USA: Great Lakes, Santa Trains and Holiday Lights - Create Your Own Family Tradition.
Looking for a quick, fun holiday family adventure? From Ohio and Illinois to Wisconsin and Minnesota, find a train and climb aboard. Featured below you will find our favorite train excursions for families. All aboard!
Ohio: Lebanon, Mason Monroe Santa Express
(Late November into December.). Imagine living a storybook dream on a train, and having a mini family train adventure. The nostalgic rides at Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad’s Lebanon station fit the description. Mason Monroe Santa Express has been a favorite of young and old alike for more than two decades. Experience the thrill and excitement of rail travel from days gone by while enjoying themed rides and entertainment. In November and December the train heads to Santa’s workshop where Santa & Mrs. Claus will help you celebrate the season with hot cocoa and entertainment by Santa’s elves. The rail experience:
Rides depart from Historic downtown Lebanon and travel along the original CL&N line. Trains operate with a restored 1950s-era GP-7 diesel-electric locomotive, open window commuter coaches built in 1930 and a popular open-air gondola car on the rear of the train allows you to enjoy a panoramic view of the countryside. The holiday train ride lasts approximately 30 minutes each way to and from the North Pole. (The Lebanon Mason Monroe Railway. 127 South Mechanic, Lebanon, OH 45036. Toll-free 1-866-934-9464 toll-free, (513) 933-8022 or www.lebanonrr.com
) Ohio: Akron, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad - Ride with Santa
(November and December). Families looking for a quick holiday getaway can ride the train with Santa Claus starting the weekend after Thanksgiving – and search for Santa’s reindeer as the train winds its ways through Cuyahoga Valley. The rail experience:
When not offering a themed journey, the outing is still vacation worthy. Passengers travel along the Cuyahoga River and the historic Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail between Cleveland and Akron and on to Canton. The route weaves through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Bonus points:
Each year in March visitors can ride the Maple Sugar Express to Hale Farm & Village. Passengers time-travel back to 1814 and observe pioneer family life and see process of maple sugar production. (Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Toll-free 1-800-468-4070, (330) 657-2000, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad at www.cvsr.com
or Cuyahoga Valley National Park at www.nps.gov/cuva
) Ohio: Dennison, Dennison Railroad Depot Museum Polar Express
(December). Any time of year this is a fun spot to be shared with children. During December ride the "Polar Express" is on a vintage steam train and share the magic of the book firsthand. Costumed storytellers convey the message of the season; refreshments will be available. Best of all the rhythm and energy of the train moving down the track is a sure thing. The rail experience:
The museum’s new wing showcases five railroad coaches including The Children’s Interactive Railroad Experience Car, the Archival Research Library, a rare WWII Hospital Car, a special Feature Exhibit Car, and a Local History Car. Bonus points:
In the children's area kids can climb in a caboose; use binoculars to watch the trains in the model train room; snuggle in a pullman bunk; send a telegraph message to the Railroad Tower; pack a hobo satchel; explore the engine house, ticket office and watchman's shanty or go on Bing's Scavenger Hunt. (Dennison Railroad Depot Museum (740) 922-6776 or www.dennisondepot.org
) Minnesota: Duluth, North Shore Scenic Railroad Polar Express
(Late November into Decemebr).
Departing from Fitger’s Brewery Complex, the North Shore Scenic Rail Road “Polar Express” takes a magical winter journey along the lake, arriving at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, home of an enchanting antique model railroad display and featuring carolers, a live reading of the Polar Express with costumed actors, jingle bells and a visit with Santa. The journey ends with a train ride back to Fitger’s Brewery Complex where a bonfire, warm cocoa and cookies await the passengers. (Lake Superior Railroad Museum. 1-800-423-1273 or www.northshorescenicrailroad.org
Wisconsin: Green Bay, National Railroad Museum Ride the Polar Express
(Late November and early December). In any season this is a grand museum worth sharing with our kids but during the holiday season they are geared up to make extra magic. Families are invited to relive the story, the train, and the magic of the beloved holiday tale, the Polar Express with the National Railroad Museum this holiday season. The story will be presented in a dramatic staging and everyone will get to ride the Polar Express to the North Pole to see if they really should believe in Santa. (National Railroad Museum, 2285 South Broadway, Green Bay. (920) 437-7623 or www.nationalrrmuseum.org
Indiana: Connersville, Whitewater Valley Railroad - Ride the Polar Express
(November and 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. Activities include a Santa meet-and-greet, holiday caroling, hot chocolate and treats. For those who truly believe in the jolly old elf there might even be a special gift waiting at the North Pole. Bonus points:
Kids are encouraged to wear their pajamas, just like the protagonists of The Polar Express. (Whitewater Valley Scenic Railroad, Connersville Indiana’s Grand Central Station, Connersville. (765) 825-2054 or www.whitewatervalleyrr.org
) Illinois: Monticello, Monticello Railway Museum - Ride the Polar Express
(Late November and early 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, holiday caroling, hot chocolate and treats. For those who truly believe in the jolly old elf there might even be a special gift waiting at the North Pole. Discovery:
Kids are encouraged to wear their pajamas, just like the protagonists of The Polar Express
. Bonus points:
Another great holiday event offered at the Monticello Railway Museum is Lunch with Santa on the Train on December 4 & 5 2010 (Wabash Depot, Monticello. Toll-free 1-877-762-9011 toll-free, (217) 762-9011 or www.mrym.org
) 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