Ohio’s Scenic Railways offer magical experiences to make this holiday season truly memorable.
Chris Van Allsburg wrote the Caldecott Award winning book, The Polar Express in 1985. Tom Hanks gave his voice to the characters in a 2004 movie version which garnered numerous awards including 3 Oscar Nominations. The Polar Express is a seasonal favorite for families all over the country. And while reading the story or viewing the film can make for special holiday traditions, nothing compares to the magic of an actual train ride in your pajamas. Truth be told, any public endeavor in your pj’s is pretty magical.
What I’m referring to here, though is an actual Polar Express Train Ride. Several of Ohio’s scenic railways offer variations of the magical excursion to the North Pole where you will read the story, sing carols and drink copious amounts of hot chocolate, all the while gorging yourself on fresh cookies and eventually greeting that jolly old elf himself, Santa Claus. When planning your Christmas visit to America’s Heartland make sure to include one of these fascinating trips.
The most popular line in Ohio is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway. It boasts itself one of the oldest scenic railways in operation in the country. And with stations in Independence, Akron and Canton, OH it is certainly one of the longest. Unfortunately, tickets for the Polar Express excursions have been sold out for this year but there is plenty of availability for the Christmas Tree Adventures the last weekend in November and the first two weekends in December.
The Christmas Tree Adventure departs from the Rockside station in Independence and takes you to Heritage Farms where you can select your tree from a variety of pre-cut trees or you may choose to cut your own–ala Clark Griswold. They will then bag and tag your trophy and place it on the train for your return trip.
The Dennison Depot Railroad Museum’s Polar Express has several departure times the first two weekends in December. Passengers ride in their pajamas sipping hot chocolate and eating cookies (pretty standard fare on all of the Polar Express Excursions) and Santa hops on board once the “North Pole” is reached to greet passengers and hand out presents. The Dennison Depot Railroad Museum is located in Dennison, OH on SR-36 east of I-77.
Another very popular Polar Express is the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway which departs from Nelsonville, OH. The line runs between Nelsonville and Logan along the scenic Hocking River and the rolling hills of southeastern Ohio. They offer two versions, a Santa Express where Santa and Mrs. Claus ride the train with you and personally visit each passenger. The Santa Express runs weekends (Saturday and Sunday) November 29-December 21.
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway’s North Pole Express scheduled to depart December 6 and December 19 follows the more traditional storyline as passengers are encouraged to come in their pajamas and robes. After visiting with Santa and enjoying cookies and hot chocolate passengers can go ice skating at the Nelsonville North Pole. You are encouraged to bring your own skates.
Yes, Christmas time is filled with magic, tradition and memories. I can think of few things more memorable than a train ride on the Polar Express.
Prices and departure times vary and are subject to availability. Please check the individual station’s websites for details and to make reservations. All photos obtained from websites linked within article and considered public domain.