Trains in Los Angeles are more or less novelties all year round, which means they hold onto that wonderful Thomas-the-Tank-Engine, Polar-Express mystique far longer for LA kids than for urban kids who take the A train regularly. And for anyone who loves trains, Christmas trains offer the ultimate "old world charm" rail experience. Add an appearance by Santa Claus and a few Christmas trees, and you have a recipe for a memorable holiday experience. Some of the dates are limited, though, so booking ahead when possible is the best way to make sure this train doesn't pass you by. All aboard the Santa Express!
Fillmore and Western Railway
November 24-December 26, 2018
Fillmore and Western Railway is the Southland's ultimate vintage train resource and offers two different (full-sized) Christmas train experiences. Reservations are required on all excursions; follow the individual links for specific dates and times. You can take it as a given, of course, that any time you see Santa is a photo op.
The North Pole Express
November 24-December 26, 2018
Adults $32; Kids 2-12 $22; Under 2 on adult lap free
Families ride a vintage train to the snowy "North Pole" to find Santa Claus and his elves hard at work. The ride also includes Christmas carols, storytellers, cookies and milk, and a visit from Santa. Kids can come in pajamas but should definitely bring warm coats.
Sugar Plum Express Holiday Village & Tree Train
November 24-December 23, 2018
Adults $26; Kids 4-12 $16; Kids 2-3 $12; Under 2 on adult lap free
The vintage train carries passengers to a Holiday Village, where they can choose a pre-cut tree, purchase gifts, enjoy the new Winter Wonderland walk-thru, hop on the Holiday Jolly Jumpers, see Santa's Workshop, and take a hayride (all priced separately). Santa is on board this train, to visit with the kids.
SoCal Live Steamers
December 15, 2018
The South Bay's monthly model train ride expands to a Starlight Ride for the holiday. Not only is the ride through the park a treat, it helps to stretch your holiday budget; the afternoon train ride is free, and the evening event costs only $7.
Holiday Light Festival Train Ride
November 23-December 30, 2018 (except Dec 24 & 25)
Griffith Park and Southern Railroad's holiday lights train runs nightly from 5pm-8pm Mon-Thu, and 5pm-9pm Fri-Sun, weather permitting. Tickets are $5 per person.
RELATED: Christmas Boat Parades around LA & Orange County
All aboard! Photo courtesy of Orange Empire Railway Museum
Train to Santa's Workshop
Orange Empire Railway Museum
November 29-December 16, 2018
Adults $20; Kids 2-11 $15
Orange Empire Railway Museum hosts a magical train ride and visit with Santa Claus at his North Pole workshop. Elves lead families in Christmas songs and activities, then Santa greets them as they arrive at the workshop. Children can enjoy Thomas train tables, a child-powered roller coaster, and Christmas crafts with the Claus family.
Photo courtesy of Irving Park Railroad
Irvine Park Railroad
Irvine Regional Park
November 30-December 23, 2018
$15 (24 months and younger free)
Irvine Regional Park's annual Christmas Train offers a night ride through the historic park to meet Santa Claus at his Village. The train departs from the brightly-lit station house, and while kids are waiting they can enjoy storytime and coloring with Mrs. Claus, a bounce house, and carnival games (activity tickets are $5 each). Hot chocolate and snacks are on hand as well. Tickets are only available in advance online ($7.50 fee per order); this year tickets are not being sold in person.
Check out what else is going on this Christmas season in our holiday fun guide!
Originally published December 10, 2013