6 Holiday Train Rides to Kick Off the Season

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All aboard the holiday express! The holiday season is upon us so now is the time to plan ahead for the best part, the quality time spent together. Kick this season into high gear by starting a new Christmastime tradition of going on a festive train ride to the North Pole. We’ve compiled a list of all the best options so scroll down and discover your Christmas adventure.

Tip: Book soon! Tickets sell out fast!

The Polar Express Ride

Inspired by the beloved classic The Polar Express, the Southern California Railway Museum has brought the story to life with an enchanting recreation you won't want to miss. The experience begins as you board a completely decked-out holiday train and have your golden ticket punched by the animated train crew. Once settled on board, the activities (set to the sounds from the original motion picture) ensue, with hot cocoa and shortbread biscuits served by dancing chefs, to a reading of the famous children's story and joyous singing with merry carolers. Meanwhile, the express chugs along all the way to the North Pole for a visit with Santa!

Cost: $50-$70/adults; $44-$64/children(2-11); free for children under 2

Southern California Railway Museum
2201 South A St.
Perris, CA 92570
Online: socalthepolarexpressride.com

Irvine Park Railroad's Christmas Train

'Tis the season to board the Christmas Train! Depart from the train station at Santa's village and travel through historic Irvine Park past twinkling Christmas lights and decorations to the North Pole. Here, alight the train and meet jolly Ol' Saint Nick. After snapping your next family portrait and enjoying a cup of hot cocoa, board again and journey back to Santa's village through the tunnel of lights. Then, in Santa's Village, there is no shortage of fun-filled activities, from cookie decorating to storytime with Mrs. Claus to a festive jump house and ice fishing.

Cost: Irvine Regional Park Entrance $3-$7/vehicle
Christmas Train $20-$30/person; free for children under 2
Santa's Village $6/activity

Irvine Park Railroad
1 Irvine Park Rd.
Orange, CA 92869
Online: irvineparkrailroad.com

photo: Anna Butera

North Pole Limited

The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum is offering the North Pole Limited train ride this holiday season. Onboard this 90-minute journey to pick up Mr. and Mrs. Claus, you will hear Santa's elves singing our favorite Christmas carols while enjoying cookies and hot chocolate, followed by a reading of a popular Christmas story. Then, every passenger will enjoy a personal meeting with Santa on the train as it makes its way back to Campo Depot.

Cost: $35-$50/adult; $25-$40/children(3-12); $10/children under 3

Campo Depot
750 Depot St.
Campo, CA 91906
Online: psrm.org

El Dorado Frontier's Winter Wonderland

El Dorado Frontier is a mini theme park found inside El Dorado Park. It is most famously known for its mile and a half long train ride that was built over 60 years ago. Every weekend during December, they host a Winter Wonderland extravaganza. Admission includes an unlimited carousel and train rides, while their other attractions are priced separately and include gem panning, hand-car mining buggy rides and carnival games. Lastly, the owners have really put a lot of thought into the aesthetics of this place and there are plenty of festive photo opportunities.

Cost: El Dorado Park Entrance $8/vehicle
El Dorado Frontier $17/person

El Dorado Frontier
7550 E. Spring St.
Long Beach, CA 90808
Online: eldoradofrontier.com

Goat Hill Junction Christmas Weekend

Next on our Christmas list, is this fun-size train that will surely impress your little conductors. In Costa Mesa, on the third weekend of every month, Goat Hill Junction offers free public rides on the cutest miniature locomotives you've ever seen. For the weekend of December 18 & 19, the trains will be decked out in holiday décor. The ride typically lasts 12 minutes and covers two loops of the park. The only requirement is riders must be walking and at least 31" tall. 

Orange County Model Engineers
2480 Placentia Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Online: http://ocmetrains.org

Disneyland Railroad at Disneyland Park

Lastly, for an extra magical Christmas, Disneyland Park is the place to be and after a long closure, the Disneyland Railroad is open again! The ride is a perfect way to enjoy all the scenic holiday views that Disneyland is so famous for. There are four different stations to hop on and off of the train throughout the park and with an 18-minute long journey, it provides a perfect walking break for you and your littles.

Disneyland Park
1313 S Disneyland Dr.
Anaheim, CA 92802
Online: https://disneyland.disney.go.com

—Ivanna Elias & Beth Shea

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