Travel Treasures Close to Home: A Train Ride with Santa

by Tom Reed
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Story filed November 22, 2010

Want to take the kids somewhere different this year for a holiday adventure? How about a train ride with Santa on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway?

This excursion railroad operates two types of special trains during the Christmas season from its depot in Nelsonville, on US 33. That’s about 200 miles, or three-and-a-half hours, from Cleveland. The Santa Train departs at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on every Saturday and Sunday from November 27 through December 19. The evening North Pole Express departs at 7 p.m. on December 4, 11, 17, and 18.

The evening trains usually sell out. But the daytime Santa trains generally have a little room left. A railroad spokeswoman says the trains can carry about 350 people, all in heated cars. Santa boards the trains and visits with each child. He finishes by walking through the train and singing a Christmas carol, while his “elf” hands out candy canes to the kids.

Youngsters are encouraged to wear pajamas for the evening North Pole Express. Music from the Polar Express movie is played, and passengers are served hot chocolate and cookies. At the end of the ride, a sleigh bell is given to each child as a souvenir. Santa doesn’t ride on this train, but after the trip kids can visit with him at North Pole Nelsonville, and also go ice skating if they wish. Skate rental is the only extra charge.

You can make reservations online at, or by leaving a message at 800-967-7834, or by calling the depot on weekends at 740-753-9531.

As long as you’re making the trip, there are many other things to do in the Hocking Hills. For more information on activities and lodging, check out these websites: or

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Closer to home, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs Polar Express trains every evening of the week from November 26 through December 19, from both the Rockside-Independence station and the Akron Northside station. Departures from Canton are also scheduled on some dates. There are other special holiday trains running during the daytime on weekends. Many excursions are already sold out, so if you’re interested, act promptly. For more information or to buy tickets visit

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