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For me, train shows are as much part of the holidays as hot chocolate and watching A Christmas Story. I love watching the electric “Polar Express” trains weaving in and out of tunnels and through the snow-topped mountains. Part of the fun is seeing all the tiny, intricate details of city landmarks and cute vignettes of winter fun. This holiday season, make way to a local holiday train show in your neck of the woods. I’ve pulled together a comprehensive list of where and when to go.
New York City: Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden
In New York City, there are so many holiday festivities to experience like the beautiful window displays on Fifth Avenue and the giant Christmas tree in Rockafeller Center. If your schedule is packed, save the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show for after the new year when you can really appreciate it in all its gloriousness. With over 150 landmarks from Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs, this exhibit is made using natural materials—twigs, leaves and bark. New additions this year include more trains, as well as the Queensboro Bridge and Coney Island’s amusement park attractions.
Head to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx for the holiday train show through January 16th. Word of advice, get your tickets ahead of time!
Chicago: Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Voted as one of Chicago’s top holiday “must-sees”, the Wonderland Express at Chicago’s Botanic Garden is an all-day affair. The train show has something for everyone; miniature Chicago landmarks for grownups and Thomas the Tank Engine sightings for children. Enjoy the holiday market, ice carvings, handmade wreaths and caroling while you’re at it.
Make a stop at Chicago Botanic Garden for the Wonderland Express. The train show is open 10am-5pm, now through January 2nd and is closed on Christmas Day. Be sure to catch the holiday movie screenings while you’re there!
Philadelphia: Holiday Railroad at Reading Terminal Market
The elaborate train display at Reading Terminal Market in Philly is one not to be missed. With about one third of a mile’s worth of tracks in total and 17 trains, this interactive train show has plenty to look at. It’s free to the public so make an afternoon of it complete with hot chocolate and a sugar cookie from one of the merchants in the market.
Pop into the Reading Terminal Market anytime through December 31st to see the Holiday Railroad show. Just a heads up, the market is closed on Christmas Day.
Washington DC: Norwegian Giant Model Train at Union Station
For all the busy commuters passing through Union Station, the Norwegian Giant Model Train exhibit currently on display is a delight. A handmade replica of a Norwegian landscape comes complete with miniature casts of real Norwegian trains, fishing boats and fjords.
Make room in your schedule to pay a visit to this holiday treat in Union Station. This exhibit is open through January 1st, and closed on Christmas Day.
Los Angeles: Holiday Light Festival Train Ride at Griffith Park and Southern Railroad
Griffith Park and Southern Railroad is back with it’s Santa train ride this year. Not quite as small as electric trains that run under the Christmas tree, these train cars run on an 18 1/2 gauge track so they’re big enough for a short ride through the park. Holiday lights and festive scenes make up the mile-long track to get you into the season.
Pencil in a trip to Griffith Park and Southern Railroad, open every night until December 23 and then again from December 26 to December 30 for an scenic ride around the park. The railroad is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. A limited number of tickets are sold each night so grab yours ahead of time.
Boston: The Snow Train to Bakersville at Wenham Museum
For 46 years, the Wenham Museum has put on a big train show. This year, the display includes three railroad layouts, miniature villages, lights and a gateman storytelling the train history. There is also a train station for kids to dress up as conductors.
Open now through February 26th, you don’t want to miss this holiday favorite! See the website for schedule and event details.
Seattle: Winterfest Train & Village at Seattle Center
Since Thanksgiving, crowds have flocked to the Winterfest Train & Village train show. This model train is representative of the turn of the century set in an enchanting village backdrop. Take turns “conducting” the model train between 10:30am—12 noon, 1pm—2:30pm, and 3:30pm—5:30pm daily.
Pay a visit to this exhibit, open through December 31st, from 10am—6pm daily. Take note that it closes early on Christmas Eve and is closed on Christmas Day. $2 suggested donation.
Miami: Holiday Train Extravaganza Display
Get into the holiday spirit with a visit to the train show by Miamitown Historical Society. Located at Miamitown Town Hall, this fabulous train display will entertain folks of all ages. Get your tickets early to this exhibit open now through January 1st.
Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and children under 5 are free. Open Thursday through Sunday, 1pm—9pm and closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Call (859)468-3289 to purchase tickets.
Dallas: The Trains at NorthPark
Celebrating its 18th year at NorthPark Center, the Trains at NorthPark are bigger and better than ever. Trains travel over 1,600 feet of track along cityscapes including: downtown Dallas; New York City’s Times Square and Grand Central Terminal; Washington, D.C. with The White House; New England’s fall foliage; the Grand Canyon, Route 66, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and other highlights. Open now through January 8th.
Open Monday through Saturday from 10am—9pm and Sundays 11am—7pm. Take a look at their site for early holiday closings. Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. You can buy tickets online.
San Francisco: Holiday Train at the San Francisco Public Library
The 10th annual holiday model train display is back, outside the Fisher Children’s Center at the main San Francisco Public Library. The storybook-themed exhibit is a favorite among children who can push buttons to power the trains and lights. Electric toy trains include the Polar Express, Thomas the Tank Engine and the Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express.
Open December 15 through January 6th, you can get a view of this trains in front of the Fisher Children’s Center at the San Francisco Public Library. Check the website for visiting hours.
Are train shows part of your holiday festivities? Tell us where you go to take part in the fun.