Best Holiday Train Rides in Colorado
“The Polar Express” may not seem like a horror movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s the only movie that made young Alex run out of the theater mid-screening. I’ll give $10 to whoever can guess the scene that made me cut and run, but in the meantime, I’m happy to report that the experience didn’t carry over into my adult life (probably). Which is good, because Colorado’s got a plethora of holiday-themed train rides that are more than worth punching a ticket for:
I actually debated including this route on this list, because tickets have already sold out for 2019. But in the end, I decided I wanted to give you plenty of warning for 2020, so you knew just how popular this train-tastic experience is. In this event, the Colorado Railroad Museum pulls you into my worst nightma—I mean, the hit film “The Polar Express.” A conductor guides you to your car, where you’ll be provided with cocoa, cookies, and a reading of the classic story. Then, once the locomotive arrives, you climb aboard to travel to the North Pole, where you get to meet the big guy himself. Tickets start at about $60 per person, with dates encompassing a range of holiday weekends: Dec. 4-8, 11-15, 17-23.
If you want to ride a train like they really do in the movie, then this one’s for you. Here, you’re actually encouraged to wear your pajamas as you chug your way up to the North Pole, and they serve a variety of entrees as you look out over the snow-covered landscape. Kids can get hot chocolate for the ride, and adults can get a variety of suspiciously dessert-like cocktails, too. Then, once the train arrives at the North Pole, Santa climbs aboard with his elves to deliver magical bells to each ticketed child, thus thoroughly cementing his existence in their minds forever. Tickets range from $49-$79 for adults and $39-$74 for kids, depending on which class you sit in and when your trip is. But wait, there’s more—You can also choose to make an earlier, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed morning trip that lets you have breakfast with Santa. Keep in mind that prices also change as the holiday month goes on, though the railroad will be open until Dec. 31.
This railroad ride goes above and beyond with two experiences wrapped into one. Firstly, Georgetown offers two tracks to choose from (pun intended): Santa’s North Pole Adventure, which lets you travel with Santa and his posse of elves, and Santa’s Lighted Forest, in which you ride through the magically-lit forests above Georgetown. Both attractions will run until January 5, and ticket prices range from $29-$50 for adults and $20-$36 for children. In addition, once you’ve disembarked from the train (or are still waiting to board), you can visit Georgetown’s annual Christmas Market for all that last-minute holiday shopping on Dec. 7, 8, 14 & 15.
This is another one of those train routes that commit to the most important part of the holiday aesthetic: wearing your pajamas all day, ‘ery day. Once again putting you inside the events of the classic Christmas story, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad provides hot chocolate, treats, and a reading of the holiday tale, capping off with a visit from Santa and his elves as they deliver a special gift to each child. This treck even includes a cheerily-lit village at the North Pole as well as live reindeer. Ticket prices can range from $32-$75 dollars depending on when you visit, as well as which car you take, and the train will be making trips until January 2.
This festive train ride gets into the true spirit of Christmas as they help raise money for a food bank in Antonio and Toys for Tots. And not only does this train run for a good cause, but it’s also the highest and longest narrow-gauge steam railroad in the country, so you’ve got even more of a good reason to make the hike down to southern Colorado. Tickets cost $10 for everyone 13 and up for an hour-long ride with hot chocolate and candy canes, and those lucky enough to ride with Santa and Mrs. Claus are asked to donate a new boxed, unwrapped toy to the program. This train only runs for two weekends, Dec. 7 and 8 and Dec. 14 and 15, so if you want to go, you should book those tickets now.
Ok, so this train leans a little away from the “Polar Express” experience and more into the sleek “James Bond”-esque one. But still, I’d say it qualifies as a holiday train ride, especially if you also enjoy skiing. This classy expedition whisks you away from Union Station in Denver all the way up to Winter Park, providing you with wintery views, snacks, and traffic-free travel experience. And even better, you can get tickets for Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays all the way through March, with some of the early-bird tickets going for $29.
So, there you have it. Colorado really has a one-track mind during the holidays, much to our benefit. Happy Holidays, and all aboard. Just let me know who I owe $10.