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Best Northeast US Santa Trains and Holiday Lights - Create Your Own Family Traditiions.Hobo Railway Express, Lincoln New Hampshire Sharing storybook travel is pure fun and during the winter months traditional “Santa Trains,” make enjoying Christmas even more magical from New Hampshire and Vermont to Maine and New York.

Here's the scoop.
It’s not just about meeting the guy in the red suit, from animated displays and enchanting costumes to festive singing and holiday treats, the seasonal excursions add a lively dimension to any outing. Costumed storytellers convey the message of the season. Pretend journeys to the North Pole are more fun than ever and 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. All aboard!
New Hampshire: Lincoln, The Hobo Railway - All Aboard the Ho-Ho-Hobo Express (End of November to mid December). During the holiday season ride the Santa Train with the jolly old elf himself on a rail run from Hobo Junction; Santa will have a gift for each child and there will be hot cocoa and cookies for sale. The tickets are available by lottery. The Hobo Railway also runs the Polar Express sponsored by Believe in Books. The Polar Express departs each December and heads to the North Pole from the center of North Conway Village, as well as from downtown Lincoln, both in the north country of New Hampshire. The family adventure begins with a wonderful evening train ride accompanied by storytelling elves, and of course, Santa himself! This journey provides a unique rendition of the children's book. To set the scene PJs are encouraged. Bonus Points: When not running the Santa Trains or the very popular Polar Express excursions, The Hobo Railway offers other family-friendly excursions. A unique specialty offered on most of their trips is the Hobo Picnic Lunch which includes a choice of sandwich, on a bulky bun, bag of chips, beverage, giant cookie and souvenir "Hobo Bindle Stick". (The Hobo Railway Express. Lincoln, (603) 745-2135, or

Vermont: Burlington, Vermont Children’s Trust Foundation – Ride the  Polar Express (Mid December). Conductors greet the passengers as they board the Polar Express and once the journey is underway hot chocolate and cookies are served by on-board chefs while the conductor leads a Christmas sing-along. Once at the “North Pole,” passengers will disembark and enter Union Station, where an actor (posing as the author of the Polar Express) will read the story aloud and ring a “magical” sleigh bell to let Santa know it’s time for the show. Santa will arrive and gather all the children and distribute sleigh bells from his reindeer’s harnesses. Discovery: All passengers are asked to donate a new or gently used children’s book to Santa’s sack to be delivered to children on Christmas Eve by the Vermont Children’s Trust Foundation – helping to spread the holiday cheer to everyone. (Union Station, Burlington, VT. (802) 951-8604 or

Maine: Portland, Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad – Jump on Board the Polar Express (End of November to end of December). Come aboard and read along with the story as the train makes a magical roundtrip journey to the wintery wonderland of the North Pole, where activity and craft booths are sure to make the experience a holiday treat for all. Other activities include a meet-and-greet with the Polar Express conductor, holiday caroling, hot chocolate and treats. Discovery: Kids are encouraged to wear their pajamas, just like the protagonists of The Polar Express. (Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad, 58 Fore St., Portland 04101. (207) 828-0814 or Santa Express Train, New York

New York: Utica, Adirondack Scenic Railroad – Ride the Polar Express (Mid November to late December). It’s “all abroad” for holiday merriment as the train makes a magical roundtrip journey to the wintery wonderland of the North Pole. Activities include a Santa meet-and-greet on the train, holiday caroling, hot chocolate and treats. For those who truly believe in the jolly old elf there might even be a special gift waiting for them on the return journey. Bonus Points: Kids are encouraged to wear their pajamas, just like the protagonists of The Polar Express. (Adirondack Scenic Railroad, Utica, NY. Toll-free 1-800-819-2291 or

Lights on the Lake in Syracuse, New York – Land of Oz and Fairytale Magic
(November to early January). No matter the temperature outside the two-mile holiday lights drive with Lake Onondaga as a backdrop conveys the spirit of the season complete with a radio accompaniment. The themed lighting scenes include a fantasy forest, a super-sized Land of Oz and Victorian village. Bonus Points: Not far from the lights is world-famous Heid’s Drive-In - a Central New York landmark famous for hot dogs, sea dogs and fried pickles. (Onondaga County Parks 106 Lake Drive Liverpool, NY 13088. (315) 451-7275 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. 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 and
Content researched and updated by the Family Travel Files and images provided by Hobo Express and Adirondack Scenic Railralway. Copyright updated 2016.
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Santa Trains, Polar Express Adventures, and Miles of Magical Holiday Lights – Let the Fun Begin.
Taking a break from the often hectic holiday season means finding fun in small doses and we have assembled our annual mini holiday adventures, Santa trains, and holiday lights for your review.

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