The Train Lover’s Holiday Guide

Christmas in Lake County

This story contains affiliate links.

I’m not sure how or when trains became associated with holiday celebrations. Is it because model trains are a popular children’s gift? Because family members used to ride trains home to see family? Or do we blame it all on The Polar Express? Either way, the image of a train chug-chug-chugging around the Christmas tree is firmly entrenched in our culture.

holiday train events

We’ve rounded up a listing of train-themed holiday events in our area, including those that are worth the trip.  For parents of train-obsessed children who missed out on tickets to your local park district’s Polar Express Metra ride (I know –  they sell out so fast!), these events are sure to satisfy.

COVID-19 Statement: Experts have advised that the best thing for our community during the current Coronavirus pandemic is to reduce crowded gatherings. Please exercise caution when selecting outings. Ultimately it is your decision if you choose to go to public events and spaces. For the best and most up-to-date information on the outbreak locally, please visit the Lake County Health Department COVID-19 status page.

Holiday Train Events in Lake County

Christmas Train
December 4-6, 11-13, 18-20
Ride times vary based on the day
East Troy Electric Railroad, 2002 Church St., East Troy, Wisconsin | (262) 642-3263
A magical ride takes you a half-hour from the East Troy Depot to Santa’s workshop located at The Elegant Farmer. For 2020 no one will leave the train, Santa will come on the train to greet riders. Advance reservations are required. Tickets can be purchased online.

canadian pacific holiday train, gurnee

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
Canceled for 2020
4374 Old Grand Avenue, near Viking Park
The Holiday Train is nearly 1,000 feet long with 14 rail cars, each decorated with hundreds of thousands of technology-leading LED lights and holiday designs. Parking will be available at Viking Park and Viking Park Middle School, as well as on the street around Old Grand Avenue.  The Holiday Train raises awareness of local hunger issues by encouraging attendees to bring a non-perishable food item for donation to a local food pantry. All donations will benefit the Northern Illinois Food Bank. For more information, visit the Canadian Pacific Railway’s website. Read Genevieve’s review from her 2011 visit.

Happy Holiday Railway
Saturdays and Sundays through December 20
5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
7000 Olson Road, Union | (815) 923-4000 | Facebook
visitors will take a drive-through journey through the Museum campus, safely and comfortably in their personal vehicles. The route through the campus will take you past the best of the volunteer’s decorating work, including a fully-illuminated freight train! Christmas music will also be playing throughout the grounds. $10 per car.

Image Source: THE POLAR EXPRESS Train Ride - Chicago Union Station on Facebook
Image Source: THE POLAR EXPRESS Train Ride – Chicago Union Station on Facebook

The Polar Express Train Ride at Chicago Union Station
Canceled for 2020
500 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago | (312) 471-2501 | Facebook
Grab a seat on THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride at the historic Chicago Union Station this holiday season. The magical story comes to life when the train departs Union Station for a one-hour round-trip journey through downtown Chicago. Ticket prices are $48-70 for adults and $38-62 for children ages 2 to 11 depending on the level and date. Each ticket includes a souvenir hot chocolate tumbler and keepsake sleigh bell to bring home. Families are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride!

DIY Polar Express party

Would you prefer to celebrate your love of trains and Christmas at home?  Jennifer V. shows you how to throw your own DIY Polar Express Party.   

best train books

For more train books to cozy up with by the fire, see Melissa’s picks for Best Train Books for All Ages.


Finally, for ideas to entertain your train lover year-round, check out my Ultimate Train Lovers Guide for Kids in Lake County. 

Find more Christmas events and activities at Christmas in Lake County.

By Loralie

When Loralie isn’t out exploring with her two pint-sized adventurers you’ll often find her in front of her computer plotting to take over the world (or at least Lake County.) She appreciates good friends, good food, expensive shoes and parents who make two lanes in the drop-off/pick-up line at school. Her spirit animal is The Hobbit. She invites you to join her on her quest for unique distractions, diversions and deliciousness in this county we call home.

Disclosure: Some links in this story are affiliate links. Little Lake County will earn a portion of sales made through these links and use it to cover the cost of running the site. Thank you for clicking!

The Train Lover\'s Holiday Guide

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