Take a train ride with Santa aboard the Paradise Express. Photo courtesy of Strasburg Rail Road, Facebook
Take a train ride with Santa aboard the Paradise Express. Photo courtesy of Strasburg Rail Road, Facebook

12 Polar Express and Christmas Trains Near DC

Nothing adds magic to the holiday season quite like a festive train ride. To help your family experience that magic, we've rounded up 12 Polar Express and Christmas trains near DC. From trains that transport you to Christmas tree farms to those that bring classic Christmas stories to life, these Polar Express and Christmas trains near DC will make even your Grinchiest family member's heart grow three sizes. And all of them are within a three-hour drive from the DC area.

While these Polar Express and Christmas trains near DC run on multiple dates and times, many of them sell out quickly, so be sure to purchase tickets as soon as possible. Some of them offer different seating options at various price points, which can be found when booking online. And don't forget to check the trains' Covid policies and updates before heading out.

For more fun on the rails, check out our list of 10 fall train rides for Washington, DC families.

Christmas Tree Trains Near DC

1. Tannenbaum Christmas Tree Train (Northern Central Railway) — New Freedom, PA

Saturdays & Sundays, November 20-December 5; Friday, November 26; Monday, November 29
On this train ride just under a two-hour drive from DC, a replica steam-engine train takes passengers on a picturesque 45-minute ride through Southern York County while Christmas music plays. Santa himself may even make an appearance! Upon arrival at Bricker's Tree Farm, passengers can cut their own Christmas tree or choose one of many pre-cut trees. There are also fresh wreaths and garlands for purchase, but bring cash—credit cards are not accepted. All purchases are loaded onto the train for the journey back to the station, where the crew helps passengers tie the trees onto their vehicles.

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2. Strasburg Rail Road Christmas Tree Train — Strasburg, PA

Fridays & Saturdays, November 26-December 4
Travel on an authentic steam train to Leaman Place Grove to choose the perfect pre-cut Christmas tree on this Christmas Tree Train. After selecting a Frasier fir, passengers can sing along to Christmas carols around a campfire. On evening trips, old-fashioned Edison lights illuminate the way around the grove and add to the ambience. Passengers can watch as their trees are baled and loaded onto the freight car for the journey back to the station. Upon arrival, the crew unloads the trees and helps passengers tie them to their vehicles. The Strasburg Rail Road is located about 2.5 hours from DC by car.

3. West Chester Railroad Christmas Tree Train — West Chester, PA

Sundays, November 28 - December 12
West Chester Railroad's heated and festively decorated Christmas Tree Train departs the station in West Chester, Pennsylvania (about a 2 hour and 40-minute drive from DC) promptly at 8am to take passengers to Wiggins Tree Farm, where they can cut their own Christmas tree. During the journey, passengers can enjoy hot chocolate, coffee, and donuts. All trees cost $50 for train passengers, and the crew helps load Christmas trees onto vehicles at the end of the trip.

Polar Express and Christmas Trains Near DC

 
Passengers aboard B&O Railroad's Polar Express will feel like they are really part of the classic story. Photo courtesy of the B&O Railroad Museum, Flickr

4. The Polar Express (B&O Railroad Museum) — Baltimore, MD

Fridays-Sundays, November 19-December 19; Thursday, December 2
Chris Van Allsburg's classic book The Polar Express comes to life from the moment passengers climb aboard this train, when the conductor punches their golden tickets. Once aboard, passengers can indulge In hot chocolate and cookies and receive the first gift of Christmas from Santa himself. Note that strobe lights are briefly used during the journey as scenes from the book are brought to life.

5. Santa Train (Walkersville Southern Railroad) — Walkersville, MD

Saturdays & Sundays, November 27-December 19
Bring a camera to catch the excitement of meeting Santa on this magical train ride about a 75-minute drive from DC. During the 1 hour, 10-minute journey aboard the festively decorated train, Santa and his helpers pass out a small gift to every child while Christmas music plays in the background.

 
You never know when Santa and Mrs. Claus will show up on the Santa Express. Photo courtesy of Northern Central Railway, Facebook

6. Santa Express (Northern Central Railway) — New Freedom, PA

Saturdays & Sundays, December 11-19
On this one-hour ride aboard a festively decorated steam-engine train, riders are treated to a reading of the holiday favorite 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. While Christmas music plays, Santa arrives to meet with all passengers. Back at the station, Christmas cookie-decorating kits are available for purchase, or they can be preordered on the website by December 9.

7. The Polar Express (Western Maryland Scenic Railroad) — Cumberland, MD

Fridays-Sundays, November 26-December 18; Monday-Thursday, December 20-23
The beloved children's book and movie The Polar Express comes alive on this train ride to "the North Pole," for which passengers are encouraged to wear their favorite pajamas. Listen to the original movie soundtrack while eating cookies and sipping hot chocolate. There is also a reading of the book, as well as singing and dancing to Christmas favorites. Santa makes an appearance and gives each passenger a silver sleigh bell, which—if you know the story—can only be heard by those who believe.

8. Santa's Paradise Express (Strasburg Rail Road) — Strasburg, PA

Saturdays & Sundays, November 20-December 19; Fridays, November 26 and December 24
Ride to Paradise, Pennsylvania and back on this 45-minute train excursion. The train is decorated for the holidays, and there are readings of favorite Christmas stories until Santa makes his grand entrance and gives a special gift to all children age 11 and under. Passengers sitting in the President's Car can purchase drinks and treats, while those who buy tickets for the Dining Car can choose a sandwich and dessert at booking. Back at the station, explore the Tinsel Trolley or the stationary caboose, or take a ride on the pint-sized Pufferbelly and Cranky Cars.

 
Storytime is truly special on Strasburg Rail Road's Night Before Christmas Train. Photo courtesy of Strasburg Rail Road, Facebook

9. Night Before Christmas Train (Strasburg Rail Road) — Strasburg, PA

Friday, December 3; Thursday-Sunday, December 9-12; Thursday, December 16 - Thursday, December 23
Listen to the classic poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas on this one-hour journey aboard a decorated holiday train, where drinks and treats are available for purchase. Back at the station, Mrs. Claus is available to help children with their Christmas lists. Bring a self-addressed, stamped, unsealed envelope so your child can receive a personalized response in the mail. Mrs. Claus also reads holiday classics during a special storytime.

10. Santa's Christmas Trolley (Strasburg Rail Road) — Strasburg, PA

Thursdays & Fridays, December 2-17; Monday-Thursday, December 20-23
Take a 45-minute ride with Santa and his chief elf aboard a restored 1915 motorcar that's all decked out for Christmas. Kids 11 and under can have a professional photo taken with Santa. Each family receives a keepsake 5x7 photo when they arrive back at the station.

 
Travel to the North Pole aboard the North Pole Express. Photo courtesy of Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad, Facebook

11. North Pole Express (Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad) — Romney, WV

Fridays-Sundays, November 19-December 19; Monday-Thursday, December 20-23
This 75-minute, interactive train ride includes milk and freshly baked cookies courtesy of Mrs. Claus, readings of favorite Christmas stories, and Christmas caroling. Santa boards at the North Pole and gives a special gift to each child. Back at the station, the fun doesn't end: There's an event barn with several holiday-themed activities, a Nativity scene, cocoa and hot cider for purchase, and even fresh-cut Christmas trees to buy and take home. There's also a station where kids can write their Christmas list, check it twice, and send it to Santa. The Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad is less than a 2.5-hour drive from DC.

12. Santa's Express (West Chester Railroad) — West Chester, PA

Saturdays & Sundays, November 20-December 19; Friday, November 26
Journey through Chester Creek Valley aboard Santa's Express. Parking can be tricky in this town less than a three-hour drive from DC, but the railroad has its own parking lot just past the station. Santa makes an appearance aboard the heated and festively decorated train, so don't forget your Christmas list! Light refreshments are available for purchase during the journey, or food can be preordered from Lorenzo and Sons Pizza for takeout before the train departs (mention that you're a train passenger for a discount).

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