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

Last revised: December 30, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Many excursion trains and railroad museums around the country host Christmas-themed train rides.  However, only a select few feature officially licensed "The Polar Express" trips which recreate Chris Van Allsburg's magical tale.  One of these is found in Nevada at the historic Virginia & Truckee Railway!  More information about this train ride may be found further below.

vhi83lt2z45f2578.jpgVirginia & Truckee 2-8-0 #29 steams through the snow south of Virginia City, Nevada with a chartered photo special on March 2, 2010. Drew Jacksich photo.

Other Family-Friendly Activities

If you are interested in some other popular Christmas events hosted during the holidays throughout Nevada the state offers plenty of exciting activities for the whole family, from dazzling light shows and ice skating to immersive winter wonderlands and magical train rides. With so many options to choose from, you're sure to find something that will make your holiday season unforgettable.

Glittering Lights

Located at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Glittering Lights is an annual drive-through light show that has become a Christmas tradition for many families in Nevada. The attraction features millions of dazzling lights, themed displays, and holiday music, all of which can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own vehicle. The show runs from mid-November to early January, and tickets can be purchased online in advance.

Ice Skating

Ice skating is a classic winter activity that the whole family can enjoy. Nevada offers several ice skating rinks, including the outdoor rink at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and the indoor rink at South Tahoe Ice Arena in South Lake Tahoe. Both locations offer skate rentals and special events throughout the holiday season.

Christmas Town

Located in the small town of Ely, Christmas Town is a magical holiday attraction that features a dazzling light display, holiday music, and festive activities for the whole family. Visitors can take a train ride through the town, visit Santa's workshop, enjoy hot cocoa and cookies, and even take a picture with Santa Claus himself. Christmas Town runs from late November through December, and tickets can be purchased online in advance.

Santa's Wonderland

If you're looking for a truly immersive Christmas experience, look no further than Santa's Wonderland in Reno. This attraction features an indoor winter wonderland, complete with snow, ice skating, holiday crafts, and visits with Santa and his reindeer. There's even a live nativity scene and a holiday market for shopping. Santa's Wonderland runs from late November to early January, and tickets can be purchased online in advance.

Santa’s Reindeer Flyer Christmas Express Train

This event is a popular Christmas-themed train ride hosted at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in Ely.  The train departs from the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in Ely and features live actors, hot cocoa, and a special visit from Santa Claus himself. The ride runs from late November through December, and tickets can be purchased online in advance.

Ethel M Chocolates Holiday Cactus Garden

The Ethel M Chocolates Holiday Cactus Garden is a popular attraction in Las Vegas during the holiday season. The garden features over 1 million twinkling lights, and the cacti are decorated with various holiday-themed ornaments. It's a great place to take the family for a stroll and enjoy the holiday atmosphere while savoring some of Ethel M's delicious chocolate treats.

Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours 

Lake Tahoe is a popular winter destination, and during the Christmas season, snowmobile tours are a great way to enjoy the snow-covered scenery with your family. There are several companies that offer snowmobile tours in the Lake Tahoe area, and most tours last between 1-2 hours.

Christmas at the Bellagio

The Bellagio is a popular hotel and casino in Las Vegas, and during the holiday season, the hotel hosts a Christmas display that is open to the public. The display includes a 42-foot-tall Christmas tree, a life-size chocolate fountain, and a gingerbread house that is over 6 feet tall.

Christmas in the Village

Genoa, Nevada is a small town located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. During the holiday season, the town hosts a Christmas in the Village event, which includes a tree lighting ceremony, caroling, and a visit from Santa Claus. There are also several craft vendors and food trucks for attendees to enjoy.

2024 Dates Will Be Included As They Become Available!

Overview

Virginia & Truckee Railway

(Carson City): Nevada may not be the first state which comes to mind when it comes to railroads.  However, not only was the historical western leg of the Transcontinental Railroad (Central Pacific) but also three major tourist attractions/museums can be found there today. 

The history of the Virginia & Truckee is quite fascinating.  It's legend was born during the 19th and early 20th centuries when it handled copious of silver ore following the famous Comstock Lode's discovery in 1850 in Gold Canyon, Nevada (near present-day Dayton). 

As increasing volumes of silver (and some gold) were mined, a railroad was needed.  This idea had been discussed since 1861 with a planned line linking Virginia City with Carson City; work was finally launched on February 18, 1869 and completed later that year on September 28. 

The V&T became one of the richest little short lines in the nation (it was earning $100,000 in profits each month in 1875) and would expand to Reno where a connection was reached with the Southern Pacific (31 miles from Carson City). 

It would also open a 15-mile branch to Minden in 1906.  Following the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893 the price of silver sharply declined and so did the V&T's fortunes. 


It failed to earn a profit for the first time ever in 1924 and ran its last train over the original trackage between Virginia City and Carson City on June 4, 1938. Following years of mounting losses, operations ceased entirely on May 30, 1950. 

The effort to rebuild the original line began in the 1970's and especially took flight in the 1990's.  A great deal has been accomplished but is not yet complete. 

However, the work continues and the present-day V&T now hosts several excursions throughout the year, including special events like official The Polar Express train rides during November and December.  These trains are pulled by historic steam locomotives and a diesel switcher.  

The Polar Express Dates: 

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