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Book Now for Santa Train Excursions This Winter

Take a moment now to secure tix for your family holiday outing

Nancy Chaney

Published on: November 06, 2023

Santa greets train riders aboard the Northwest Railway Museum’s Santa Limited.

Update Nov. 6, 2023: Not one, but two favorite holiday trains that we’ve missed the last few years are back on track (heh): The Polar Express train excursion offered by the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum, and the Holiday Timber Express from the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad. Scroll down for the deets on these an all area holiday train excursions!

Original article published Sept. 5. 2023: Apologies that we’re bringing up anything related to the holidays or Santa when we haven’t even picked out our pumpkins and are just beginning to make the most of fall. But we need to momentarily interrupt your pleasant autumn with this important reminder.

Picture this: Several months from now, when the dark winter has set in, you and your sweet family are enjoying a holiday train excursion, perhaps with the grandparents or a group of friends. Your kids are over the moon at the prospect of meeting Santa, and there might even be hot cocoa to keep things cozy. The historic train car trundling through the countryside makes for a special afternoon of holiday cheer.

But wait! If you don’t take a moment to book your tickets now, you might miss out on this holiday cheer. Especially this year, when there are fewer holiday train options available than there have been some years. In a couple of months, you might just be sitting on the couch at home, mindlessly watching some random NFL game, let’s say the Bengals vs. the Jets. Holiday train excursions do sell out. So just take a second here — as you wish, of course — to book your tickets. (Or else you might be stuck cheering for the Bengals?)

1. Yuletide Express Train Ride

This 25-minute holiday train excursion is offered by the Northwest Railway Museum. It begins at the historic Snoqualmie Depot where passengers board antique train cars that are all dressed up for the season. While your train chugs along toward a view of majestic Snoqualmie Falls, Santa turns up to give each child on board a small gift.
Dates: Nov. 25–Dec. 16, 2023
Location: Board this train at the Snoqualmie Depot, 38625 S.E. King Street, Snoqualmie.
Tickets: $26 (everyone age 2 and older needs a ticket; tots age 1 and younger ride free on a lap). Book online.

A Northwest Railway Museum train car is decorated for holiday train excursions
A Northwest Railway Museum train car is ready for a holiday train excursion.

2. Santa Limited Train Ride

The Northwest Railway Museum’s Santa Limited is its longer holiday train excursion. This two-hour train outing has been running since 1969 and is the museum’s most popular seasonal event. Board the Santa Limited at the North Bend Depot and enjoy the ride in a festively decorated antique train car. Travel past the Snoqualmie River and through the woods to the Railway History Campus. There, Santa greets each family presents each child with a small gift. A Santa Limited ticket includes access to exhibits and hands-on activities all located inside the Train Shed Exhibit Hall. All guests receive a holiday cookie on this train excursion.
Dates: Nov. 25–Dec.17, 2023
Location: Board this train at the North Bend Depot, 205 E. McClellan Street, North Bend.
Tickets: $38 (everyone ages 2 and older needs a ticket; tots age 1 and younger ride free on a lap). Book online

Chehalis-Centralia Railroad's Polar Express Train Ride begins at the depot
Where the journey aboard The Polar Express begins.

3. The Polar Express

We were hopeful and this good news is just in: The Polar Express is back! Local rail excursion provider the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum has just announced the return of its popular holiday train excursion, The Polar Express. On this 45-minute train ride, families listen to the classic story book “The Polar Express,” by Chris Van Allsburg, while sipping hot cocoa and snacking on treats. At the North Pole, train passengers encounter Santa and his elves. On the trip back to the depot, Santa presents each child guest with a gift.
Dates: Nov. 11–Dec.23, 2023
Location: Excursions depart from the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum, 1101 S.W. Sylvenus Street, Chehalis.
Tickets: $60 (everyone ages 2 and older needs a ticket; tots age 1 and younger ride free on a lap). Book tickets online

North Pole Express holiday train ride at Railway Museum of British Columbia, Canada
Catch the North Pole Express at the Railway Museum of British Columbia.

4. Holiday Timber Express

This festive holiday train excursion is offered by the back-up-and-running Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad in Elbe. Board the decorated train at the depot in Elbe and chug through the scenic countryside pulled by a historic steam engine. This excursion covers 12 miles and lasts about an hour and 15 minutes. En route guests will receive a holiday treat.
Dates: Saturday–Sunday, Nov. 25–Dec. 23, 2023; three departures each day
Location: Trains depart from the depot at 54124 Mountain Highway E. in Elbe. Elbe is about a two-hour drive from Seattle or Bellevue, and a one-hour drive from Tacoma.
Tickets: Adults $36; youth ages 4–17 $18; tots ages 3 and younger ride free. Book online.

5. North Pole Express

This holiday train ride takes place in Canada and we’re including it in the event your family makes a trek northward. Catch the North Pole Express at the Railway Museum of British Columbia in Squamish. The festive one-hour ride delivers families to the North Pole activity area where they’ll meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, and also Marshall Mellow, the polar bear(!?) who’s in charge of Santa’s workshop.
Dates: Nov. 25–Dec. 17, 2023
Location: Railway Museum of British Columbia, 39645 Government Road, Squamish, BC. (Squamish is about an hour north of Vancouver, BC, or a 3.5-hour drive from Seattle, across an international border.)
Tickets: $82 CDN and up per pair of tickets (tickets sold in pairs only); tots age 1 and younger ride free on a lap. Book online.

6. Can’t wait? Fall train excursions

Hooray! The Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad in Elbe is back on track and offering its scenic train excursions for the first time since 2019. Hop on for a fall train ride this September or October. If these go well, maybe a holiday train will make a return? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, Western Forest Industries Museum, the organization that revived the railroad, has also dreamed up another super fun way to ride the rails in summer. Hint: It’s by human pedal power on a rail cycle!

Need your train fix right now? Holiday trains not your cup of cocoa?

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