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Missouri Christmas Train Rides (2024): A Complete Guide

Last revised: January 1, 2024

By: Adam Burns

While the popular Branson Scenic Railway in the resort city of Branson, Missouri hosts officially licensed "The Polar Express" train rides, this is not the only location offering Christmas-themed excursions.  The St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway in Jackson hosts its very own holiday trips and they are quite popular! 

Not every tourist railroad wishes to pay the steep fees associated with hosting "The Polar Express" and many, like the StLIM&S have chosen to host their own version of a Christmas train.  More information about the railroad and its Santa Express can be found further below.

Other Holiday Activities

Missouri is a wonderful place to celebrate the holiday season with your family. There are several festive events that take place throughout the state, from dazzling light displays to visits with Santa Claus. If you are interested in more than just a train ride during the holidays, here are some of the most popular family-friendly Christmas events in Missouri.

Branson's Silver Dollar City

This theme park, located in Branson, Missouri, is transformed into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. Visitors can experience over 6.5 million lights, live shows, and even a parade featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Silver Dollar City also features unique holiday foods, like deep-fried hot chocolate and cinnamon bread.

Kansas City's Country Club Plaza

This shopping district in Kansas City is known for its stunning holiday light display. The entire plaza is illuminated with hundreds of thousands of lights, making it a magical place to shop and dine during the holiday season. Visitors can also enjoy live holiday music and even take a carriage ride through the plaza.

St. Louis Zoo's Wild Lights

The St. Louis Zoo is a popular year-round attraction, but during the holiday season, it is transformed into a winter wonderland with over a million lights. Visitors can take a walk through the zoo to see the lights, take a ride on the Conservation Carousel, and even visit with Santa Claus.

Kansas City's Union Station

This historic train station is decked out in holiday lights and decorations during the Christmas season. Visitors can take a ride on the Polar Express train, see a holiday movie at the theater, and even ice skate in the outdoor rink.

Springfield's Festival of Lights

This drive-through light display at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in Springfield, Missouri, features over one million lights synchronized to holiday music. Visitors can enjoy hot chocolate and holiday treats while driving through the display.

Hermann's Christmas Market

This German-inspired Christmas market in Hermann, Missouri, features over 30 vendors selling unique holiday gifts, decorations, and treats. Visitors can also enjoy live music, horse-drawn carriage rides, and even a visit from Santa Claus.

Jefferson City's Christmas Parade

This festive parade in Missouri's capital city features over 60 floats, marching bands, and even a visit from Santa Claus himself. The parade takes place in downtown Jefferson City and is a beloved holiday tradition for locals and visitors alike.

There is no shortage of holiday cheer in Missouri, and these events are just a few of the many family-friendly activities available during the Christmas season. Whether you're looking to see dazzling light displays or enjoy live entertainment, Missouri has something for everyone.

Overview

St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway

(Jackson):  This tourist attraction uses a historic name which dates all the way back to 1851, the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad. 

Its promoters' intentions were to handle iron ore from mines around Ironton, Missouri.  On April 2, 1858 it opened to Pilot Knob (very near Ironton), then continued expanding southwestward. On May 6, 1874 the StL&IM was reorganized as the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway (StLIM&S or "Iron Mountain Route"). 

The railroad eventually wound up as part of the Missouri Pacific, one of the Midwest's largest with roughly 12,000 route miles. 


The present day St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern utilizes about 4.5 miles of the MP's old Jackson Branch which originally extended from Allenville to Jackson. 

The current StLIM&S has grown into a very nice attraction, offering a wide range of trips throughout the year, particularly during the holidays. 

They are also play an educational role by teaching kids what it is like to be an engineer or conductor.  During the holiday season they host the Santa Express from late November and December where kids can see Santa and a Christmas tale is read to all during the 2-hour trip. 


SteamLocomotive.com

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!