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Montana Christmas Train Rides (2024): A Complete Guide

Last revised: December 30, 2023

By: Adam Burns

While no official "The Polar Express" train ride events can be found in Montana during the holiday season, the Charlie Russell Choo Choo, located near Lewistown, hosts a popular Christmas-themed excursion lasting about 1 1/2 hours.  More information about this ride may be found further below.

2024 Locations Will Be Included As They Become Available!

019517825872357827916897384657867.jpgA pair of Milwaukee Road "Little Joes" and a quartet of EMDs lead westbound freight #263 out of the tunnel on Pipestone Pass on May 13, 1974. George Horna photo. American-Rails.com collection.

Other Activities

If you are interested in other Christmas events happening throughout Montana there are several, from dazzling light displays to delightful festivities.

Glacier National Park Winter Wonderland

Immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Glacier National Park during Christmas. As the park transforms into a winter wonderland, embark on a scenic drive through snow-covered landscapes, witness frozen waterfalls, and spot wildlife against the backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Don't miss the opportunity to go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on the park's picturesque trails for an extraordinary holiday adventure.

Downtown Bozeman Christmas Stroll

Step into the charming town of Bozeman and experience the annual Christmas Stroll, a cherished tradition loved by locals and visitors alike. Marvel at the streets adorned with twinkling lights, listen to carolers spreading cheer, and savor delectable treats from food vendors. Explore the shops, boutiques, and art galleries that stay open late, offering unique gifts and holiday treasures. Keep an eye out for Santa Claus, who is known to make a special appearance during the festivities!

Big Sky Resort Christmas Celebration

For an unforgettable Christmas on the slopes, head to Big Sky Resort. Experience the thrill of skiing or snowboarding down powdery slopes while surrounded by breathtaking mountain views. During the holiday season, the resort transforms into a festive wonderland with lively après-ski parties, delicious dining options, and even a visit from Santa on the slopes. Kids will love the snow tubing, ice skating, and other winter activities available for all ages.

Christmas Caroling Sleigh Rides

For a truly unique and enchanting experience, head to Whitefish and embark on a Christmas caroling sleigh ride. Snuggle up in a cozy sleigh, adorned with blankets and jingle bells, and set off on a delightful journey through the winter landscapes. Sing your favorite Christmas carols, admire the snow-covered scenery, and revel in the joy of the season. The sleigh rides create a nostalgic and festive ambiance, making it a perfect activity for the whole family to enjoy together.

Festival of Trees in Missoula

Get into the holiday spirit at the Festival of Trees in Missoula. This dazzling event showcases elaborately decorated Christmas trees, each with its own theme and story. Marvel at the creativity and craftsmanship displayed by local organizations, businesses, and individuals. Enjoy live entertainment, browse the holiday market for unique gifts, and let the kids explore the interactive exhibits. All proceeds from the festival support charitable causes, making it a heartwarming experience for everyone.

Livingston Christmas Parade of Lights

Join the community of Livingston for their magical Christmas Parade of Lights. As darkness falls, the streets come alive with a procession of festively decorated floats, bands, and marching groups, all adorned with twinkling lights. Delight in the spectacle and cheer along as Santa Claus makes his grand appearance, bringing joy to the hearts of young and old. After the parade, explore the charming downtown area, filled with delightful shops and eateries.

ZooLights (Missoula)

Make your Christmas season even more magical by visiting ZooLights at the Montana Natural History Center in Missoula. This extraordinary event transforms the zoo into a captivating wonderland, with thousands of sparkling lights illuminating the animal exhibits. Take a leisurely stroll through the enchanting pathways, enjoy live entertainment, and participate in interactive displays. Warm up with a cup of hot cocoa and create joyful memories as you explore this mesmerizing light extravaganza.


Charlie Russell Choo Choo

(Lewistown/Hanover):  Montana's only rail excursion offers guests splendid views of northern Montana over short line Central Montana Rail, Inc. which operates a section of the old Milwaukee Road's "Northern Montana Lines." 

The experience provides breathtaking open vistas and typically glimpses of local wildlife such as deer, elk, and other smaller mammals.  All of this can be seen while enjoying dinner during the trip. 

The train only runs during select weekends from June through early October.  Please note that trips actually depart somewhat north of Lewistown at a point known as Hanover (about 15-20 minutes away) and the entire journey covers 56 miles. 

Their North Pole Adventure lasts about an hour and a half where kids can enjoy hot cocoa and cookies, meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, hear a Christmas tale, and sing songs.  

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