Polar Express Train Rides and Christmas Trains near NYC in 2022

Join a magical trip on the Polar Express train ride with the Whippany Railway. Photo courtesy of the Whippany Railway
Join a magical trip on the Polar Express train ride with the Whippany Railway. Photo courtesy of the Whippany Railway

The magic of Chris Van Allsburg’s popular Christmas picture book The Polar Express comes to life again this winter with festive Polar Express train rides, Christmas trains, and holiday trolleys within a whistle's blow of the New York City metro area. A huge hit with kids and parents alike, these Christmas trains near New York City spark the imagination and holiday spirit with seasonal snacks, stories, and even gifts—not to mention a visit from Santa himself.

Old-school cabooses—some harking back to the 1920s—offer a classic holiday ambiance. No matter which Polar Express train ride you choose, your family can combine an annual Santa Claus photo-op with the lasting memories of a holiday adventure.

These Christmas train rides sell out quickly, often months in advance, so book now if you want to go. Find more regional Polar Express and Christmas train rides on our New Jersey and Philadelphia sites, and plenty more seasonal offerings in our Holiday Guide.

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Polar Express and Christmas Trains in New York

1. The Catskill Christmas Express – Kingston

Select dates from Friday, November 18-Wednesday, December 28
1 hour, 40 minutes from Midtown Manhattan by car
Relive the classic children's book during your ride aboard this Polar Express train ride courtesy of the Catskill Mountain Railroad. Once you reach the North Pole in your 1950s vintage coach, it's all-aboard for Santa and his elves, who hand out the first gift of Christmas. Cookies, hot chocolate, and plenty of entertaining caroling are included.

2. Polar Express Airstream – Long Island

Sold out for 2022
We were so excited when we learned of this new Polar Express train that comes to you on Long Island, we wrote about it way back in June—and good thing, it sold out shortly thereafter. So, we're including it on this list as a good-to-know option for 2023! The premise is simple, rather than taking your family to ride the rails, The Long Island Airstream Experience comes to you, parking its modified Airstream trailer at your doorstep. Then, it's all-aboard to enjoy song-and-dance from Broadway-caliber actors who bring the story to life. The price point isn't cheap, but considering each experience can accommodate up to 30 guests, it's easy to share the fun and the cost with your whole crew!

Polar Express and Christmas Trains in New Jersey

3. The Polar Express – Whippany

Select dates from Wednesday, November 4-Friday, December 30
1 hour from Midtown Manhattan by car
Suit the kids up in their PJs to experience this most magical trip powered by the Morristown & Erie Railway. A ticket scores you live entertainment and holiday goodies like hot chocolate and shortbread. Kids receive a keepsake sleigh bell of their very own.

4. The Polar Express – Phillipsburg

Select dates from Friday, November 25-Sunday, December 18
1 hour, 20 minutes from Midtown Manhattan by car
The New York Susquehanna & Western Technical & Historical Society invites visitors to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of The Polar Express. Indeed, this Christmas train ride is set to the motion picture's soundtrack. Enjoy your hot cocoa and cookies as you listen to a retelling of the story before the kids meet Santa and receive their very own sleigh bells. Pajamas are encouraged.

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Polar Express train ride near NYC: The Santa Express
Don't miss the Santa Express, the Black & Western Railroad's most popular annual event.

5. The Santa Express – Flemington

Weekends from Sunday, November 20-Sunday, December 4
1 hour, 10 minutes from Midtown Manhattan by car
All-aboard the Black & Western Railroad for this excursion to the North Pole. Kids receive the traditional silver bell as the first gift of Christmas. Enjoy photo-ops with Santa and Mrs. Claus and golden ticket for every child, plus tons of fun photo-ops when you reach the North Pole Station.

6. The North Pole Express – Flemington

Weekends from Saturday, December 10-Saturday, December 24
1 hour, 10 minutes from Midtown Manhattan by car
Another beloved Polar Express train ride from the Black & Western Railroad, the North Pole Express includes all the fun of the Santa Express with a few more bells and whistles. Guests are treated to cookies and hot cocoa and enjoy a complimentary 4-by-6 photo from the photo booth in addition to photo-ops with Santa's sleigh, a 6-foot-tall wreath, and a Christmas tree. Enjoy your ride from coach class, premium coach class, first class, or the private use of the caboose!

7. The Santa Express – Cape May

Select dates from Friday, November 25-Friday, December 23
3 hours from Midtown Manhattan by car
The extra travel time to Cape May for a ride on Seashore Lines is well worth it for this Christmas train. All Santa Express trains feature the big guy himself, his trusty elves, and live entertainment. Book one of the first-class cars, and you'll also receive snack service. There are multiple departure locations within New Jersey; check the website when selecting your tickets.

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Ride the North Pole Express on the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad. Photo by Anthony Sinagoga for Visit Bucks County

Polar Express and Christmas Trains in Pennsylvania

8. North Pole Express ​– New Hope

Select dates from Saturday, November 12-Saturday, December 24
2 hours, 15 minutes from Midtown Manhattan by car
Enjoy an hour-long ride through scenic Bucks County in a meticulously restored, beautifully decorated vintage train pulled by a diesel locomotive, where families are treated to warm cookies and cocoa, caroling, and plenty of face time with Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and their elves at his workshop near the train station.

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Polar Express train ride near NYC: Santa's Paradise Express
Christmas at the Strasburg Rail Road features several unique and specialized holiday events.

9. Santa’s Paradise Express – Strasburg

Weekends from Saturday, November 19-Saturday, December 24
2 hours, 40 minutes from Midtown Manhattan by car
Tucked into the cozy countryside of Pennsylvania's Lancaster County, the Strasburg Rail Road offers a 45-minute jaunt with Santa and his friends, featuring stories, delicious treats (for purchase), and the first gift of the season. The Strasburg Rail Road also offers Christmas Tree Trains and a Night Before Christmas Train that offers varied holiday fun.

10. Santa’s Express – West Chester

Weekends from Saturday, November 19-Sunday, December 18
2 hours from Midtown Manhattan by car
Grab your holiday wish list and join Santa for a journey on the festively decorated (and heated!) train through the Chester Creek Valley. Santa greets everyone at Market Street Station and visits with all the passengers along the ride to Glen Mills and back. Along the way, enjoy live onboard entertainment.

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Polar Express train ride near NYC: Essex North Pole Express
For a classic Polar Express train ride, book the Essex North Pole Express in the early fall before the perenially popular train sells out. Photo courtesy of the Essex North Pole Express

Trolley and Christmas Train Rides in Connecticut

11. The Essex North Pole Express – Essex

Fridays through Sundays from Friday, November 18-Friday, December 23
2 hours, 40 minutes from Midtown Manhattan by car
The hugely popular North Pole Express in Essex, Connecticut, regularly sells out and 2022 is no exception. Bookmark the site and plan to log on in September 2023 if you want to nab tickets for this special adventure, which lets guests enjoy a locomotive-powered sleigh for a special evening trip straight to the North Pole. Passengers enjoy live musical performances of The Night Before Christmas, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and festive treats. Plus, each child receives a small gift from Santa.

12. Trolley Museum Winterfest and Tunnel of Lights – East Windsor

Fridays through Sundays from Friday, November 25-Friday, December 30
2 hours by car from Midtown Manhattan
For a festive journey of a different sort, head to the Connecticut Trolley Museum for a ride in your choice of a closed or open-air "electric sleigh," where you belt out Christmas carols and enjoy the twinkling lights overhead. The Visitors Center is decked out with seasonal decorations, and holiday music fills the air as you explore. Make sure to sneak in a visit with Santa and collect your gift.

13. Santa Express and Northern Lights Limited – Thomaston

Fridays through Sundays from Friday, November 25-Friday, December 23
2 hours by car from Midtown Manhattan
Travel through the chilly wilderness on the Naugatuck Railroad on either the daytime Santa Express or the evening Northern Lights Limited. Both train rides include visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and depending on which package you choose, there all also other treats available including hot chocolate, gift bags, and caroling with the elves.

Find more New England holiday trains on our Mommy Poppins sister sites.

A version of this post was published in 2017; it is updated annually. Photos courtesy of the railways

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