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!
NOTE: Please click links below to find out about any restrictions, cancellations, or other details about the train rides. Local health mandates may require changes or cancellations at any time.
Polar Express and Holiday Trains in Ohio
(in order of distance from Columbus zipcode 43215)
Pumpkin Train at Mt. Perry Scenic Train and Zanesville & Western Scenic Railroad
40 minutes from Columbus. This isn’t a Christmas train, but we thought a Pumpkin Trail deserves a mention because it sounds so fun!
2021 Dates: October 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 31. Hop on the train for a ride to the Pumpkin Patch. Every child 13 and under gets a pumpkin. Train ride is about 45 minutes long. Train leaves on the hour. Tickets are sold on location. Adults $8, children 3-13 $5.
Catch a ride on the train with Santa! Mount Perry, Ohio – 40 minutes from Columbus
2021 Dates: December 11-12 and December 18-19, 2021. 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 2021.
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
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)
2021 Dates: Trains begin Saturday, November 27 and continue each Friday – Sunday through December 19, 2021. 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%
2021 Dates: select Thursdays – Saturdays, November 19- December 26, 2021
- Weekdays: 6:00pm & 8:00pm
- Saturdays and Sundays: 12:00pm, 2:00pm, 4:00pm, 6:00pm, & 8:00pm
Length: 1 hour, 15 minute rain ride and 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.
- Deluxe Coach Class – $35-$39. Kids under 2 are $5 for lap seating. 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 – $22-$26 Kids under 2 are $5 for lap seating. 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)
2021 Dates: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from November 26 – January 2, 2022. 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.
North Pole Adventure at Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
This new train ride at CVSR will thrill the family this holiday season. From the website:
“Climb aboard and join us for a journey of a lifetime. Escape the ordinary of the every day as you watch the magic unfold as we make our grand journey on the North Pole Adventure™.
Enjoy hot cocoa, cookies, and festivities as we navigate the sweeping curves of the Cuyahoga Valley and across the globe for our mighty journey to the North Pole to hand-deliver your letter to Santa to the North Pole’s very own Postmaster.”
Tickets for this holiday train ride will sell out within hours when they go on sale to the public on October 5. CVSR members at the Brakeman level and above receive early access to tickets on September 8.
2021 Dates: November 5 through December 19, 2021.
Length: 90 minute train ride, plus a brief visit with Santa, with departures from Rockside Station and Akron Northside Station
Features: Your ticket includes a ninety-minute train ride, hot chocolate, one (1) cookie, letter writing activity to Santa, program and a brief visit with Santa.
Cost: There are multiple levels of accommodations for $45-$92. Pricing is the same for ages 2 and up.
Check out other special train rides through the year here as they are announced. (Independence and Akron – both approx 2 hours from Columbus).
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)
2021 Dates: December 3-5 and December 10-12. 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, $55 for coach seating, $62 for Deluxe seating, and $75 for First Class seating (children under 1 are free). Prime pricing applies to certain times/dates.
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. Coach tickets available online.
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: TBA for 2021
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: TBA for 2021
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!
Akron, OH 44308
Lebanon, OH 45036
Findlay, OH 45840
Nelsonville, OH 45764
Dennison, OH 44621
Mount Perry, OH 43760