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 25 - December 23, 2017
Fillmore and Western Railway is the Southland's ultimate vintage train resource and offers three 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 25-December 23, 2017
Adults $30; Kids 2-12 $20; Under 23 months 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, and cookies and milk. Kids can come in pajamas but should definitely bring warm coats.
Ho ho ho! Photo courtesy of Fillmore Western Railway Company
Christmas Tree Train
November 25-December 10, 2017
Adults $26; Kids 4-12 $16; Kids 2-3 $12
The vintage train carries passengers to a Christmas tree farm where they can choose a tree (priced separately). Santa is on board this train, to visit with the kids.
Dinner with Santa
December 20-22, 2017
Adults $55; Kids 2-12 $30; Kids under 2 free on lap (meal not included)
The ultimate train and Santa Claus experience, this ride offers a chance to ride and dine with old Kris Kringle. He has to eat sometime, right?
SoCal Live Steamers
December 16, 2017
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 24-December 30, 2017 (except Dec 24 & 25)
Griffith Park and Southern Railroad's holiday lights train is back for the 2017 season! The train runs nightly from 5pm-8pm Mon-Thu, and 5pm-9pm Fri-Sun, weather permitting. Tickets are $4 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
December 1-17, 2017
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.
Irvine Park Railroad
Irvine Regional Park
December 1-23, 2017
$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