 

It is quite staggering and a must visit!