A train ride through the Pacific Northwest is spectacular through the holiday season. Think: The Polar express! Magical excursions by rail occur all throughout the end of the year. So grab your little railroad enthusiast and get ready to purchase your golden tickets to one of the season’s most beloved experiences. Read on to find out where you can book your holiday family train ride in Portland—your kids may even find themselves sitting next to Santa himself.

photo: Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum via yelp

Washington Park and Zoo Railway Zoo Lights
This train ride runs year-round. It offers a 6-minute excursion that is perfect for the littlest locomotive lovers in your household. The regular daytime zoo loop offers an overview of the animals and the rides last just long enough for the wiggliest ones in your crew. While you can take this train ride all year long, it turns into something special during the holiday season! The holidays just wouldn’t be the holidays in Portland with out a spin on the Zoolights run. This ride gives you the best view of the dazzling display of more than 1.5 million lights in the zoo. In addition to visiting elephants, mountain goats and other wildlife, you can ride the popular lighted train and carousel, and enjoy hot drinks and local food carts. Photos with Santa will be available for the little ones every evening through Dec. 24 starting Nov. 29.

4001 Sw Canyon Rd.
Rates: general $4 and $3.50 for members
Online: www.oregonzoo.org

photo: Patrick Dirden via Flickr 

Mt. Hood Railroad Train to Christmas Town
Get an exceptional train experience on this awe-inspiring locomotive. The full-sized train takes passengers on a winding journey through woods, orchards and vineyards where they delight at the beauty of the changing season. While Mt. Hood Railroad offers year-round rides, it’s holiday excursion, The Train to Christmas Town, is exceptional. The magic begins the minute you board with music and singing. You’ll meet book characters like Bumblebee the cuddly polar bear and the postman delivering letters to Santa. As if that wasn’t enough,elves dance in the aisles leading sing-alongs to Christmas songs. And wheyou hear the “Chocolate Christmas” song begin to play it’s time for cookies and hot chocolate to be served!

When you finally arrive at Christmas Town you get to wave to Santa and his elves before they climb aboard to walk through the rail cars to greet each boy and girl and present them with a special gift. Make sure to buy your tickets early for this seasonal experience.

110 Railroad St.
Hood River
Rates: Standard Class $47
First Class: $57/
Diamond Class $67
(800) 872-4661
Online: www.mthoodrr.com

Chehalis Centralia Railroad & Museum Holiday Rides
Whether you are looking for a classic Polar Express experience or a chance to meet Santa while riding the rails, the Chehalis Centralia Railroad & Museum has you covered. The Polar Express trains feature the reading of the popular book “The Polar Express” during a Christmas themed trek to the North Pole, where Santa gets picked up for the return trip. Each child will be given the first gift of Christmas by Santa on the way back to the depot. The Santa Holiday Train is approximately 30 minutes long, with Santa visiting everybody during the train ride. Photo opportunities are available before and after each trip.

1101 SW Sylvenus St,
Chehalis, WA
Rates: $38/all ages for The Poloar Express; $15/all ages for Santa Holiday Train
Online: steamtrainride.com/the-polar-express-train/

photo: Tonya S. via yelp

Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad Candy Cane Express
During the the warm weather months, you may have enjoyed taking this train from Garibaldi to Rockaway beach, where breathtaking ocean views from the comfort of a train car were the icing on the cake. During the holiday season excursions take experiencing the area’s natural beauty to the next level with the Candy Cane Express. Passengers take in spectacular views from this steam-powered excursion. Santa visits one-on-one with each family to spread the cheer! The train is lit up with Christmas lights to add festivity to the evening trips.

Information and Locations: www.oregoncoastscenic.org/contact.html
Tickets: Purchase Here.
Rates: $22/adult, $15/child
Online: www.oregoncoastscenic.org

Oregon Rail Heritage Center Holiday Express
From Nov. 29-Dec. 15,  you can join Santa Claus and his elves for a magical ride behind Portland’s famous steam locomotives. Vintage rail cars transport you along the Willamette River in the heart of the city. Trains travel on the Oregon Pacific Railroad along the Willamette River in SE Portland and he interiors of the passenger cars are decorated with garland, ornaments, and lights that will dazzle both little and big holiday lovers. Of course, the big treat is getting to share a ride with Santa on board! Book your seat now!

2250 SE Water Ave.
Rates: $22/adult, $16/child
Online: orhf.org/events/holiday-express/

photo: Michale B. via nwlens.com (via Flickr)  

Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum
Located only two hours away from Portland, just south of the stunning Mt. Rainier National Park in the town of Elbe, Washington, this train ride provides guests a year-round one-of-a-kind steam train ride experience through the forests and across the glacial-fed Upper Nisqually River.The ride stops at the Museum where your little train enthusiast can enjoy checking out the collection of steam logging locomotives and learning all about the history of the pioneers of railroad logging camps in the early to mid-1900’s. When the holidays roll around, you’ll want to book your seat on The Polar Express . This ride is set the movie’s soundtrack and comes with hot chocolate, cookies and a reading of The Polar express. Santa will greet passengers when they arrive at “The North Pole.” It’s sure to become a family favorite.


54124 Mountain Hwy E.
Rates: $54/adult, $34/child
Online: mtrainierrailroad.com

-—Annette Benedetti

featured image: Train to Christmas Town


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