Sure, you could head to the mall to snap the requisite shot with Santa.  But maybe this year you want something more adventurous.  More exciting.  More fun!  Santa must be a hobo at heart, because he can be found riding the rails all around town this season, and that’s the perfect place to fill him in on that expanding wish list.  All aboard for a unique Christmas adventure with the big guy.

irvineparkchristmas

photo credit: Irvine Park Railway

Choose Your Own Adventure at Fillmore and Western
Fillmore and Western Railway Company offers not one, not two, but three distinct ways to ride the rails with Santa.  Which will your little conductor choose?

Christmas Tree Train
Board an authentic train at the Fillmore station and enjoy the ride straight to the Santa Paula Christmas Tree Farm. During the 45-minute ride you can sit back and watch the scenery or grab a cup of hot cocoa while munching on tamales. Santa himself comes along for the ride, chatting with passengers and posing for pictures. He’ll even take those handwritten wish lists from the littlest riders.  At the tree farm, pick your own tree and it takes the ride on the rails home with you (and you don’t even have to buy it a ticket!). Train runs Saturdays and Sundays through December 21; departs at 10 a.m. & 2 p.m.

filmore

photo credit: Fillmore & Western Railway’s facebook page

Santa Shopper Train
The Santa Shopper Train takes you straight to Santa’s Village. Wear your jammies, bring your favorite teddy bear (or let the kids do that part) and enjoy the ride. Share some cookies and milk, and get ready to sing your favorite Christmas carols and when you arrive at Santa’s Village, Kris Kringle and his elves will be waiting to greet you. Train runs Saturdays and Sundays through December 21; departs at noon.

Chowing with the Claus
Forget leaving cookies, you can have a whole dinner with the big guy in red. Hop aboard the Dinner with Santa Train to join Santa for an up-close-and-personal dinner. Tickets include the train ride, dinner and dessert (kids younger than 2 are free; however, no meal is provided). Train runs December 19; departs 5:30 p.m.

Fillmore & Western Railway
364 Main St
., Fillmore
Phone: 805-524 – 2546
Online: fwry-blog.com/

mrandmrsclaus

photo credit: Irvine Park Railroad Website

Baby’s First Christmas Train at Irvine Park
We don’t need snow to have a winter wonderland in SoCal.  We have our very own, magically lit spot packed with bouncy houses, Christmas activities, story readings and a colorfully lit Christmas train.  The whole family will love riding the train that transports you to the North Pole to meet and greet the big guy himself. Then return to the station by chugging through a tunnel decorated with hundreds of Christmas lights. Once back at the station there are a ton of activities for the kiddos to enjoy like the Santa Bounce House Jumper, story time with Mrs. Claus, Christmas cookie decorating, Christmas carnival games, a Christmas coloring corner, and more.  We love this train for tots and toddlers – the ride isn’t too long and the activities are gentle, tasty and fun.  The train runs evenings (hours vary) through December 23.  Train tickets are $12, activity tickets are $5.

Good to know: Coupons for train ride and activities are available online.

Irvine Park Railroad
1 Irvine Park Rd., Orange
Online: irvineparkrailroad.com

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photo credit: Meghan Rose

A Posh Claus Ride on the Jolly Trolley
Jolly old St. Nick pays a visit to Beverly Hills again this year, and he’s bringing the Missus. Start the day with a ride on the Beverly Hills Trolley where Mrs. Claus will entertain with holiday stories and songs throughout the tour (departing at the top of the hour from Rodeo Drive & Dayton Way). Along the way, the trolley stops at The Paley Center for Media—hop off here for kids to meet the big man himself and enjoy some holiday cheer. Indulge in holiday drinks and sweet treats before heading into The Paley Center’s theater where nostalgic holiday television classics play on the big screen throughout the afternoon.  It’s fun to play tourist in your own hometown, and this is the perfect Santa ride with out of town guests.  The trolley runs weekends through through December 21.  Rides are $5/adult, $1/kids.

Santa at the Paley and Mrs. Claus on the Jolly Trolley
The corner of Rodeo Drive and Dalton Way, Beverly Hills
Online: lovebeverlyhills.com

Train to Santa's Workshop

photo credit: Orange Empire Railway Museum

Hop A Train to Santa’s Workshop
Get ready to board on a magical journey to Santa’s workshop courtesy of the Orange Empire Railway Museum. While on the train, indulge in holiday treats and sing along to classic Christmas tunes. Once you arrive, enjoy the carnival rides, crafts and games. Don’t forget to visit Mr. and and Mrs. Claus and get a behind the scenes look at Santa’s workshop. Be sure to set aside some time to explore the museum’s collection of railway locomotives, passenger and freight cars, streetcars, interurban electric cars, buildings and other artifacts dating from the 1870’s. There’s lots of open space for getting the wiggles out before hopping in the car to head home. We love this train for kids who are obsessed with all things that go “choo-choo.”  Train departs weekends through December 21 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  Tickets are $5-$15.

Orange Empire Railway Museum
2201 S. “A” St.
, Perris
Online: http://www.oerm.org

polarexpress

photo credit: Grand Canyon Railway

Journey to the North Pole via the Grand Canyon
The Polar Express Grand Canyon Railway is the ultimate holiday train experience replete with Santa, his elves, cookies, stories…you name it. While this popular destination trip fills up early, there are always a few dates available for the late birds (or you can plan for next year!).

During the holiday season, the historic train ride transforms itself into the illustrious Polar Express where kids can live inside the Chris Van Allsburg classic story.  In fact, there is always a reading of Polar Express while kids sip and munch on hot chocolate and cookies.  Music from the movie plays throughout the ride as the kids can color with Mrs. Claus and sing with the chefs.  Once they arrive at the North Pole, Santa will get on board to deliver each child a surprise gift (their very own bell from Santa’s sleigh! Shhhhhh).  Be sure to take advantage of photo-ops with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the entertaining chefs, too.

The train departs from Williams, Arizona and you can choose from train tickets alone, or getaway packages complete with hotel and/or meals.  Get all the details here.

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-Christina Fiedler

Did we miss anything? Tell us about your favorite holiday train rides in the comments below.