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Best Mid Atlantic US Santa Trains and Holiday Lights - Create Your Own Family Traditions. New Hope Railroad Santa Train in Pennsylvania. From New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Maryland traditional “Santa Trains,” and miles of twinkling lights enhance the spirit of Christmas. Follow the lights or secure tickets and ride the rails with your kids.
 
Here's the scoop. Just imaging whisking the kids off to the North Pole, or melting into a magical kingdom of lights, it can be done in more than a dozen ways and as many places. Featured below you will find our favorite train excursions for families and a few places to view awesome holiday lights. All aboard! 

Hershey Sweet Lights! in Pennsylvania - Twilight Express and Candylane
(mid November to end of December). In addition to the popular Candylane, Hershey Park also creates Hershey Sweet Lights! - a holiday lights drive along two miles with more than 600 twinkling animated scenes geared to entertain. Bonus Points:  During the month of December each year kids can frolic in Candylane with millions of twinkling lights, Santa’s reindeer, musical shows, rides including Twilight Express and a festive atmosphere created by Hershey's characters.  (Hershey Park 100 W Hersheypark Dr, Hershey, PA 17033. (717) 534-3860 or HersheyPark.com)

New Hope & Ivyland Railroad in Pennsylvania – Ride a Santa Claus Train (late November through December). Take an evening train themed to match the Polar Express story. Board the comfy-warm antique train, see image above and become immersed in the spirit of the holidays. See Santa Claus at the North Pole, hear a recitation of the Polar Express story, sip delicious hot cocoa and munch cookies. PJs not required but suggested for little ones. "Santa Claus Trains" will also be running this season. Passengers ride the rails with Santa, Mrs. Claus and Santa's long lost brother with plenty of festivities along the route. The rail experience: The rail journey weaves through the rolling hills and valleys of historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The restored 1920s vintage railroad passenger cars, the authentic steam locomotive, and historic diesel locomotive travel along the same route used in the 1914 movie series Perils of Pauline. Bonus Points: This terrific train company offers several clever themed experiences for families from Halloween rides to bunny junkets and best of all "Song & Story Hour" excursions. (New Hope & Ivyland Railroad 32 West Bridge Street 18938. (215) 862-2332 or www.newhoperailroad.com)

Walkersville Southern Railroad in Maryland – Ride the Santa Train (End of November to late December). Riders on the Walkersville Southern Railroad Santa Train are able to experience a trip back in time on vintage 1920s passenger cars from a turn-of-the-century railroad station and freight house, past a 100-year-old lime kiln and through picturesque Maryland Farm Country. Bonus Points: Riders on the Santa Train will also enjoy hot chocolate and cookies in the museum after their ride. (Walkersville Southern Railroad Walkersville, 21793. Toll-free 1-877-363-WSRR, (301) 898-0899 or www.wsrr.org)

The New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad in New Jersey – Ride the Polar Express (End of November to late December). New York & Susquehanna SantaTrain in Phillipsburg New Jersey From Lehigh Junction historic Phillipsburg NJ enjoy the magic of Christmas. During the  train excursion the story of the Polar Express will be read, every child will be served hot chocolate, cookies and have a visit with Santa. Concluding the journey each child will receive a very special bell from Santa. Children are invited to wear their own pajamas just like in the book. The rail experience: All trips will be pulled by the antique diesel locomotive #8142 and the passenger cars are restored cars from the 1950's. Bonus Points: Winter is not the only fun time during the year they run themed excursions including the very delightful Pumpkin Train and the totally fun Train to the Corn Maze adventure. (New York Susquehanna & Western Railway, toll- free 1-877-872-4674 or www.877trainride.com)

Oglebay's Winter Festival of Lights in West Virginia - Twinkling Snowflakes and a Christmas Tree Garden
(Mid November to early January). Six miles of holiday lights create a sense of a wintry dream. The drive includes a tunnel framed with hundreds of twinkling snowflakes and magical characters to delight all ages. The resort complex is festooned with more than one hundred hanging baskets of light along with lighted trees. The Gardens of Light tour includes a delightful Christmas Tree Garden complete with a life-size Nativity. Bonus Points: Exciting for little ones, the Good Zoo is the location of a nightly choreographed light and music show. (Oglebay Resort 465 Lodge Drive, Wheeling, West Virginia 26003. (Oglebay Resort Wheeling, West Virginia Toll-free 1-800-624-6988 or 304-243-4000 or www.oglebay-resort.com)
Checkout Holiday Lights in Virginia for more mini family vacation adventures.

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. Other delightful stories include Two Bad Ants, Ben’s Dream, and The Wreck of the Zephyr and Jumanji which became a movie starring Robin Williams. More details at www.polarexpress.com and www.chrisvanallsburg.com 
 
 
Content updated by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for theFamily Travel Files  with images provided by New Hope & Ivyland Railroad and New York Susquehanna & Western Railway. Copyright updated 2016. 
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