The Playful Parent



Here is a great list of holiday train rides by state as well as a list of train events that you wont want to miss. With the growing popularity of holiday train rides, especially since the release of the Polar Express its important to book your excursion as soon as possible. Some train rides have already sold out!




Christmas at Applewood Farm
Nov 25-Dec 17, 2017

Families will create lasting memories at Applewood Farm this Christmas! From Santa visits to beautiful light displays, the farm is a winter wonderland for all to enjoy! Either visit the farm during the day or take a visit in the evening to enjoy the farm’s Bright Nights event and take a mini-train ride throughout a Christmas light display!


The Polar Express
November 18-19 & 24-26, 2017

Enjoy the magical story of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express as the pages come to life this year with the B&O Railroad Museum’s holiday train ride! For the young and young at heart, this annual adventure is a show to behold as much as it is an enjoyable ride! Get your golden ticket punched — just like in the story! — and climb aboard for hot chocolate and cookies while listening to this heartfelt story. Children will enjoy visits from Santa’s helpers and a silver sleigh bell from the jolly old man himself.

The Holiday Express
December 1-31, 2017

Featuring fun happenings with Frosty, Santa, and a cast of characters from Frozen, there is a lot to do and see at the B&O Railroad Museum this year! Model trains, live performances, crafts and activities, and train rides make this museum a train lover’s one-stop-shop for all-things-Christmas! Book a breakfast and train ride with Santa or a story time with Mrs. Claus or the characters from Frozen to make this holiday one the family will never forget!


Holly Trolley Fest
Dec 2-30, 2017

The National Capital Trolley Museum, open since 1969, not only provides a chance to learn about historical streetcars in the District, but also an opportunity to take a trolley ride in one of eleven original cars! On select weekends, the Museum will feature Holly TrolleyFest with toy trains and Santa riding on streetcars!


Santa Train
Nov 25-Dec 23, 2017

Enjoy a holiday train ride and visit with Santa on the Walkersville Southern Railroad Santa Train! The railroad’s regular scenic excursion becomes a little more magical during the holidays, and this specialty train ride is one you don’t want to miss! Plus, don’t miss the Signing Santa for riders with hearing impairments on Nov 26 & 27 and Dec 17 & 18, 2017!

Signing Santa Train
Nov 26 & 27 & Dec 17 & 18, 2017

This special opportunity, for the hearing impaired, give passengers the opportunity to enjoy a holiday train ride and visit with Santa who will be signing on the Walkersville Southern Railroad Santa Train!


Christmas Wonderland Express
Nov 24-Dec 23, 2017

Make your way through the mountains on the Western Maryland Railroad this holiday season! The Christmas Wonderland Express is a 3-hour excursion that includes a 1-hour layover, where riders will enjoy all kinds of Christmas merriment including cookies, hot chocolate, and of course, a visit with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and all the elves!





Steam Train Ride
Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, VA

Christmas Town is our favorite family tradition. We love seeing the park in lights, attending spectacular holiday shows, visiting with Santa, riding the train and even watching the Polar Express toy train set up.


Winter Wonderland at Burke Lake Park
Fairfax Station, VA
Dec 2, 3, 9 & 10, 2017

Hop aboard the Holiday Express for a train trip through the park, set sail on the USS Rudolph, or snuggle up on the Snowman’s Wagon Ride! Plus, guests are invited to take a spin on the Caroler’s Carousel and test their skills with Gingerbread Man’s Golf. And lastly, stop by to let Santa know how good you’ve been this year, and treat yourself to s’mores, hot chocolate, spiced cider, and candy canes!


Santa Train
Alexandria, VA
Dec 4-18, 2017

Head on down to Alexandria, VA for a delightful train ride with Santa and Mrs. Claus! This annual round-trip excursion hosted by Whistle Stop Hobbies departs King Street Station and travels to Manassas, VA. Tickets go on sale October 2, 2017, and can only be purchased in-person at Whistle Stop Hobbies.


The Santa Train
Dillwyn, VA
Dec 2, 9 & 16, 2017

Climb aboard a James River Rambler alongside Santa for a 45-minute excursion. Sponsored by the Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, there’s no better way to get up-close and personal with Virginia rail history than by taking the family on a winter train ride!


Santa Train- Operation Lifesaver
Multiple Locations: Burke, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Spotsylvania, & Woodbridge, VA
Dec 9, 2017

A few weeks before Christmas, families are invited to climb aboard a VRE train with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus to bask in the holiday spirit! Santa’s helpers also join the ride, passing out candy canes, coloring books, and making the day a magical adventure! This event also serves to remind families of the importance of rail safety via the Operation Lifesaver program.




Santa Sing-Along Caroling Express & Tannenbaum Christmas Tree Trains
Select days Nov 24-Dec 23, 2017

Climb aboard the Northern Central Railway and enjoy one of many holiday-themed rides this season! From a train ride that takes you to a Christmas tree farm to a magical Santa sing-along excursion, these are one-of-a-kind memorable experiences for the whole family!


Santa’s Paradise Express Train
Nov 24-Dec 17, 2017

A Christmas tradition since 1959, Strasburg Rail Road welcomes Santa every November and December! As children and their families travel down the tracks to Paradise, PA, Santa and his special helpers will be onboard to meet with all the good boys and girls, hear their holiday wishes, and deliver a special gift to children 11 and under!
Select days Nov 30-Dec 22, 2017

This unique train recreates the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve! A reader dressed in a Victorian nightshirt and cap will read Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem, The Night Before Christmas, as the train rolls along. Passengers and kids dressed in pajamas can enjoy a treat of milk and cookies, as well as more storybook readings of holiday classics aboard the train’s heated Caboose.

Christmas Tree Train
Dec 2, 2017

Ride aboard the Christmas Tree Train to Leaman Place Grove, where you can choose a pre-cut Fraser or Douglas Fir tree and have it delivered by steam on a flat car back to the station.


Santa’s Express
Nov 18-Dec 23, 2017

Santa’s Express is ready to embark on a magical 90-minute journey through the Chester Creek Valley! Enjoy a music-filled ride with Santa all the way to Glen Mills, PA where riders can visit the historic station and catch a photo op with Santa! Plus, enjoy all your favorite Christmas songs sung live by Greg Wright and friends! They take requests, too, so get your lists ready!



November 24th, 2017 – January 28th, 2018

Enjoy the museum’s annual holiday celebration of toy trains and model railroading. Check the Ellicott City Station calendar of events for exact dates.

Highlandtown Train Garden

November 25, 2017 – January 1, 2018
Open Weekends to start than everyday Monday December, 18 – Monday January 1, 2018

Local businesses and associations sponsor model train displays throughout the garden.  Several “engineers” set up the garden in Fire House #41.  A Timeless event in Baltimore city; best of all, it’s free!

Christmas Doll and Train Exhibit at St. Clement’s Island Museum

December 1, 2017 – December 22, 2017: Thursday – Monday 12:00PM – 4:00PM
December 23, 2017 – January 2, 2018: Daily, 10:00AM – 4:00PM
Closed Christmas Day

Enjoy antique and collectible dolls, trains and toys in festive holiday displays.

Brookside Garden of Lights and Model Trains

November 25, 2017 –  January 1, 2018 (closed Dec 24-25)
In addition to Brookside Garden of Lights outdoor holiday light exhibit (with more than one million dazzling lights,) G-Scale model trains wind through a seasonal landscape inside the Conservatory. And. inside the Visitors Center, you enjoy hot cocoa while listening to one of the nightly musical performances.

The Trains of Christmas

Check back for 2017-2018 dates
Newly renovated “Trains of Christmas” includes favorite steam & diesel trains operating on four levels over a winter landscape. The layout grows as the season progresses.
Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum

Martinville Christmas Train Garden

November 24, 2017 – January 13, 2018

A fourth annual special holiday display of miniature planes and trains in the Martinville Christmas Train Garden can be seen during a tour at the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum.

Holiday Train Garden – Timonium

Nov. 25, 2017 – Dec. 30, 2017

See O-scale trains wind through a 20th Century town and pick out your favorite local landmarks. Garden included with admission to the Fire Museum.





Brookside Gardens’ Garden Railway Exhibit

November 24, 2017-January 1, 2018

1500 Glenallen Ave., Wheaton, MD 20902

This year marks the 11th season of the holiday partnership between Brookside Gardens and the Washington, Virginia & Maryland Garden Railway Society, which brings you a fantastic world of miniature town and country scenes via train travel. Beautiful and bright winter-blooming plants decorate the model train route inside the South Conservatory. Admission is free.


College Park Aviation Museum’s Holiday Trains & Planes

December 16- December 23, 2017

1985 Cpl. Frank Scott Dr., College Park, MD 20740

The National Capital Trackers provide a captivating display of model locomotives to the museum, complete with villages, tunnels, and depots that bring history to life. This exhibit is free with museum admission.

Garden Railway Model Train Exhibit at US Botanic Garden Conservatory

November 24- January 2, 2017

100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20001

Botanical and locomotives come together as trains travel among lighthouses and replicas of the most recognizable buildings in our nation’s capital, which are created with real plant materials. To add to your whimsical experience, the Conservatory offers extended hours on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for live seasonal music from 6-8 pm. Both the train exhibit and music are free of charge.

Gingerbread Village at Hyatt Regency Reston

November 24, 2017- January 2, 2017

1800 Presidents St., Reston, VA 20190

See the Hyatt’s annual Gingerbread village and a model train that runs throughout the display, located in the hotel lobby.

Herndon Holiday Model Train Show & Depot, Museum, and Caboose Open House

December 9-10, 2017

Herndon Municipal Center located at 777 Lynn Street, Herndon, VA

Join in the Herndons greatest tradition for the annual holiday train show. Check out the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Depot Museum and Caboose after viewing holiday model trains. Free parking and admission to all three venues.

Holiday Train Show at Fairfax Station Railroad Museum

December 2, 2017- 10:00 AM -5:00 PM

11200 Fairfax Station Rd., Fairfax Station, VA 22039

This year marks the 28th Annual Holiday Train Show and set to be the biggest event of the year! Model trains of all sizes and shapes will run in, out and under our museum. Bring broken locomotives to the “Train Doctor” for advice on repairs (many simple fixes can be taken care of for free). Antique cars will visit on Saturday (weather permitting). And if we are all nice but not naughty, Santa may drop by for a special visit.

Holley TrolleyFest

December 3-30, 2017 (Weekends only, closed on Christmas)

1313 Bonifant Rd., Colesville, MD 20905

Celebrate winter in Washington with this special train exhibit at the annual Holly Trolley Fest. Enjoy the toy train exhibit and visit Santa aboard a classic streetcar.

Union Station’s Holiday Train Display

November 24, 2017-January 1, 2018

2 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002

It is a family tradition of ours to visit Union station to see the train exhibit every Christmas Eve. The trains are hand-made replicas of real Norwegian trains and are set in a Nordic landscape and scenery.

Winter Wonderland Train Show at the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory

December 13, 2017- 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM

9419 Battle St., Manassas, VA 20110

Bring the family to this free event featuring miniature train towns fully decked out in holiday style.



Santa Sightings 2017

Christmas Train-cation 2016

Guide to Strasburg Christmas Trains 2016


***Important: Rides and events are subject to change or even have cancellations that might be reflected in this article. Please, always make confirmations and reservations by calling or clicking on the direct links to the events.***

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