US: Mid Atlantic, Santa Trains and Holiday Lights - Create Your Own Family Traditions.
Looking for a terrific day trip to launch your holiday celebrations? Secure tickets and ride the rails with your kids. From New Jersey and Pennsylvania to Virginia and Maryland traditional “Santa Trains,” and miles of twinkling lights enhance the spirit of Christmas.
Here's the scoop.
From pretend journeys to the North Pole in winter and “bunny” trains in the spring to mystery nights, spooky tales and pizza runs, taking a train with the kids is more fun than ever. 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.At many stations the family holiday tradition has a new twist provided by the heartwarming film version of Chris Van Allsburg’s book, The Polar Express.
Featured below you will find our favorite train excursions for families and a few places to view awesome holiday lights. All aboard! Pennsylvania: New Hope & Ivyland Railroad – 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
) Virginia: Hampton, Imagine 100 Miles of Lights
(mid November to January). Millions of lights and hundreds of events will entertain visitors to Central and Southeast Virginia this holiday season during "100 Miles of Lights" - an American Bus Association Top 100 Event. The twinkling route features holiday activities from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day in Hampton and six other cities: Richmond, Williamsburg, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach. Hampton holiday celebrations include the Coliseum Central Holiday Celebration Parade, Holly Days Downtown Illumination and Parade of Sail along the Hampton Waterfront, Hampton University's Holiday Art Marketplace, Venture Inn II Harbor Lights Tours and the Spirit of Hampton Roads Parade. Plus festive Christmas trees in Carousel Park, sparkling lighted boats in marinas and unique shops with delightful gifts to help celebrate the season. (Toll-free 1-800-800-2202 or www.100milesoflights.com
) Virginia: Virginia Beach, Experience Holiday Lights at the Beach
(mid November to January). The beach never looked so magical and the boardwalk so festive. The annual celebration invites visitors to listen to holiday music and drive down the boardwalk dazzled by jumping fish, surfing Santas, and playful mermaids. The peaceful oceanfront becomes a “fanta-sea” of nautical and holiday characters, with more than 250 animated nautical and holiday-themed light displays. Wait for it!
Every car along the boardwalk will receive a free CD of holiday music to help set the celebratory mood. (Virginia Beach. (757) 491-7866 or toll-free 1-800-822-3224 www.vbfun.com
Virginia: Williamsburg, Enjoy Christmas Lights and Living History
(December to January). The holiday season at Williamsburg features an entire range of holiday events and celebrations. One of the major holiday events of Colonial Williamsburg is the Grand Illumination which heralds the Christmas season with candles, fireworks and music as well as costumed performers presenting holiday entertainment found in Williamsburg two centuries ago. Bonus points:
Another holiday-time event involves a walking “back through time” to experience past Williamsburg Christmases, with the Christmastide at Home walking tours. (Williamsburg, 23187. (757) 229-1000 or www.history.org
) Maryland: Walkersville, Walkersville Southern Railroad – 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
) New Jersey: Phillipsburg, New York Susquehanna & Western – Ride the Polar Express
(End of November to late December).
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
) 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
which became a movie starring Robin Williams. More details at www.polarexpress.com