Do you have a model train circling your tree as part of your holiday tradition? Haven’t you ever wondered why trains are associated with Christmas? Perhaps it’s memories from a simpler, bygone era when trains brought your loved ones home for the holidays. Whatever the reason, for some kids, the love of trains is etched into their DNA. For the parents of these kids, we bring you the Train Lover’s Holiday Guide for 2016!
We’ve rounded up a selection of train-themed holiday events in our area, including those that are worth the trip. If you didn’t get tickets in July and August for your local park district’s Polar Express Metra ride, these events will scratch that train itch.
Holiday Train Events
November 25 – December 15 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
December 16 – January 2, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe | (847) 835-5440
Wonderland Express is one of the Chicago area’s top holiday “must-sees,” and a family-friendly, made-for-memories experience. This indoor model-train exhibition delights children and parents, friends and families. Drop-in activities available on select days.
2016 Christmas Train
November 26-27, December 3-4, 10-11, and 17-18; 9:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. departures
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.
North Central O Gauger’s Holiday Train Run
December 3, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Wauconda Area Library Lincoln Room, 801 N Main St., Wauconda
All aboard! The North Central O Gaugers Model Railroad Club will create a display of traditional and new holiday trains inside the library. The train exhibit will include The Polar Express, the Sante-Fe Express Candy Cane Train, Thomas the Tank Engine, the Hogwart’s Express and more. Junior engineers will receive award certificates for taking a turn at operating the trains.
* FREE * Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
December 5 at 3:50 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. Musical entertainment will take place from 4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. 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 Alli’s recent review.
Happy Holiday Railway
November 26, 27, December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18; Saturdays hourly from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Sundays hourly from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
7000 Olson Road, Union | (815) 923-4000
Embark on a magical 40-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.” Everyone past 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.
The Polar Express Train Ride at Chicago Union Station
December 3 – January 1
500 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago | (312) 471-2501
Grab a seat on THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride at 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. Deluxe Class tickets are $55 for adults and $43 for children ages 2 to 11. Each ticket includes a souvenir hot chocolate tumbler and keepsake sleigh bell to bring home along with hot chocolate and a cookie. Families are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride!
2016 CTA Holiday Train
Schedule varies, through December 23
Santa waves to boarding riders on this festive train wrapped with holiday images and twinkling lights. Santa’s elves greet you with candy canes while the train delivers food baskets to charity organizations throughout the city. Normal CTA fares apply. Visit Transit Chicago website for full details including dates and train lines.
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.
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.