Every kid loves the magic of the holidays. Why not add extra sparkle this year with a train ride on the North Pole Express? From cocoa and cookies to carolers and jolly old St. Nick, your little elves can ride the rails this Christmas season. Choo-choo through our slideshow and climb aboard one of these 6 enchanting train adventures with your crew. Tip: Get your tickets after you read this, as everyone is loco for these locomotives!

photo: NCTD Coaster

Coaster Holiday Express Train

Jolly old St. Nick is visiting the North County Coaster this year (and he's bringing the Snow Queen and Ice Princess!) Little elves can tell Santa what they want for Christmas. There will be carolers, garland and delightful decorations. Hop on this 65-minute magical journey departing from the Oceanside Transit Center. Tickets go on sale Nov. 8th at 9 a.m. Be quick to purchase online or in Oceanside, they sold out in just a few hours last year.

Dates: Dec. 8 & 9
Times: Sat., 10 a.m., Noon & 2 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. & Noon
Cost: $14/person

North County Transit District
195 S. Tremont St.
Oceanside, CA 92054
Online: gonctd.com/HolidayExpress


photo: Anna Butera

North Pole Limited

Hurry! This magical train ride to the North Pole sells out quickly––so purchase tickets as soon as you can! Once aboard, you'll find plenty of little elves running around this locomotive singing merrily. Make a list (and check it twice!) to be ready when Santa and Mrs. Claus hop aboard. You'll drink cocoa and eat cookies while listening to a Christmas story. Remember to dress your little one in his/her best holiday pajamas for this dreamy trip to meet jolly old St. Nicholas.

North Pole Limited Trains: Nov. 30-Dec. 22; Fridays and Saturdays
Cost: $35-$50/adult; $25-$40/child (3-12 years old); $10/toddler (2 and under, riding on lap)

Campo Depot
750 Depot St.
Campo, CA 91906
619-478-9937 (weekends only)
Online: psrm.org

Christmas Train at Poway Park

Not only is it a holiday train ride, it's an entire extravaganza! Poway's Christmas in the Park event has everything from a tree lighting and carriage rides to bountiful food, festive music, crafts and of course a grand visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Hop on the speeder train and marvel at the model trains too. Be sure to show up for this festive, charming celebration that feels like you've stepped back in time.

Date: Dec. 8, 3:30–8:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

Christmas in the Park
Old Poway Park
14134 Midland Rd.
Poway, CA 92064
Online: poway.org

Train to Santa's Workshop

Mrs. Claus will greet you upon arrival with refreshments. Littles can write a letter to Santa while waiting for the train. Sing Christmas songs (led by the elves), play holiday trivia games and listen to stories on the way to Santa's workshop. Once there, you'll find plenty of activities to keep your little sugar plums busy while they wait to talk to the big guy.

Dates: Nov.30-Dec 16, Thurs.-Sun.
Train Times: Thurs. & Fri., 5:30 p.m. & 7 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Cost: $20/person; $15/child (2-11 years old)

Orange Empire Railroad Museum
2201 S. A St.
Perris, CA 92570
Online: oerm.org

Irvine Park Christmas Train

'Tis the season to board the Christmas Train. Depart the twinkling train station at historic Irvine Park. Then, travel to the North Pole to meet Old St. Nick where littles can recite their wish list while you take a photo. Afterwards, you'll head home on the train through the mystical tunnel of lights to arrive back at Santa's Village. Note: You must buy tickets online in advance.

Dates: Nov. 30- Dec. 23
Cost: $15/person (for train); children 24 months and under free
Tickets available online starting Nov. 1.

Irvine Regional Park
1 Irvine Park Rd.
Orange, CA 92869
Online: irvineparkrailroad.com

Carlsbad Premium Outlets Train

If you don't make a big holiday train ride, this little gem at the Carlsbad Outlet Mall is terrific for tots. Plus, you can whittle down that presents-to-get list at the same time. We get that there's not a Santa on this mini train––however, you'll find his big workshop right next door. It's a win-win for the whole crew.

5620 Paseo del Norte
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Online: premiumoutlets.com
Cost: $2/adult; $4/child

—Nikki Walsh


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