Santa train ride attractions
Travel time: 1.5 hrs
If Christmas is incomplete without a marathon of The Polar Express, bring your little elves to this long-standing tradition. For over 35 years, families in the tri-state area have been hopping 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! Tickets are required for all passengers and must be purchased in person at the station. Call ahead to secure your spot. Learn more here. All ages. Farmingdale, NJ (732-938-5524, njmt.org). Nov 23–25 from 11am–4pm, Dec 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16 from 11am–4pm. Nighttime rides Dec 1, 8 and 15 from 6:30–8:30pm. $6.
Travel time: 1hr 10min
Dec 8 from 8am–3pm. $23, $13 children 12 and under.
Travel time: 2hrs
Take a step back in time and grab tickets to board the Danbury Railway Museum's vintage train car (which serves 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. Tickets must be reserved online in advance. Learn more here. Danbury, CT (203-778-8337, danbury.org/drm). Dec 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16, $12, under 2 free. All ages.
Travel time: 2.5 hrs
The Polar Express is in fact real, and if you're not quite convinced, all you need is a ticket to the Catskill Mountain Railroad! The train cars—which are inspired by the beloved story—come to life as passengers 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 (catskillmtrailroad.com). Nov 16–Dec 23 at various times. $40, $32 children 12 and under.
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! While there are no restrooms on these trains, you can find them just south of the station. Note that passengers must arrive 30 minutes before their takeoff time. Thomaston, CT (860-283-7245, rmne.org). Various dates and times. $1–$45.
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). Through December at various times. $4–$32.