It’s time to cozy up for the holiday season! Whether that means laying out your comfiest blankets, decorating trees or stringing lights and baking cookies, the 2021 holiday season is upon us. And, with the holidays comes winter weather. While settling in with a warm cup of hot cocoa is a perfect evening activity, there’s also so much to explore outside! We’ve compiled a list of some of the best holiday and winter train travel trips to explore this year before the clock strikes midnight!

Let’s start in the Northeast and central states because, with wintertime comes all things bundling and even snow! In Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Holiday Train runs themed train rides, including festive lights, Christmas trees, candy canes, Santa and his reindeer and so much more. 

If you’re heading to North Carolina, don’t miss this year’s Country Christmas Train ride at Denton Farmpark. Their rides run around Thanksgiving through December 27 along the Handy Dandy Railroad and include lights and a Nativity movie as well as so many special holiday experiences along the way. The FarmPark itself is also an experience on its own, so plan to spend the day taking it all in!

Let’s head west to some of the most scenic rides in the country. The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, including the Cascade Canyon Winter Train and the Polar Express Train Ride are two must-do adventures. The Cascade Canyon Winter ride is 5.25 hours and runs from November 20 through May 6, but the wintertime is one of the most popular around, especially with the snow caps on the peaks of the Rockies. The Polar Express is running November 19 through January 1, so this holiday season is about to begin! Enjoy hot chocolate, a reading of the well-known book by the conductor, experience light shows and holiday music and more. You may even see Santa on your journey.

While you’re out west, don’t overlook the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel, which offers incredible packages and daily rides from several different stops, including Williams and the Canyon. This train also offers a Polar Express experience, bringing the classic book and movie to life right before your eyes in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. This 90-minute ride is booking quickly, so don’t delay on making your family’s reservations this year.

South Dakota is also the place to be this season. Check out the 1880 Train for the Holiday Express in November and December. The ride is one hour total, or 30 minutes each way. Experience the North Pole through the train from Hill City, sip a festive drink, munch on a cookie and hear a special story along the way.

If you’re going to be further south but still want a taste of the famed movie and book, The Brightlight Polar Express in Fort Lauderdale is the place to be! This magical one-hour ride is jammed with a taste of the North Pole that will leave you in awe! Punch your golden ticket, sip on hot cocoa with cookies, receive a gift from Santa on his sleigh and enjoy entertainment unlike anywhere else. All aboard!