Marvel at model trains zipping through an enchanting display of more than 175 famous New York landmarks at the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens.  Photo by author
Marvel at model trains zipping through an enchanting display of more than 175 famous New York landmarks at the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens. Photo by author

Best Holiday Train Shows in NYC for Kids: NYBG Train Show and Beyond

Holiday train shows are a quintessential holiday tradition in NYC, but like much else in 2020, there are big changes to our favorite train shows this season. Most notably, capacity limits mean the big annual train show at the New York Botanical Garden is limited to members, patrons, and community partners.

Still, train lovers of all ages can take in the annual show at the New-York Historical Society and enjoy some virtual programming from the New York Transit Museum.

Consider taking the kids on a full-size Christmas train ride with these nearby Polar Express and Christmas trains and trolleys for an extra special holiday treat.

Editor's note: While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and maintaining an appropriate distance. If you arrive at an event that appears too crowded, try using the “nearby” search feature on our Event Calendar to find something else to do. Keep in mind, reservations are required for many of these events, so plan your outings in advance, and be sure to click through to our listing for all the details, including address, time, and pricing.

RELATED: Must-Do Holiday and Christmas Events for New York City Kids in 2020


The New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Show is the largest and most elaborate in NYC. Photo courtesy of NYBG.

New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Show – Bronx Park

New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Boulevard
Through Sunday, January 31, 2021
This train show is the city's tour de force, and this year, New York landmarks, including Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge, take center stage. If you're interested in signing up for a membership to snag tickets, membership prices start at $145 for a family, but if that's out of reach, the NYBG is offering all visitors a special holiday gift: A new holiday light show, NYBG Glow illuminates the sky and uses the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory as its canvas, so there's still reason to visit this season, even if you can't get train show tickets.

RELATED: Guide to Holiday and Christmas Events for NYC Families


The New-York Historical Society is once again back with the popular Holiday Express Display. Photo by Drew Kristofik

Holiday Express at the New-York Historical Society — Upper West Side

New-York Historical Society, Central Park West at 76th St
Friday, November 27, 2020–Sunday, February 21, 2021
The New-York Historical Society is back with its popular Holiday Express display showcasing its Jerni Collection of trains, buildings, figures, and decor. The installation highlights American and European toymakers' designs dating as far back as the turn of the 19th century. New this year are Marklin's Onion Dome Station and Grand Station. Kids can check out fun animations about the toys, plus a bench made especially for the exhibit inspired by a sleigh in the New-York Historical's collection.

The New York Transit Museum Remote Learning Resouces – Online

Ongoing
With both the Downtown Brooklyn main location and Transit Museum Annex at Grand Central still shuttered, the popular annual FREE train show is a no-go this year. Instead, introduce your kids to the Transit Museum's virtual train-inspired programming programs for all ages, including Transit Tots on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a Special Day Online on Saturday, November 21, where kids with disabilities and their families can enjoy transit-related tunes, activities, and a virtual tour of the museum's collection of vintage train cars. Virtual field trip topics can be streamed at any time and include subjects like Journey to the Past, Miles of Tiles, and more.

This post, originally published in November 2009, is updated annually. 

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