Long before the release of “The Polar Express,” holiday train rides were a fun family tradition all over the country.
In Ohio, many vintage railroads offer the unique chance to take in history and holiday cheer all at once. If you are looking for Christmas train rides in Ohio, here are the top railroads to check out this year!
Dennison Railroad Depot Museum | Dennison
As the holidays draw near, the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum transforms into a one-stop train ride to the North Pole itself. During this magical journey, visitors don their coziest winter pajamas and board the vintage carriages in Dennison Ohio.
The Polar Express is a festive party, with hot chocolate and cookies made by Mrs. Claus. While you ride, you’ll get to listen to songs and do activities with Santa’s elves.
When you arrive at Santa’s workshop, you will pick up the most important guest of the evening — old Kris Kringle himself. When he boards the train, he will talk with the kids and gift them with magical Christmas bells taken from his sleigh.
Tickets tend to go fast for this popular event, so be sure to book ahead of time. The train runs on select Thursdays and Sundays throughout December. Also, you can rent a private carriage for a special group experience with extra refreshments.
Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation | Findlay
Every year in Findlay, you will find visitors galore flocking to the Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation’s North Pole Express. Trains are absolutely the name of the game at this event, with quarter-scale trains for visitors to ride, as well as countless toy trains featured in the train barn and museum.
The North Pole Express runs every weekend between the last week of November and the New Year. The train ride will take you through a sparkling winter wonderland full of holiday lights and decorations. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus also make an appearance on select nights to visit with the children. Tickets are sold at the door.
Hocking Valley Scenic Railway | Nelsonville
For more than 40 years, the Santa Train has been one of the most popular annual events in the town of Nelsonville. This Hocking Hills holiday fun event has become a family tradition for many in the Hocking Valley, and you may want to order your tickets in advance before they sell out!
Note: The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway’s Santa Train ride is longer than most, lasting roughly two hours.
The train departs at 11 a.m. on weekends between late November and the third week of December; alternatively, you can take a later trip at 6 p.m. The Santa Train leaves from the Nelsonville Depot and makes its way through the snowy Hocking River Valley to East Logan.
Along the way, you’ll get to enjoy a heated carriage and holiday tunes, as well as festive decorations. The most important visitor along the way is, of course, Santa Claus, who will board to spend time with the kids and hear their holiday wishes.
LM&M Railroad | Warren County
The Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad is a historic train depot crossing through Warren County Ohio. Every year starting in late November, the depot offers a one-of-a-kind holiday North Pole Express train ride experience for visitors of all ages.
During this time, you are welcome to board a festively-decorated vintage carriage and enjoy a 75-minute ride past stunning Turtle Creek. Along the way, you get to visit Santa and his elves, listen to holiday music, and participate in holiday activities and games.
Tip: Although the carriages are heated, visitors are encouraged to dress warmly because boarding can take some time.
At the end of the event, children will get the chance to take pictures with Santa and tell him their holiday wish lists. They’ll also get a special treat and a souvenir bell to commemorate the evening. You are welcome to bring snacks and beverages with you to enjoy during the trip.
Ohio Railway Museum | Worthington
The Letters to Santa event organized by the Ohio Railway Museum isn’t your average holiday train ride. It’s an all-encompassing, family-friendly event that offers a huge variety of activities for all ages.
Visitors get to take a 20-minute trip in a vintage 1925 train car. Kids will enjoy writing letters to Santa Claus and mailing them in the Railway Post Office Car, which dates from 1920. Other activities of the day include making festive crafts, cards, and ornaments.
Train enthusiasts will also enjoy exploring the vintage trains on display at the museum, which is one of the oldest train museums in the United States. Of course, no holiday event would be complete without the chance to talk to Santa Claus and whisper all your wishes to him.
The event runs on select weekends throughout December. Tickets are available at the door. Also, visitors are welcome to peruse the museum gift shop before they leave.
Zanesville & Western Scenic Railroad | Mt. Perry
In Mt. Perry, the scenic Santa Train isn’t just one of the most popular holiday events of the season. It is also a chance to participate in charitable holiday gift-giving!
Bringing a toy or food donation will get you a significant discount on coach tickets. Plus, all of the donations go to Mt. Perry food drives and churches.
The 40-minute train ride offers the chance to admire the local sights and decorations and to meet with Santa Claus. He will also be passing out treats to enjoy during your trip. Tickets are sold at the door. Be aware that the main carriages are open-air, so you will need to dress for the weather.
If you want to make wonderful family memories while also doing good for your community, the Mt. Perry Santa Train is a perfect choice.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad | Akron
The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is great to visit at any time of year, but during the holidays, it is a downright magical trip. Every year starting in mid-November, the popular train tracks become a place to experience the one-of-a-kind North Pole Adventure.
Visitors are welcome to climb aboard for a 75-minute festive tour of the stunning Cuyahoga Valley. Your final destination is the North Pole itself, where you will get to meet the Postmaster who delivers Christmas wishes to Santa Claus. Of course, you will also get the chance to visit the man himself!
During the trip, you will get to enjoy a host of other holiday activities, such as meeting Santa’s elves, admiring the decorations outside, and feasting on hot chocolate and cookies. You are also welcome to sing holiday songs and finish the evening by taking a photo with Santa Claus. Come wearing your coziest pajamas for the best experience.
The Christmas Ranch | Morrow
The Christmas Ranch in Morrow Ohio isn’t known just for its themed train rides. It is actually a full holiday village complete with more than 1 million sparkling lights, making it the perfect destination for holiday adventures.
There are countless things to do here, including visiting Santa’s Workshop, enjoying light shows and festive music, and shopping for holiday gifts. Of course, you will also have the chance to visit with Santa Claus and take pictures with him during this family-friendly event for kids.
Many visitors love taking a train or carriage ride through the magical village. This offers the chance to see the stunning light displays from a unique vantage point.
You can purchase train or wagon tickets in one of the ranch stores. Bear in mind that these rides are in the open air, so you will need to bundle up.
Enjoy Christmas Train Rides in Ohio
Ohio is home to many historical railroads that are fascinating to visit at any time of the year. However, they become something truly special when the holidays draw near.
Whether you are looking for a festive tour of the state’s most stunning valleys or a night of family fun, there is something for everyone during the holidays in Ohio. And if you’re looking for even more festivities and special events, Ohio has several Christmas towns and holiday lights displays to check out.