Holiday Train Rides: Santa Trains and Polar Express


It’s October, so why are we talking Christmas? You guessed it- it’s time to think of The Polar Express! This is a popular holiday tradition that you won’t want to miss out on!

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.

polarexpressPolar 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 North Pole Adventure 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 1.5 hours.

Enjoy hot cocoa, cookies, and festivities as we navigate the sweeping curves of the Cuyahoga Valley and across the globe for our mighty journey to the North Pole to hand-deliver your letter to Santa to the North Pole’s very own Postmaster.

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

2023 Dates for North Pole Adventure: November 8 – December 21

Cost: There are different levels of seating to choose from and prices start at $45 dollars on weekends and $47 dollars on weeknights. Tickets go on sale to the general public on October 4 and sell out QUICKLY! (CVSR members get early ticket access in September.)

Website: Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

One of our favorite rides in Ohio! So interactive and entertaining!

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) 

2023 Dates:

  • November: 17,18,19 25, 26

  • December: 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12,13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23


  • Weekdays: 6:00p & 8:00p

  • Saturdays & Sundays: 12:00p, 2:00p, 4:00p, 6:00p, & 8:00p

Cost: Prices start at $25 for children and adults and $30 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)

2023 Dates: November 30th, December 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and  2023

Departure Times:   

Friday trips depart at 6 pm and 8 pm.

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

Cost: $46 and up

Website: Dennison Depot

Polar Express

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.}

Location: Nelsonville, OH (1 hour from Columbus)

2023 Dates: Begins November 25 through December 23, 2023 on Saturday and Sunday. (11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.) Additional Friday night train at 6:00 p.m.

Cost: $19 for kids, $20 for seniors and $24 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)

2023 Dates: 

November 24, 2023- December 30, 2023: North Pole Express

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

Sundays 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $5.00 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)

2023 Dates: various dates beginning November 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26; December 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, & 16, 2023.

Cost: $45.00 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 most likely be back on display at the Main Library. Check the library website for operating hours.

Location: Main Library

2023 Dates: Typically set up the week of Thanksgiving. Check their website for exact dates.

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

2023 Date: Website will be updated soon!

Cost: Free

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, a play area, and a Christmas Journey. This is a great spot with lots of activities to keep everyone entertained!

2023 Dates: Open year-round, but the Christmas Journey begins 11/18/23 – 1/2/23.

Cost: Tickets start at $12.95


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

2023 Date: TBD

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

2023 Date: TBD

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.

2023 Dates:TBD

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

These holiday train rides are bound to create everlasting memories!

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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!