Holiday Train Rides: Santa Trains and Polar Express


We know what you’re thinking…we are adjusting to a new form of school and it’s time for holiday train rides with Santa?! Modifications due to COVID-19 have been made and registration is now open for many of these experiences. This is a popular holiday tradition that you won’t want to miss out on even though it may be slightly different this year.

Take a step back in time to experience the wonder of the holiday season by hopping aboard a train or trolley. Prepare for some old-fashioned fun and have a one-of-kind adventure on these unique locomotives. In addition to the train or trolley ride, many of these events also include a variety of other festive activities.

The information provided below is intended as a resource and things could change at any time. Be sure to check the details (dates, time, pricing, etc.) directly with the business.


Polar Express Rides

Although it will require some travel to reach the following train station locations, the experience is completely worth it. These magical rides often sell out, so purchase your tickets early. {When traveling at night, it may be dark outside making it harder to see anything outside of the train windows.}

Cuyahoga Scenic Valley Railroad

Features: This event sells out VERY quickly! Departures for the Polar Express leave from 2 stations-  the Rockside Station and Akron Northside Station. The trains are full of Christmas fun and activity on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway. The train pulls into the lighted North Pole. It is a 30-mile trip that takes 2 hours. Cookies and hot cocoa along with the story of the Polar Express are some of the features! In the past, there are three levels of seating to choose from starting at $47 dollars. Tickets go on sale to the general public in October and more information to follow about COVID guidelines.

Location: Independence, OH and Akron, Ohio (all about 2 hours from Columbus)

2020 Dates:

More information to be updated in October. The train is closed until September 30, 2020.

Cost: Tickets start at $47 per person and sell out QUICK! Prices will be updated in October if possible. (CVSR members get early ticket access in September.)

Website: Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

LM&M Railroad

Features: During the hour-long journey, Santa and his elves will make their way through the train spending time with each family. Every child will receive a bell from Santa’s sleigh and a cookie. Bring your camera for pictures with Santa. Balloon artists will also be on board the train. It’s a true Polar Express Experience! Hot chocolate is included with a mug to take home too! There are two types of seating- deluxe and Lackawanna seating. 

Location: Lebanon, OH (1 hour and 15 minutes from Columbus) 

2020 Dates:

    • The LM&M Railroad continues to actively monitor the outbreak of coronavirus. After careful consideration, the Management Team has decided to resume operations in December, 2020 with a shortened North Pole Express season (more details, along with ticket information, to come in the following weeks). Upon resuming operations, all LM&M Railroad employees will be following best practices and extra safety precautions as detailed by our local health authority and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) regarding stopping the spread of Covid-19.

Cost from last year: Prices start at $22 for children and adults and $26 for adults. Deluxe coach seats will be an additional cost. An increase may occur on certain times which will be reflected on the pricing page.

Website:  LM&M Railroad

The Polar Express at Dennison Railroad Depot 

Features: Wear pajamas and board the train headed for the North Pole! On this exciting train ride, storytellers will read the Polar Express and elves will entertain with songs, games and activities. Hot Cocoa and chocolate chip cookies will be served. Before returning home, Santa will board the train to visit each child and give them a special jingle bell. They are offering the opportunity to rent an entire private First Class Car for your group. The coach can seat up to 28 people, and the cost is $3,000. There is only one private First Class Car per trip, so don’t delay in calling! It is a 40-mile trip that takes 90 minutes.

Location: Dennison, OH (2 hours from Columbus)

2020 Dates: COVID precautions will be put in place and they will be only selling half of the tickets.

December 4th, 5th, 6th, 11th, 12th, and 13th, 2020

Departure Times:   

Friday trips depart at 6pm and 8pm.

Saturday and Sunday trips depart at 2pm, 4pm, 6pm and 8pm.

Cost: $42 and up

Website: Dennison Depot

Hocking Valley Scenic Railroad Santa Train

Features: Depart from Nelsonville Station on this 20 mile, 2-hour round trip adventure. Santa visits each child as the train rolls along the valley. Children also receive a candy treat during the ride. This is a 40-year-old tradition! {Tip from a CM writer-we took this train at night and since it was dark you couldn’t see anything outside. There wasn’t singing or much entertainment while onboard so my children were bored at times. A daytime trip on this train might be a better option.}

NOTICE: Athens County has been designated as being at ORANGE ALERT level 2. Passengers are asked to wear a mask unless medical conditions prevent the use. They ask passengers to maintain social distancing when boarding the train and in your seat selection.

Location: Nelsonville, OH (1 hour from Columbus)

2020 Dates: Begins November 28, 2020. 

Cost: $16 for kids, $17 for seniors and $21 for adults

Website: Hocking Valley Scenic Railroad

North Pole Express at Northwest Ohio Railed Preservation 

Features: The short ride on a quarter-scale train runs through a Christmas wonderland of outdoor displays. This is a 1/2 mile track and the ride takes 10-15 minutes. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there on various nights. After taking a ride through the winter wonderland, families can visit the NWORRP gift shop and museum. This train is open-air and unheated so plan to dress accordingly or bring a blanket! This is a nice ride for those who may be short on time or have young children.

Location: Findley, Ohio (1 hour, 45 minutes from Columbus)

2020 Dates: 

November 27, 2020 – January 3, 2021: North Pole Express

Fridays & Saturdays 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Sundays 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $4.00 Adults and $3.00 Children

Website: Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation

Whitewater Valley Railroad

Features: Journey through the quiet countryside to stop at the North Pole and allow Santa to board The Polar Express. The experience length is 1.5 – 2 hours depending on train capacity.

Location: Connersville, Indiana (2 hours from Columbus)

2020 Dates: various dates beginning November 13, 2020 – December 19, 2020

Cost: $36 or $37 (depending on date) per person for ages 2 and up. Tickets are on sale now.

Website: Whitewater Valley Railroad

Holiday Trains

Huntington Holiday Train Display

Features: The beloved Huntington Holiday Train will be back on display at the Main Library if the library is able to open. Check the library website for operating hours.

Location: Main Library

2020 Dates: Typically set up the week of Thanksgiving. Check their website for exact dates to see if library opens.

Cost: Free

Huntington train
Huntington Train

Santa in the Caboose at Historical Village at Weaver Park

Features: Enter the red caboose to interact and take photos with Santa in his suit from the 1800s. Historical Village will also be open with live music, art projects, refreshments and more.

Location: Hilliard, Ohio

2020 Date: They have not set a date for 2020, but do hope to hold the event!

Cost: Free

Annual Golden Spike Open House at The Depot

LocationThe Depot (921 Old Henderson Rd, Columbus, Ohio 43220)

Features: Tour the train cars decorated for the season, take a ride on the Scioto Railway through the decorated light display, enjoy light refreshments, work on a craft and watch a holiday movie.

2020 Date: They will be making modifications but plan to have the event this year as well. See their facebook page for updates.

Cost: Admission is typically a coat for the needy (hats, gloves and scarves are welcome) or 1 unwrapped gift per person for the benefit of Firefighters For Kids Toy Drive and TriVillage Chamber Coat Drive.

EnterTRAINMENT Junction

Location: West Chester, Ohio (North of Cincinnati)

Features: Here you’ll find the world’s largest indoor train display, the A-Maze-N Funhouse, play area and a Christmas Journey. This is a great spot with lots of activities to keep everyone entertained!

2020 Dates: Open year-round, but the Christmas Journey begins 11/14/20- 1/1/21.

Cost: Tickets start at $14.95


Celebrate the season by taking a festive trolley ride. This jolly experience is sure to get you in the holiday spirit.


Features: Jolly trolleys take riders to Clintonville area businesses for free and discounted goodies. The fun continues at Mozarts, the event headquarters, with hot cocoa, cookies, activities and visit from Santa himself.

Location: Clintonville

2020 Date: Date to be determined for 2020

Cost: Free

Discovery District Holiday Trolley Hop

Features: Ride the complimentary trolley through the popular Discovery District as it stops for shopping, crafts, tours and activities.

Location: Discovery District downtown Columbus

2020 Date: As of now, no events over 50 people so the 2020 will be updated if possible.

Cost: Free

Christmas Trolley
Discovery District Holiday Trolley Hop

Easton Town Center Trolley

Location: Easton Town Center

Features: Take a fun trolley ride around the beautifully decorated Easton Town Center grounds to take in the sights and sounds of the season. Rides are free, but tips are welcome to benefit charity.

Location: There are three designated pick up and drop off locations at Easton– across from the Brio Tuscan Grille in the south district, in front of Bon Vie in the north district, and at the Easton Gateway across Stelzer Road. While there, don’t miss the festive train display next to the 50 ft. Christmas tree.

2020 Dates: See their website for dates for 2020.

Cost: Tips help fund Easton’s Change for Charity Program.

These holiday train rides are bound to create everlasting memories. Again, please be sure to check their websites often as things may change due to COVID-19.

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Maureen Ingham
Maureen Ingham has enjoyed living in the great city of Columbus for nearly 13 years! Originally from Canton, Ohio, Maureen attended Ohio University and will always be a bobcat at heart! After completing her education degree in Athens, she made her way to The Ohio State University to obtain a Masters degree in Special Education. She fell in love with Columbus then and convinced her now husband to join her in this awesome city! She taught 5th grade for 6 years, before deciding to stay home to raise two beautiful girls. Their family has recently moved to Worthington with their two girls and are excited to plant their roots here! Their first daughter, Maeve is 6 and her sister, Reese will soon be 5 years old. They welcomed a son, Miles in March 2020. Maureen has been with The Columbus Moms Blog since the beginning and now enjoys working on editing and events for the blog. She also works as a Postpartum Doula with her sister at a company called Together Wee Grow. They provide night nursing services, as well as daytime support to local families and babies in Columbus. It is a wonderful job to work along her sister and help families with their precious little ones in a vulnerable time period. In between the night shifts, sweeping up crumbs, exploring Columbus, and getting kids to where they need to be, Maureen enjoys working out, trying new recipes and restaurants, traveling, spending time with family, being crafty and trying to help others whenever she can! Maureen has many Columbus favorites. Her go-to restaurant is Third and Hollywood, she enjoys a sweet treat at Sassafrass Bakery or Fox in the Snow, a slice of pizza at Dewey's Pizza and a warm cup of joe at Highline Coffee. A perfect Saturday involves an outdoor activity with her family and trying a new restaurant when they can! She is excited to be a part of an excellent team here at Columbus Moms blog and hopes to be able to inspire mothers that small acts of kindness go a long way in raising their kids and the city they live in!