Minnesota Christmas Train Rides (2023): A Complete Guide

Last revised: June 23, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Christmas-themed train rides are very popular events all across the country, which draw thousands of patrons annually.  They are a fantastic way to spend time with the little ones.

Each organization's event is slightly different (unless it is an officially licensed "The Polar Express" trip) but typically includes a trip to the "North Pole," a small gift, meeting Santa, and enjoying refreshments.  The ride usually lasts about an hour, or slightly longer.

Minnesota's location in the upper Midwest makes it an ideal state to view wintry scenes, especially by train.   Railroading here has always been difficult, historically, due to the weather, and is still troublesome even today.  

The information presented here highlights the two organizations in Minnesota offering Christmas-themed rides, the Minnesota Streetcar Museum and the North Shore Scenic Railroad.  To learn more please visit their website.

Overview

Minnesota Streetcar Museum

(Minneapolis):  This museum was born in 2005 and offers rides in historic streetcars while also hosting special events throughout the year. 

The organization is a spin-off of the Minnesota Transportation Museum (MTM) and focuses exclusively on Minneapolis's streetcar/interurban heritage, specifically the Twin City Rapid Transit Company which operated from 1875 to 1970. 

The system discontinued streetcar service in 1954, which led to MTM's creation in 1962.  The organization later branched out into general rail history, resulting in the separate MSM's formation. 

It currently operates excursions, utilizing five restored trolley cars, over two sections of track; a half-mile segment of former Minneapolis & St. Louis property (a traditional freight carrier) and the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line, a 1 mile loop that using the original TCRT right-of-way between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun. 

During the holidays their special events include the Holly Trolley, running during a few select dates in December where kids can ride with Santa and the car is decorated for the holidays.

They also feature their Vinternatt where the trolley is decorated for the holidays and Christmas lights can be enjoyed along the route, along with a special appearance from Santa. 

North Shore Scenic Railroad

(Duluth)A component of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, this railroad utilizes 27 miles of the former Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range between Two Harbors and Duluth. 

It began excursions in 1990 and today is a highly successful tourist attraction hosting public trips from May through December.  For train enthusiasts the railroad features numerous historic diesels (including Soo Line FP7 #2500, Missabe SD18 #193, and Soo Line GP30 #700). 

They also have an operational steam locomotive; Duluth & Northeastern (DM&IR) 2-8-0 #28 along with several others on static display (such as Northern Pacific 2-6-2 #2435 and Missabe 2-8-8-4 #227). 

During the Christmas season they host their Christmas City Express from late November throughout much of December. 

During the trip guests can enjoy a reading of the Christmas City Express and a visit from Santa.  Also consider their Bentleyville Tour of Lights train, hosted Fridays and Saturdays during late November through December.


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