To be honest, I don’t know the last time I saw Santa in a sleigh. Nope, over the past several years, I’ve seen Santa arrive to greet crowds of believers in a fire truck, a police car, a helicopter, and a Porsche (really, Santa??).
So it was no surprise when my 5-year-old came home from school telling me her friend Abby saw Santa on a train. And she’s absolutely right – there are a few amazing Holiday Trains in Connecticut, where you and your kids can enjoy both your love of trains and the holiday season! Watching the steam roll and waft in front of the train's headlight, while giant snowflakes fall will throw you back 60 years -- in the most wonderful, magical, 'It's a Wonderful Life' sort of way.
Danbury Railway Museum, Danbury
A ticket includes a train ride, a visit with Santa in Toyland, and a small gift (for children). On December 3trd, 9th, 10th, 16th, and 17th trains run every 30 minutes between 12pm-3:30pm. Saturdays only, there will be a special ride through their lighted rail yard at 4:30pm.
120 White Street, Danbury, CT, 203.778.8337
Naugatuck Railroad, Thomaston
Here, you have both day and nighttime options. Ride the Santa Express Saturdays and Sundays at 12pm and 2pm in from the day after Thanksgiving to December 17. Enjoy the 1 hour and 2-minute train ride along the river, and enjoy watching your children visit with Santa and Mrs.Claus aboard the train. Tickets are $18 for coach or $40 for first class (which buys you nicer seating, a longer visit with the man in the red suit, and a goodie bag) kids three and under ride free in coach and for $1 in first class. You can also opt to get the kids in their footie pajamas and hop on board the Northern Lights Limited at 5pm and 7pm on weekends in December. These trains sell out, reservations are highly recommended.
242 East Main Street, Thomaston, CT, 06787, 203.283.7245
Shoreline Trolley Museum, East Haven
Visit the Trolley Museum weekends starting the day after Thanksgiving to December 17 to visit with Santa and enjoy some holiday cheer. Tickets include all day admittance to the museum and multiple trolley rides. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the museum is open on weekends from 10:30am to 8pm, with trolleys running every 30 minutes. No need for reservations.
17 River Street, East Haven, CT 06512, 203.467.6927
Fairfield Museum and History Center, Fairfield
If model trains are more to your taste, visit the Holiday Express Train Show at the Fairfield Museum and History Center. The show is open December 1 - January 7th. See website for hours each day. Come admire the amazing display of model trains running through a winter wonderland.
370 Beach Road, Fairfield, CT, 06824, 203.259.1598
Connecticut River Museum, Essex
Visit the Connecticut River Museum to view the annual Holiday Train display. The museum is open daily from 10am-5pm, except Mondays. Children under 6 are admitted free of charge. The Holiday Train display begins November 16 and runs through February 19, 2017.
67 Main Street, Essex, CT, 06426, 860.767.8269
Essex Steam Train (Valley Railroad Company), Essex
This is, perhaps, the cream of the crop. If you're reading this in December, game over, unless you have luck finding tickets on Craigslist. Weekends sell out for the North Pole Express in September...and the rest of the dates, soon after that. By December, you may still catch a ride on their daytime Santa Special. Moral of the story, get on the mailing list so you know when to get on the horn. Events begins November 24 and runs till December 23.
One Railroad Avenue, Essex, CT 06426, 860-767-0103
Eli Whitney Museum, Eli Gilberts Exhibition of American Flyer Trains, Hamden
This is a hands-on exhibit of American Flyer Trains. Your children will enjoy seeing the classic toy trains produced in New Haven by A.C. Gilbert.
915 Whitney Avenue, Hamden, CT 06517, 860-777-1833
Happy Holidays to your and your little conductors!
Originally published on 12/18/12.