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Best Southwest US – Best Ever Santa Trains and Holiday Lights in Arizona & New Mexico.Santa Express by Verde Canyon Railway in Arizona Need a mini break, something easy and fun to do with your kids? During the last two months of the year traditional Santa trains and holiday lights in Arizona and New Mexico provide easy ways for generations to enjoy magical times together. 

Here's the scoop. We have assembled a short list of the best options for creating your own family holiday traditions in Arizona, and New Mexico. View or holiday suggestions below and for even more ideas go Santa Trains & Holiday Light in Texas or Best Ever Santa Trains and Holiday Lights in the US.

Grand Canyon Railway in Arizona – Ride the Polar Express (November - January). The Polar Express out of Williams takes an imaginary journey to the North Pole for a special visit with Santa Claus and his reindeer.Grand Canyon Railway Polar Express Experience The North Pole twinkles with enhanced lighting and showcases storefronts, mailboxes and other structures to give the village a permanent, three-dimensional look and feel. Santa will board the train and hand each child their own sleigh bell. His helpers provide lively entertainment and passengers will enjoy hot chocolate and cookies while listening to the story of The Polar Express. The rail experience: The normal route of the train takes passengers to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The scenery is awesome and unexpected entertainment on and off the train makes the journey memorable anytime of the year. Wait for it! This year marks the 10th anniversary of the iconic Warner Brothers movies - The Polar Express. The Grand Canyon Railway’s The Polar Express excursion is the grand prize in a nationwide holiday contest. Details may be viewed at the website.  (Grand Canyon Railway, Williams, Arizona. Toll-free 1-888-848-3511 or

Verde Canyon Railroad in Arizona – Take the Santa Claus Express (December). Each December Santa shares seasonal joy on board with candy canes, a soft chuckle, and lots of good cheer. Santa and Mrs. Claus entertain passengers throughout the four-hour rail journey, singing carols, passing out Mrs. Claus’ homemade cookies and helping you create priceless photo memories. Homemade soups, tasty sandwiches, cookies, candy canes and delicious hot cocoa and cider complete the event. Santa Reading on Verde Canyon Railway in ArizonaThe rail experience: Tunnels, trestles and other unexpected treats will delight everyone, ensuring a truly memorable holiday adventure. The spectacular scenery of Mother Nature's timeless artistry throughout the canyon is enhanced by clear, crisp winter skies. More than 35 bald and golden eagles, and a host of other migratory waterfowl, have nestled down in the canyon, not for a long winter's nap, but for a comfortable winter refuge where food is abundant and temperatures are mild. Bonus Points: Download Ten Days of Christmas coloring book from the website and color the caboose, and enter to win a caboose ride for you and five of your closest friends or family. (The Verde Canyon Railroad, 300 N. Broadway Clarkdale, Arizona. Toll-free 1-800-293-7245 or

Reid Park Zoo Lights in Tucson – Jingle Bells and Falling Snow (Selected nights in December). Imaginative light displays, animal-themed light sculptures, falling snow, live entertainment and thousands of twinkling lights create a magical atmosphere for an evening family adventure. Santa will be on site and to complete the evening cookies will be provided and hot cocoa is available for purchase.  Bonus Points: Part of any trip to Reid Park is a chance to ride the Reid Park Zoo Express train located just outside the front gate. (Reid Park Zoo 3400 Zoo Court Tucson, Arizona 85716.  (520) 791-3204 or

River of Lights in Albuquerque – Polar Express, and Night Music (End of November to end of Early January). Throughout the holiday season, the Albuquerque Biological Park features of hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights in various themes as well as family activities, holiday entertainment, food and crafts. See a G-scale model railroad special holiday trains chug through the Garden Railroad exhibit Wednesdays through Sundays evenings. New sculptures this year include a unicorn, Stegosaurus, zebra, a synchronized laser light show, and holiday music. Bonus Points: The BioPark offers free holiday nature crafts the first three Wednesdays in December. Wait for it! Add to the fun with a ride on the magical Polar Bear Express nighttime experience aboard the Rio Line Train on a journey to meet Santa & enjoy the lights. Enjoy an enchanting story, holiday music, hot cocoa and a cookie while the train chugs through the Botanic Garden.  Santa and his elves will move through the cars to greet each child and toddler with a special souvenir gift. Then the train makes its final stop back at the Garden Station and families make their way to River of Lights. Here’s the deal! Beat the traffic with free park & ride from the zoo to River of lights and back.  (2601 Central Avenue NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87104. (505) 764-6200 or

About the book -
The Polar Express. On Christmas Eve, a boy boards the mysterious train bound for the North Pole. During the story Santa gives the boy a bell from the harness of the reindeer. On the way home, the bell is lost but in the morning the boy finds the bell under the tree. While his mother thinks the bell is broken, he knows it is not but only true believers can hear the sound of the bell. The book received the prestigious Caldecott Award.  More great reads by Van Allsburg include Two Bad Ants, Ben’s Dream, The Wreck of the Zephyr and Jumanji which became a movie starring Robin Williams. More details at and

Content researched by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Editor and Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files with images courtesy Verde Canyon Railway in Arizona. Copyright updated 2016.

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