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The best Santa train ride close to NYC

It's time to visit the best Santa train ride attractions near NYC for some holiday fun the whole family will love!

By Allie Early, Danielle Valente and Oliver Strand

It's the most wonderful time of year, which means heading out of town to enjoy the best Santa train ride attractions near NYC! Kids will be thrilled when they that it's like a life-sized holiday train show, only they can climb aboard and go for a ride!

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas for kids in New York

Make your day trip merrier by playing the best Christmas songs for kids and families on your soundsystem. And if all that ho-ho-hoing gets to be too much, don't sweat it: just pop on one of the best podcasts for kids of all ages. The best podcasts are as much fun for parents as they are for those little jolly elves.

Santa train ride attractions

1. The New Jersey Museum of Transportation Christmas Express

Travel time: 1.5 hrs

For over 35 years, families in the area have been climbing aboard The New Jersey Museum of Transportation's Christmas Express, where Santa personally comes by to greet all little passengers on board. One-on-one time with the big guy in the red suit? No need to tell us twice! Plan ahead and reserve a spot on one of the special nighttime rides on Dec 7, 14, and 21. Learn more hereAll ages. Farmingdale, NJ (732-938-5524, njmt.org). Nov 29-Dec 22. $6. All ages.

2. Santa Train

Travel time: 1hr 10min

The Santa Train, Tristate Railroad Historical Society's annual Christmas bash, is a must for all pint-sized passengers who are in a holiday state of mind. Families are invited for a bunch of Christmas-themed projects and meet and greets with Saint Nick. Kiddos even receive small gifts! Here's the rub: It always sells out WAY in advance! Put your name on the waitlist here, then set a calendar alert for Oct 24, 2020 when next season's tickets are available. Wayne, NJ (973-656-0707, tristaterail.orgDec 14. $26, $16 children 12 and under, infants on laps are free. All ages.


3. Catskill Mountain Railroad Polar Express

Travel time: 2.5 hrs

The Polar Express is, in fact, real. Not convinced? All you need is a ticket to the Catskill Mountain Railroad! Cozy up in the train cars as you take a trip to the "North Pole." Expect cookies and hot chocolate on the trip as scenes from the movie play throughout the experience. Once travelers arrive at Santa's spot, they'll be thrilled to see Jolly 'Ol Saint Nick himself. Tell the kids to have their wishlists ready! Learn more here. Kingston, NY (845-332-4854, catskillmtrailroad.com). Nov 15–Dec 28 at various times. $40, $32 children 12 and under, infants in laps are free. All ages.

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4. Essex Steam Train

Things to do

Travel time: 2.5 hours

The Essex Steam Train provides luxurious wintery trips on the North Pole Express and the Santa Special. These snowy rides on restored Pullman cars from the 1920s are packed with holiday entertainment, seasonal decorations and delicious treats. Railroad Ave, Essex CT (860-767-0103, essexsteamtrain.com). Nov 15-Dec 29. $37.50 and up. All ages.


5. Danbury Railway Museum Holiday Train Rides

Travel time: 2hrs

Take a step back in time and grab tickets to board the Danbury Railway Museum's vintage train car (which has major Polar Express vibes). Tots and their parents will be whisked away on a ride through the railyard to meet Kris Kringle in toyland—a Christmas must if ever there was one. Littles will enjoy Christmas crafts, their free toy and the attraction's restored exhibits. Reserve tickets in advance hereDanbury, CT (danbury.org). Dec 7-22. $12, ages 2 and under free. All ages.

6. Santa Express and Northern Lights Limited

Travel time: 3 hrs

Looking for a daytime Santa adventure? Book a seat on the Santa Express, where kids will enjoy hot chocolate, elf-led Christmas carols and a chat with Santa. For an evening excursion, hop on the illuminated 1891 Rutland combine car for Northern Lights Limited, where the train is glowing with Christmas lights inside and out. You'll get to visit Santa's workshop to pick up the big man in red and his wife, Mrs. Claus! Thomaston, CT (860-283-7245, rmne.org). Nov 29-Dec 22. $35 and up, $1 ages 3 and under. All ages.


7. Santa's Paradise Express

Travel time: 3hrs

Channel those holiday vibes with steam train ride alongside Kris Kringle. Since 1959, families have visited Strasburg Rail Road to enjoy the holly, jolly festivities. After seeing the sights, kids 11 and under leave the occassion with a special treat from Kris Kringle. Ronks, PA (866-725-9666, strasburgrailroad.com). Nov 23-Dec 22. $20 and up, $14 ages 2-11, $4 ages 1 and under.


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