It seems too early in the season to start planning for the holidays, but many Holiday, Polar Express, and Santa Trains are now accepting reservations and many will book up way before the season begins! The railroads have made plans to make these fun traditions safe for guests, including increased cleaning, health screenings, and reduced train capacity. As with all events this year, everything is subject to change or cancellation.
Christmas train rides are a magical journey for children, and a holiday tradition that your family won’t soon forget. There are a variety of holiday train rides and train events in Ohio where kids will get to visit with Santa Claus or enjoy a Polar Express Ride. Whether you plan a day trip, or make a weekend out of the experience, these train rides will bring a little extra holiday wonder to your Christmas season.
Reservations go quickly, so be sure to book your trip as soon as possible! Tickets are on sale now for select events!
Polar Express and Holiday Trains in Ohio
(in order of distance from Columbus zipcode 43215)
Catch a ride on the train with Santa! Mount Perry, Ohio – 40 minutes from Columbus)
2020 Dates: December 12-13 and December 19-20, 2020. Train departs at each hour 3pm – 7pm each night. Bring unwrapped children’s gifts or food for food pantry for discount ride. See website and schedule here. Tickets are sold on location, barring any changes for 2020.
Length: Train ride is 40 minutes long
Features: Santa and The Train Conductor will be on board to greet everyone and give out treats. Seating on benches in an open air car or inside a passenger coach with seats. Dress warmly.
Cost: Children 13 and under $5 or $3 with unwrapped new toy or food donation, children 14 and up and adults $8 or $5 with unwrapped toy or food donation. Children 5 and under free. Donations will be given to local food pantries and area churches. Dress Warmly and bring your Smiles!
SANTA TRAIN at Hocking Valley Scenic Railway CANCELLED FOR 2020
The Santa Train has been running for over 40 years along the Hocking Valley River and is a very popular and affordable option. (Nelsonville, Ohio – 1 hour from Columbus)
2020 Dates: Trains begin Saturday, November 28 and continue each Friday – Sunday through December 20, 2020. Trains depart the Nelsonville Depot round-trip to East Logan on Fridays at 6 p.m., Saturdays at 11 am, 2 pm, and 6 pm, and Sundays 11 am and 2 pm. each Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now!
Length: Round trip takes 2 hours
Features: Santa gets on board the train and visits with each child as the train traverses the historic Hocking River Valley. Each coach is decorated, heated, Christmas music plays throughout the train over the audio system, and after Santa’s visit, each child receives a special candy cane treat! Don’t forget Christmas lists to share with Santa! Outside food and drink are permitted, but there are no restrooms on the train. First come, first served seating; arrive early for boarding.
Cost: Admission is $21 adults, $17 seniors and $16 ages 3-12. Trips typically sell out.
HOLIDAY EXPRESS at LM&M Railroad
The Holiday Express at LM&M Railroad features jolly, festive rail cars, and a unique journey filled with magical moments. (Lebanon, Ohio – 1 hour, 15 minutes from Columbus)
Access to the LM&M Railroad requires pre-purchased tickets or advance reservations. Tickets and pass reservations are only available through lebanonrr.com or by calling 513-933-8022. Face masks are required for all guests age two (2) years old and older, as well as all Team Members. Guests unwilling or unable to wear a face mask or face shield are asked to refrain from visiting until the face mask requirement is lifted. Time between train departures is extended to allow time to thoroughly sanitize the train, and capacity is reduced by 50%
2020 Dates: Thursdays – Saturdays, December 3 – 20, 2020
- Weekdays: 6:00pm & 8:00pm
- Saturdays and Sundays: 12:00pm, 2:00pm, 4:00pm, 6:00pm, & 8:00pm
Length: 45 minute train ride, as well as additional private time with Santa back at the station.
Features: In each decorated rail car, an elf will be making holiday balloons and telling stories about the North Pole as you enjoy a relaxing 45 minutes with your family in our heated, socially-distanced train.
Once back to the station, your elf will guide you and your loved ones from the train to a personal visit with our socially-distanced Santa. Be sure to bring a letter to Santa with you to drop off and then take a picture with Santa himself! Your holiday adventure ends with your elf gifting you with a holiday bell, along with a special individually wrapped holiday cookie.
Train is heated, but boarding process takes places outside, so please dress for the weather. Outside food and drink allowed; no restrooms available.
Cost: 2 levels of seating. Free parking is available one block north of the ticket office in a public lot. Departures will sell out – purchase tickets here.
For 2020, ALL ticket orders will be sold as sets. The majority of seating will be in sets of 4 seats. Limited sets of 6 or 8 seats will be available in select cars. Passengers must choose a minimum of 4 seats for purchase.
Looking to bring a larger group of family and friends? Please choose multiple sets of seats within the same car to insure proximity.
Seating is sold in this way to maintain 6 feet of distance between all parties on the train. There will be no seating changes, switching or substitutions.
- Deluxe Coach Class – $120 for groups of 4 or less, $180 for groups of 5-6, $240 for groups of 7-8. Kids under 2 are free for lap seatings. This car features comfortable chairs, large windows, Heating & Air Conditioning. Seats in deluxe class are reserved. Deluxe class passengers will receive (1) LM&M Railroad exclusive souvenir mug.
- Lackwanna Coach Class – $100 for groups of 4 or less, $150 for groups of 5-6, $200 for groups of 7-8. Kids under 2 are free for lap seatings. Coach passengers will be seated in our 1930’s restored Lackawanna coach cars. Our Lackawanna coach cars feature traditional railroad bench-style seating. Coach seats are reserved. Our Lackawanna coach cars are heated and feature open windows. Fans circulate air on warmer days.
NORTH POLE EXPRESS at Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation Inc.
The North Pole Express at Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation is a shorter train experience that is perfect for those short on time or for younger children who may not enjoy a longer train ride. (Findlay, Ohio – 1 hour, 45 minutes from Columbus)
2020 Dates: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from November 27 – January 3, 2021. Departures run constantly on Fridays & Saturdays from 5:30 pm – 9 pm, and Sundays from 5:30 pm – 8 pm. Open on Christmas Day!
Length: 1/2 mile track takes 10-15 minutes
Features: The short ride on a quarter-scale train runs through a Christmas wonderland of outdoor displays. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there on various nights. After taking a ride through the winter wonderland, families can visit the NWORRP gift shop and museum. No indoor restrooms (portables only), train is open-air and unheated, so dress accordingly and bring a small blanket to cuddle up with, if desired.
Cost: $4.00 Adults and $3.00 Children ages 12 and under; no advance purchase required.
THE POLAR EXPRESS at Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad CANCELLED FOR 2020
Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, families are sure to enjoy their trip to the North Pole. Passengers are entertained by a reading of The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and upon arrival at the North Pole, elves are eagerly waving to families as they prepare for the big day. On the way back home Santa greets guests and takes photos.
Check out other special train rides through the year here as they are announced. (Independence and Akron – both approx 2 hours from Columbus).
Departures for the Polar Express leave from the Rockside Station and Akron Northside Station and are full of Christmas fun and activity on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway.
Polar Express tickets will sell out within hours when they go on sale on October 14. CVSR members at the Brakeman level and above receive early access to tickets on September 22. For more information about purchasing a membership, click here.
2020 Dates: November 6 through December 20; closed November 11, 25, and 26. CANCELLED FOR 2020
Length: 30 mile round trip takes 2 hours.
Features: This magical Polar-Express re-creation will thrill the whole family. Pajama-clad families board the train for a fun filled evening excursion including hot cocoa, cookies, and a reading of the classic Polar Express story. The wonder continues as the train pulls into the lighted North Pole Village filled with caroling elves and special on board visit from Santa himself. The café car with snacks and souvenirs will NOT be available this year. Because of this, you may bring your own commercially packaged and sealed snacks and beverages. Alcoholic beverages and fast food will not be permitted on the train. Cars are heated and restrooms are available on board.
Cost: Three levels of accommodations for $47-$94. Pricing is the same for ages 2 and up. Tickets are online sale only and can be purchased in blocks of 4 or 6 (table cars offer groups of six with limited availability).
THE POLAR EXPRESS at Dennison Railroad Depot Museum
Hop on board the Polar Express at the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, where the decorated train transports guests to the North Pole with games, hot chocolate, cookies, songs and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus. (Dennison, Ohio – 2 hours from Columbus)
2020 Dates: December 4-6 and December 11-13 Fridays at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00, 4:00, 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.
Length: 40 mile round trip takes 90 minutes
Features: Re-enactment of The Polar Express book by Chris Van Allsburg. Storytellers begin the journey reading the book as the train heads towards the North Pole. Festive elves will entertain you with songs, games and activities, while you enjoy delicious hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies specially made by Mrs. Claus. When the train arrives at the North Pole you will see Santa and his workshop out your train window. (Passengers do not get off the train.) The train stops long enough to pick up Santa, who will visit with children on the way back and gift them all with a special silver bell taken from the reindeer’s harness. Purchase a conductor-signed copy of The Polar Express when you order.
Train cars are heated, and restrooms are available on board and at the depot. Outside food and drink are not permitted, but gluten-free cookies can be brought for dietary restrictions.
Cost: Tickets are $42 for Balcony seating, $50 for coach seating, $62 for Deluxe seating, and $72 for First Class seating (children under 1 are free).
First Class seating includes a separate First Class Waiting Room so you do not have to wait outside in the cold. The conductor will personally come and lead you from your waiting room in the Museum’s Panhandle Theater to the train as you will be first to board the train. During your wait to board, children will be able to watch Christmas movies. Each first class child 1-12 will receive an engineer’s hat, wooden train whistle and another special treat on board the train. Private compartments (seats up to 5-6) are $450.
Deluxe Seating also includes all First Class amenities listed above, with the exception of tables. Children will receive an engineer’s cap and a wooden train whistle.
Coach passengers will also be welcomed by the Conductor and board the train from outside. Please be prepared for the weather, warm clothes if cold; umbrellas if raining.
Tickets are on sale for museum members starting in MAY and for the public in JUNE. Tickets are sold by phone only Tuesday – Sunday; 740-922-6776.
Christmas Train Experiences in Columbus
These inexpensive, local options are a great experience for children who may be too young to enjoy a longer train ride.
Letters to Santa at Ohio Railway Museum: Worthington, Ohio
Dates: December 5-6, 12-13, and 19-20, 2020 from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Letters to Santa will feature Santa letters in the Post Office car, Christmas ornaments and crafts, train rides on the Interurban car, and photos with Mrs. Claus. Tickets are available for the purchase on the days of the event in our depot building.
They are also open on Sundays from noon – 4 pm. They will be using the diesel switch engine and passenger car in hourly runs through the Worthington Woods area along the NS and CSX tracks.
- Age 4 and up – $10
- Age 3 and under – FREE
Golden Spike Open House Christmas Celebration at The Depot: Columbus, Ohio.
Date: Not scheduled for 2020
The Annual Golden Spike Open House at The Depot features cookies and hot chocolate in the snack shack, a holiday movie while working on a crafts in The Depot, tours of Car 100 and Central Vermont Caboose decorated for the season. Warm yourself by the Fire Pit before you take a ride on the Scioto Valley Railway through the display of holiday lights. Bring 1 unwrapped gift per person for Firefighters For Kids Toy Drive.
Stayed tuned for all of the amazing holiday events in Columbus! Subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss a thing!