Holiday Train Rides: Santa Trains and Polar Express

We know what you’re thinking…we just got the kids back to school and now we are thinking about holiday train rides with Santa?! Registration is now open for many of these experiences and they tend to sell out quickly! This is a popular holiday tradition that you won’t want to miss out on. Be sure to book as soon as possible! 

Take a step back in time to experience the wonder of the holiday season by hopping aboard a train or trolley. Prepare for some old-fashioned fun and have a one-of-kind adventure on these unique locomotives. In addition to the train or trolley ride, many of these events also include a variety of other festive activities. 

The information provided below is intended as a resource and things could change at any time. Be sure to check the details (dates, time, pricing, etc.) directly with the business.


Polar Express Rides

Although it will require some travel to reach the following train station locations, the experience is completely worth it. These magical rides often sell out, so purchase your tickets early. {When traveling at night, it may be dark outside making it harder to see anything outside of the train windows.}

Cuyahoga Scenic Valley Railroad

Features: This event sells out VERY quickly! Departures for the Polar Express leave from 2 stations-  the Rockside Statio and Akron Northside Station. The trains are full of Christmas fun and activity on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway. The train pulls into the lighted North Pole. It is a 30-mile trip that takes 2 hours. Cookies and hot cocoa along with the story of the Polar Express are some of the features! There are three levels of seating to choose from starting at $47 dollars. Tickets go on sale to the general public on October 2, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. Private car rentals go on sale on September 4, 2019.

Location: Independence, OH and Akron, Ohio (all about 2 hours from Columbus) 

2019 Dates: 

Saturday, November 8 through Saturday, December 21, 2019 

Closed for Veteran’s Day on November 11 and November 28 due to Thanksgiving. 

Cost: Tickets start at $47 per person and sell out QUICK! Prices will be updated by August 31, 2019.  

LM&M Railroad

Features: During the hour-long journey, Santa and his elves will make their way through the train spending time with each family. Every child will receive a bell from Santa’s sleigh and a cookie. Bring your camera for pictures with Santa. Balloon artists will also be on board the train. It’s a true Polar Express Experience! Hot chocolate is included with a mug to take home too! There are two types of seating- deluxe and Lackawanna seating. 

Location: Lebanon, OH (1 hour and 15 minutes from Columbus) 

2019 Dates:

  • November: 16, 17, 23, 24, 30

  • December: 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14,15, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 28


  • Weekdays: 6:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturdays: 12:00 p.m. , 2:00 p.m. , 4:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., & 8:00 p.m.
  • Sundays: 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., & 6:00 p.m.
  • December 24: 4:00 p.m.  & 6:00 p.m.
  • December 28: 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. , 6:00 p.m., & 8:00 p.m.

Premium evening departure time pricing in effect on all 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. rides – Add a fee to the ticket price. 

Cost: Prices start at $22 for children and adults and $26 for adults. Deluxe coach seats will be an additional cost. An increase may occur on certain times which will be reflected on the pricing page. 

The Polar Express at Dennison Railroad Depot 

Features: Wear pajamas and board the train headed for the North Pole! On this exciting train ride, storytellers will read the Polar Express and elves will entertain with songs, games and activities. Hot Cocoa and chocolate chip cookies will be served. Before returning home, Santa will board the train to visit each child and give them a special jingle bell. They are offering the opportunity to rent an entire private First Class Car for your group. This opportunity will be available until August 30, 2019 only.  The coach can seat up to 28 people, and the cost is $3,000. There is only one private First Class Car per trip, so don’t delay in calling! These tickets also went on sale to Members only May 2, 2019. It is a 40-mile trip that takes 90 minutes. 

Location: Dennison, OH (2 hours from Columbus) 

2019 Dates: December 6-8 and December 13-15, 2019 

Fridays at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00, 4:00, 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.  

Cost: $42 and up

Hocking Valley Scenic Railroad Santa Train

Features: Depart from Nelsonville Station on this 20 mile, 2-hour round trip adventure. Santa visits each child as the train rolls along the valley. Children also receive a candy treat during the ride. This is a 40-year-old tradition! {Tip from a CMB writer-we took this train at night and since it was dark you couldn’t see anything outside. There wasn’t singing or much entertainment while onboard so my children were bored at times. A daytime trip on this train might be a better option.}

Location: Nelsonville, OH (1 hour from Columbus) 

2019 Dates:

November 30 and December 1, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

December 6, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. 

December 7 and 8, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

December 13, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. 

December 14 and 15, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. 

December 20, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. 

December 21 and 22 at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. 

Cost: $16 for kids, $17 for seniors and $21 for adults

North Pole Express at Northwest Ohio Railed Preservation 

Features: The short ride on a quarter-scale train runs through a Christmas wonderland of outdoor displays. This is a 1/2 mile track and the ride takes 10-15 minutes. 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. This train is open-air and unheated so plan to dress accordingly or bring a blanket! This is a nice ride for those who may be short on time or have young children.

Location: Findley, Ohio (1 hour, 45 minutes from Columbus) 

2019 Dates: 

November 29, 2019 – January 5, 2019: North Pole Express

Fridays & Saturdays 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Sundays 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. 

Cost: $4.00 Adults and $3.00 Children

Holiday Trains

Huntington Holiday Train Display

Features: The beloved Huntington Holiday Train will be back on display at the Main Library this year. Check the library website for operating hours.

Location: Main Library

2019 Dates: Typically set up the week of Thanksgiving. Check their website for exact dates. 

Cost: Free 

Main Library Train

                                           Huntington Train

Santa in the Caboose at Historical Village at Weaver Park

Features: Enter the red caboose to interact and take photos with Santa in his suit from the 1800s. Historical Village will also be open with live music, art projects, refreshments and more.

Location: Hilliard, Ohio 

2019 Date: December 8, 2019 from  3:00-6:00 p.m. 

Cost: Free

Annual Golden Spike Open House at The Depot

LocationThe Depot (921 Old Henderson Rd, Columbus, Ohio 43220)

Features: Tour the train cars decorated for the season, take a ride on the Scioto Railway through the decorated light display, enjoy light refreshments, work on a craft and watch a holiday movie.  

2019 Date: December 14, 2019 from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Tentative Date) 

Cost: Admission is a coat for the needy (hats, gloves and scarves are welcome) or 1 unwrapped gift per person for the benefit of Firefighters For Kids Toy Drive and TriVillage Chamber Coat Drive.

EnterTRAINMENT Junction

Location: West Chester, Ohio (North of Cincinnati)

Features: Here you’ll find the world’s largest indoor train display, the A-Maze-N Funhouse, play area and a Christmas Journey. This is a great spot with lots of activities to keep everyone entertained!

2019 Dates: Open year-round, but the Christmas Journey begins 11/16/19- 1/1/20. 

Cost: Tickets start at $14.95


Celebrate the season by taking a festive trolley ride. This jolly experience is sure to get you in the holiday spirit. 


Features: Jolly trolleys take riders to Clintonville area businesses for free and discounted goodies. The fun continues at Mozarts, the event headquarters, with hot cocoa, cookies, activities and visit from Santa himself.

Location: Clintonville

2019 Date: Date to be determined for 2019 

Cost: Free

Discovery District Holiday Trolley Hop

Features: Ride the complimentary trolley through the popular Discovery District as it stops for shopping, crafts, tours and activities.

Location: Discovery District downtown Columbus

2019 Date: December 7, 2019 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. 

Cost: Free

Christmas Trolley

                         Discovery District Holiday Trolley Hop

Easton Town Center Trolley

Location: Easton Town Center 

Features: Take a fun trolley ride around the beautifully decorated Easton Town Center grounds to take in the sights and sounds of the season. Rides are free, but tips are welcome to benefit charity.

Location: There are three designated pick up and drop off locations at Easton– across from the Brio Tuscan Grille in the south district, in front of Bon Vie in the north district, and at the Easton Gateway across Stelzer Road. While there, don’t miss the festive train display next to the 50 ft. Christmas tree.

Dates: Wed.-Sat. 1-8 p.m., Sunday 12-6 p.m. (December 4-29)

Cost: Tips help fund Easton’s Change for Charity Program. 

These holiday train rides are bound to create everlasting memories.

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