Holiday Family Fun On A Train
Before I had kids, I never knew that there you could take a magical train ride to see Santa. It wasn’t something my parents did, although, maybe it didn’t exist when I was a kid. It wasn’t until we had our own kids that my older cousins with children introduced us to the magical holiday train world.
We’ve now tried all of the trains and I have to say, my boys have loved every experience. Of course, my boys love every opportunity to ride a train, big or small, but their girl cousins have also enjoyed the experience – and so have all the parents!
If you haven’t done a holiday train ride with your kids, I highly recommend giving one of these a try. We have made it part of our holiday tradition.
North Pole Express in Fillmore
This is our favorite holiday train ride and we have made this activity a family tradition. It is a bit of a drive from Los Angeles – almost 2 hours with traffic – but it is so worth it. Like the book, “The Polar Express,” all of the kids wear their pajamas and ride an old steam engine train.
During the ride, the elves lead sing-alongs and serve milk and cookies. Santa hops on the train at one point and gives each child a bell, like the children in the book. We are on our third year and we have met families who have been doing it for 10 years! It really does appeal to boys and girls of all ages (although the teens look like they’re just there for the cookies).
After the train ride, you have an opportunity to take a picture with Santa in a vintage caboose. The setting is beautiful and it saves you from having to wait in the crazy lines at the mall.
Fillmore & Western Railway Co.
364 Main St.
Fillmore, CA 93015
Adults – $29
Youth (2 – 12) – $19
Kids under 2 free on adult’s lap
Irvine Park Railroad
This was the first holiday train ride we ever took. I didn’t know what to expect and I have to say, we were amazed by the experience. The entire area – including where you wait in line – is decorated beautifully with holiday lights and they have several games and activities for the kids. Of course, the highlight for our group was drinking hot chocolate while waiting to meet Santa Claus.
This train ride is a miniature train, not a real steam engine, but the decorations and atmosphere make it a super fun family activity that is a bit more local. There is a fee for the various activities and you can either purchase a photo with Santa or take a picture with your own camera. We really enjoyed this holiday train ride, but since discovering the North Pole Express, have opted to stick with our steam engine experience.
1 Irvine Park Road
$12 per person for guests over 24 months old
Under 24 months, free
Activity tickets are $5 each (can’t be used for train ride)
Parking fee before 5 p.m. is $7 per vehicle
Santa photo is $10 for first 5×7 photo and $6 for each additional print of same photo
Griffith Park Holiday Festival Train Ride
Full disclosure, we did this ride the year after the Irvine Park holiday train and were a bit underwhelmed. The perks of this train ride are that it is much closer to the city if you live in or around Los Angeles. It is also much more affordable than the other options.
My son still had an amazing time, as did my friend’s boy/girl twins. The parents were a bit let down as it was the regular miniature train ride with holiday lights. It just didn’t feel as festive as the Irvine Railroad and there wasn’t an opportunity to meet Santa Claus.
All that being said, it is a low cost way to experience a holiday train ride and if you have younger kids, they will love it. They also have the opportunity to roam the Travel Town train museum after dark, which the kids loved. Also note, it has been 5 years since I have done this ride, so it may be more festive than it was at that time.
4400 Crystal Springs Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027
$4 per person, children under 18 months free
There are a limited amount of tickets available. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the ticket booth but there are no online ticket sales at this time.
If you haven’t done it, hop on a holiday train and have a family-friendly adventure!