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.

Holiday Train Events in Lake County

Christmas Train
November 30 – December 1, December 7-8, 14-15, 21-22
Rides at 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., Noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. 
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. Here children can visit Santa and get a photo taken with the jolly elf himself! Craft projects and hot chocolate and cookies will be available. Advance reservations are required. Tickets can be purchased online $19.00 for ages 12 and up, $16.50 for all children under 12.

canadian pacific holiday train, gurnee

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
FREE December 2 at 5:15 p.m.
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
November 29, 30, December 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, and 23. Saturdays and Sundays, hourly from 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
7000 Olson Road, Union | (815) 923-4000 | Facebook
Embark on a magical 45-minute train ride through the winter countryside on your way to visit with Santa Claus himself! Treats will be served and gifts will be given to children on Santa’s “good list”. Ticket prices are $20.00 per person. Everyone passed their first birthday must have a ticket. Display buildings and museum grounds will not be open for this event. Plan to arrive no earlier than 30 minutes before your scheduled trip.

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
Select Dates November 23 – December 29
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!

North Central O Gauger Winter WOnderland Railway
Photo Source Indian Trails Public Library District

North Central O-Gaugers Winter Wonderland Display
Local model train enthusiasts will be setting up their Winter Wonderland Display twice this December. December 7 they are bringing it to the Deerfield Public Library. December 14 they will have it at the Fremont Public Library. These are great low-pressure events where train-lovers of all ages can interact with the models and talk to the builders.

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!

Dance academy of Libertyville

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