River & Rail: Holiday Train & Boat Trips They’ll Love

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Whether you fancy a holiday trip by land or by sea, these festive train rides and boat cruises are packed with cheer. From meet and greets with beloved storybook characters to reciting your wish list to the man in red, this is the stuff memories (and holiday cards) are made from. The following are four holiday experiences that will keep the magic chugging right into Christmas and beyond.

santa train portland holiday trainphoto: Andrew Danes via flickr

The Holiday Express 
Sip cider and munch on treats with as Santa and his elves pay a visit aboard the historic and beautifully decorated SP&S 700 steam engine. The trip goes along the Oregon Pacific Railroad from Oaks Bottom to the Rail Heritage Center and back. Park in the Oaks Park lot, then walk across the street to board the train. Be sure to get your tickets now, as they go from available to sold out in no time.

Nov. 27-Dec. 20
$7-$19/person; $46-$58/family
Oaks Amusement Park
7806 SE Oaks Park Way
Online: orhf.com

Polar Express Mt. Hoodphoto: philms via flickr

The Polar Express
The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, was the inspiration for this pj-wearing, cocoa and cookie-fueled train ride through scenic Mt. Hood. Grab a magical golden ticket and let yourselves be immersed in the story all the way to the North Pole, where Santa boards the train. Once aboard, a relaxed Santa sits down alongside each child to hear wishes, then hands them a little keepsake bell. If you go during the day, you’ll be able to see the woodsy landscape passing by. If you go after sunset, it’s too dark to see anything outside the train, but the lights at the North Pole are big and bright.

Nov. 20-Dec. 26
Mt Hood Railroad Depot
110 Railroad Ave.
Hood River
Online: mthoodrr.com

Cinnamon Bear Cruisephoto: by The Portland Spirit

Cinnamon Bear Cruise 
Enjoy a cozy holiday cruise aboard the Portland Spirit with the beloved characters from the Cinnamon Bear Family. Ever since the characters first hit the radio waves in 1937, Cinnamon Bear has held a special place in the warm hearts of Portlanders. In addition to meeting Paddy O’Sullivan, Judy, Jimmy and other characters from Maybeland, the two-hour cruise includes the retelling of the story, plenty of photo opps and munching down at the snack buffet.

Nov. 28-Dec. 27 (Saturdays and Sundays)
$22/child (1-12); $30/adult; Free for infants
Portland Spirit
Salmon Street Springs
Online: cinnamonbearcruise.com 

Christmas Ships Portland 2015photo: Sam Churchill via flickr

Christmas Ships
A floating fire engine, the leg lamp from A Christmas Story and a spouting whale are just a few of the festive, brightly-lit ships that have been entertaining Portlanders since 1954. Stand on the bank of the Columbia or Willamette river, or make reservations at one of the riverside restaurants, like Salty’s on the Columbia (3839 NE Marine Dr.), to see one of two fleets, each with about 16-33 ships, as it makes its way down the river. For schedule updates, check Facebook and on Twitter @ChristmasShips

Dec. 4-20
Willamette & Columbia Rivers
Online: christmasships.org

Does your family make ships or trains a part of your holiday tradition each year? Let us know in the comments below!

—Suzie Ridgway