South Dakota Christmas Train Rides (2023)

Published: May 27, 2023

By: Adam Burns

The popular Black Hills Central Railroad located in Hill City, which maintains an impressive fleet of operational steam locomotives, including one of the only running "Mallet" types in the nation, hosts Christmas-themed train rides in South Dakota.  In fact, it is the only heritage railroad in the state and draws thousands of visitors annually.  More information about the railroad may be found further below.

Other Christmas Activities

Welcome to South Dakota, where the holiday season comes alive with enchanting Christmas attractions that are sure to delight the entire family.

From dazzling light displays to festive celebrations, this beautiful state offers a wide range of activities and events that will create cherished memories for years to come. Embrace the spirit of the season as you explore the best Christmas attractions in South Dakota. If you are interested in more than just a train ride, here are some must-visit destinations for a magical family experience:

Winter Wonderland at Falls Park (Sioux Falls)

Immerse yourself in the Winter Wonderland at Falls Park, where the cascading waterfalls are transformed into a breathtaking display of lights. Marvel at the thousands of twinkling bulbs as they illuminate the park, creating a whimsical and festive atmosphere. Take a leisurely stroll along the illuminated pathways, enjoy hot cocoa, and savor the joy of the season. Don't miss the chance to capture stunning photos and create cherished family memories in this enchanting setting.

Christmas at the Capitol (Pierre)

Experience the grandeur of Christmas at the Capitol in Pierre, where the state's capitol building is adorned with stunning holiday decorations. Witness the beauty of the towering Christmas tree, surrounded by festive displays and intricate ornaments. Enjoy live music performances, visit Santa Claus, and immerse yourself in the festive ambiance. Take a guided tour to learn about South Dakota's rich history and heritage, adding a touch of education to your holiday experience.

Festival of Lights (Rapid City)

Join the excitement of the annual Festival of Lights in Rapid City, a beloved tradition that brings the community together. Marvel at the brightly lit floats, marching bands, and creative displays as they make their way through the streets, spreading holiday cheer. The parade culminates with the arrival of Santa Claus, who is greeted by the enthusiastic crowd. Bundle up, grab some hot cocoa, and enjoy the magic of this spectacular event that will captivate the whole family.

Storybook Island Christmas Nights (Rapid City)

Step into a storybook wonderland at Storybook Island in Rapid City during their Christmas Nights event. This beloved attraction transforms into a magical world filled with lights, decorations, and beloved storybook characters. Wander through the park, adorned with twinkling lights and holiday displays, and let your favorite stories come to life. Meet Santa Claus, enjoy live entertainment, and participate in festive activities for children of all ages. It's a whimsical experience that will ignite the imagination and create lasting memories.

Christmas Village (Aberdeen)

Visit Aberdeen's Christmas Village, a charming holiday attraction that captures the essence of the season. Stroll through the village square, beautifully decorated with festive lights and decorations. Explore the cozy cabins that offer unique crafts, homemade treats, and holiday-themed gifts. Enjoy live entertainment, indulge in delicious food, and take part in interactive activities for the whole family. Kids will love the chance to meet Santa Claus and share their Christmas wishes.

Black Hills Central Railroad

(Hill City): Tucked away in western South Dakota is one of the nation's finest heritage railroads, the Black Hills Central. 

It also the state's only notable excursion train, featuring live steam locomotives (including a rare Mallet type, Rayonier 2-6-6-2T #110 built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1928). 

During the holidays they host the Holiday Express; a Christmas-decorated train allowing kids to see Santa and receive a small gift.

The Black Hills Central Railroad operates a 10-mile section of the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy's Keystone Branch, which was located along the western fringe of the railroad's massive system. 

Gold and lead mining brought railroads to the region in 1879, which continued to expand in the coming years.  One other notable railroad served this area, the Chicago & North Western. 

Unfortunately, once mining operations slowly dried up there was a decreasing need for the railroad; the first public excursions were hosted in 1957 from Hill City.  The train was affectionately known as "The 1880 Train," a name which still stands today.  

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