Although trains and train rides exist all year round, for some reason, we kind of forget about them until the holidays, when they become a way to magically escape away to the North Pole.
In Ohio, there are six fully functioning train rides that you and your family can hop aboard and create traditions and memories, including one right here in the Columbus area! Check them out below:
Letters to Santa – Ohio Railway Museum
990 Proprietors Rd., Worthington, Ohio
The Ohio Railway Museum is one of Ohio’s best kept secrets. It’s one of the oldest railway museums in the United States, and this will be their 75th anniversary. Throughout the year, they run themed train rides, and during the holidays, they decorate the trolley specifically for Christmas.
You and your family can write personal letters to Santa, and rumor has it that Mrs. Claus will be there to take the letters back to the North Pole with her (she’ll be there December 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th, 23rd, and 24th / Saturdays from 5pm-9pm, Sundays from 12pm-4pm).
They will take you on an adventure throughout Worthington, then to a “secret wonderland” where you can grab some hot chocolate.
For more information, and to buy your tickets, click here.
The Santa Christmas Train Rides – Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
33 West Canal St., Nelsonville, OH
The Santa Train has been in a helping hand in creating long-standing family traditions for the past 40 years. From now until December 23rd, two trains will depart the Nelsonville Depot, traveling round-trip to East Logan and back each Saturday and Sunday – one at 11am, and another at 2pm. If you can’t make it during the daytime, there are evening departures at 6pm on December 8th, 9th, 15th, 16th, 22nd, and 23rd.
Each train features the same theme and experience! Santa gets on board the train and visits with each child while the train travels through the scenic Hocking River valley. The trains are decorated inside and out, too, with Christmas music blasting, and of course, they’re heated. Each child gets a special candy cane, and they can bring their wish list to share with Santa, too.
These events sell out very quickly, so make sure to grab tickets here.
North Pole Express – LM&M Railroad
16 E South St., Lebanon, OH
Journey down the tracks of Warren County, but just pretend it’s to the North Pole, instead! On this train ride, passengers can choose from Coach Class, which is traditional bench style seating, reminiscent of 1930’s era travel (with heat though), or Deluxe Class, which offers individualized seating and additional leg room.
Passengers get to meet Santa and his elves on the 1 hour and 15 minute festive train ride, with each train decorated with holiday lights. Children receive a souvenir bell and a cookie, and hot chocolate is available for purchase at the station, which people can drink inside the train.
For more information and to see a calendar of dates and times, visit here.
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The Polar Express™ – Dennison Railroad Depot Museum
400 Center St., Dennison, OH
Put on your coziest pair Christmas PJ’s and hop aboard The Polar Express™! This train ride is sanctioned by Warner Brothers and Rail Events, and there will even be a family reenactment of the award-winning book, “The Polar Express™.” Your adventure first starts on board the decorated coaches as Storytellers read the book aloud. When the train starts heading towards the North Pole, elves will start singing songs, playing games, and leading activities. Beverages and cookies, homemade by Mrs. Claus, will be available too. When you finally arrive at the North Pole, you’ll see Santa and his workshop out your train window! Santa will then come onboard and visit with children, gifting them with a special jingle bell.
For tickets and dates, please visit their website.
North Pole Express – Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation
12505 County Road 99, Findlay, Ohio 45840
Bundle up and take an adventure to a wonderland of sparkling lights and festive decorations! There are hundreds of decorated trees inside and outside of the museum, plus toy trains running along the grounds and inside the train barn. On select nights, Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit guests. Dress warm, because unlike the other trains, these have open windows.
For more information, visit their website.
The North Pole Adventure™ – Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, P.O. Box 158, Peninsula, OH
This 26-mile, 90-minute train excursion is something straight out of a movie. Inside the train, you’re greeted by Santa’s elves while sipping on hot chocolate and savoring delicious cookies. This immersive experience is great for children and adults of all ages. For more information and tickets, make sure to visit their website!
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