The Polar Express is a beloved holiday story (and movie), and railroads in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are offering Polar Express-inspired rides for families. Here's where you should look if you're interested in planning an outing to the tracks.
For the most faithful reenactment of The Polar Express, head to the Whippany station in New Jersey. During the hour-long trip on the Morristown & Erie Railway, train conductors will punch your child's golden ticket and dancing chefs will serve up steaming mugs of hot chocolate and delicious cookies. There will be carol sing-alongs and more holiday entertainment. Passengers will also participate in a read-along of the story and receive collectible silver sleigh bells to keep. The trains are wheelchair accessible.
Through Dec. 31, Whippany Station, 1 Railroad Plaza, Whippany, N.J. $40 to $70. 973-419-6255, whippanythepolarexpressride.com
The New Hope & Ivyland Railroad is offering two holiday train rides this season: the North Pole Express and Santa's Steam Spectacular. Both trips feature carol sing-alongs, hot cocoa and cookies and visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus. The North Pole Express will be pulled by a vintage diesel locomotive, while Santa's Steam Spectacular will be powered by a steam engine. Passengers are encouraged to wear pajamas for this relaxing ride, and photo packages will be available for purchase at the end of the trip. Passengers over 18 can also ride along with the engineer and conductor in the diesel locomotive on the North Pole Express (limit one passenger per trip).
Through Dec. 31, New Hope & Ivyland Railroad, 32 W. Bridge St., New Hope. $55 to $105. 215-862-2332, newhoperailroad.com
The oldest continuously operating railroad in the western hemisphere is running Santa's Paradise Express this month. Mrs. Claus will be on hand at the station to help your little ones polish their letters to Santa. Kids will meet Mr. Claus himself during the 45-minute steam train ride, on which Santa and his helper will pass out presents to kids 11 and younger. Also included with your ticket is a ride on the Tinsel Trolley, a self-propelled motorcar, and storybook readings in a stationary caboose.
11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Strasburg Rail Road, 301 Gap Rd., Ronks, Pa. $13 to $32. 866-725-9666, strasburgrailroad.com
Ride through the Secret Valley on Santa's Polar Bear Express with Colebrookdale Railroad Co. Hot chocolate and Christmas cookies will be served, and your kids will be able to write and pass letters to Santa during the two-hour ride. If you reserve seats in the dining car, brunch, lunch and dinner will be served on the trips. You can also opt for the 'Twas the Night Before Christmas train ride, which features Christmas music, hot chocolate, and a present for every child.
Through Dec. 23, Colebrookdale Railroad Co., 43 S. Chestnut St., Boyertown, Pa. $34 to $65. 866-289-4021, colebrookdalerailroad.com
While the Wilmington & Western Railroad's Santa Express has sold out, you can still take a ride on its Holiday Lights Express in a vintage coach train, which will be covered in thousands of Christmas lights. Many of the houses next to the tracks decorate their homes, and it's a warm, cozy way to see some light displays.
Through Dec. 23, and then Dec. 26 through 30, Wilmington & Western Railroad, 2201 Newport Gap Pike, Wilmington. $11 to $13. 302-998-1930, wwrr.com
The Santa Express runs round trip between Tuckahoe and Richland, N.J. Santa will be on board — kids are encouraged to bring their letters, and parents are encouraged to bring their cameras. Traveling with lots of little ones? Santa Express offers a limited number of shorter trips.