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Virginia Christmas Train Rides (2023): A Complete Guide


Last revised: January 1, 2024

By: Adam Burns

Until the latter 2010s there wasn't even a single location in Virginia which offered authentic train rides for the public, harkening back to the days when travelers could experience the very best in rail travel accommodations.

To some extent, that is now available at the Buckingham Branch Railroad, which through its excursions operated as the Virginia Scenic Railway, looks to bring back the romance of the rails. 

Their trips run through the heart of Virginia's breathtaking Shenandoah Valley and have grown in popularity in just a few years!  During the holiday season they host Santa Trains, more information about which may be found further below.

023582735628357926802099027.jpgBuckingham Branch GP40-3 #12 clears the snow near Craigsville, Virginia. Loyd Lowry photo.

Other Activities

Christmas is a time for family, fun, and festivities. Virginia is a state that is well known for its rich history and beautiful scenery, and during the holiday season, there are plenty of activities to enjoy with your loved ones. From holiday light displays to gingerbread house competitions, Virginia offers a wide range of Christmas activities that are perfect for the whole family. In this article, we will highlight some of the best Christmas activities available for the entire family in Virginia.

Busch Gardens Christmas Town

Busch Gardens Williamsburg transforms into a winter wonderland during the Christmas season. The park is decorated with over 10 million lights, making it one of the largest light displays in North America. Visitors can enjoy festive shows, holiday-themed food and drinks, and plenty of rides that are open during the winter months. Don't forget to visit Santa Claus and his elves at the North Pole Workshop.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum that transports visitors back to the 18th century. During the Christmas season, the historic town is decorated with wreaths, garlands, and other holiday decorations. Visitors can take a candlelit tour of the town and participate in holiday-themed activities like gingerbread house decorating and wreath making.

Virginia Beach Christmas Market

The Virginia Beach Christmas Market is a three-day event that takes place at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Visitors can shop for unique gifts and handmade crafts from over 250 vendors. The market also features live entertainment, food and drinks, and a visit from Santa Claus.

Dickens' Christmas Towne

Dickens' Christmas Towne is a holiday attraction that takes place at the Nauticus Maritime Center in Norfolk. Visitors can explore a Victorian-era Christmas village, complete with holiday-themed shops, live entertainment, and a train ride. The attraction also features a gingerbread house competition and a visit from Santa Claus.

Grand Illumination in Richmond

The Grand Illumination in Richmond is a holiday event that takes place on the first Friday in December. The event features a tree lighting ceremony, live entertainment, and fireworks. Visitors can also explore the holiday decorations in the nearby historic neighborhoods.

In conclusion, Virginia offers a wide range of Christmas activities that are perfect for the whole family. Whether you prefer a holiday light display, a living history museum, or a Christmas market, Virginia has something for everyone. Make sure to take advantage of these festive activities and create lasting memories with your loved ones this holiday season.


Buckingham Branch Railroad/Virginia Scenic Railway

(Dillwyn):  Offered in junction with the Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society the Santa Train operates several times on select Saturday’s in December. 

As the train journeys through the Buckingham County countryside, Santa and Mrs. Claus will pass through the seasonally decorated cars and visit with the children. 

Make sure to plan your trip in advance as these trips always sell out quickly!  These excursions operate over short line Buckingham Branch Railroad, a growing Virginia freight carrier. 

The trains use their original track between Bremo, Virginia in Fluvanna County and Dillwyn in Buckingham County (part of its so-called "Buckingham Division").  It covers 17 miles and was previously the Chesapeake & Ohio's Dillwyn Branch, sold by CSX Transportation in 1989. 

Since that time the Buckingham Branch has expanded greatly and currently operates a total of 280 miles along four different divisions across central and eastern Virginia. The longest is the Richmond & Allegheny Division which runs 199 miles between Richmond and Clifton Forge, another former component of the C&O.

The Buckingham Branch's excursion trains are now operated under the name, Virginia Scenic Railway.  It is currently the only public tourist railroad in the state and has continued to grow since trips began just a few years ago.  They continue to add increasingly more first-class accommodations for guests!


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