Travel

Some Polar Express and Christmas trains are running this season. Here’s what to know if you go.

Expect masks, social distancing, and other safety measures as part of the festivities.

Cape Cod Central Railroad's The Polar Express train ride. Cape Cod Central Railroad

Holiday events such as Christmas tree lightings have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but there are still Christmas trains delivering cheer this year to families across New England.

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“We know that 2020 has been challenging for everyone, and our mission is to wrap up this year with a safe, socially distanced, and magical experience to keep the spirit of Christmas alive for the young and young at heart,” Connecticut’s Essex Steam Train & Riverboat wrote on its website, which will offer a “Reindeer on the Rails” Christmas train.

Ahead, discover which New England Christmas trains are operating and which are closed this holiday season. Keep in mind that capacities are limited and COVID-19 travel restrictions must be followed when crossing state lines, in addition to safety guidelines from local officials and the train operators.

Christmas trains that are operating:

The Cape Cod Central Railroad’s Polar Express Train Ride departs from Buzzards Bay between Nov. 27 and Dec. 23. On the 60- to 90-minute ride, families take part in Christmas carol singalongs with dancing chefs and waiters, listen to a reading of “The Polar Express,” and receive golden tickets punched by the conductor. Santa and his elves board the train at the “North Pole” and guests receive the first gift of Christmas. COVID-19 safety measures include mandatory masks, social distancing, and body temperature checks. View the state’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Families can travel to Santa’s Mail Express when they board the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum’s festive Hoosac Valley Train Ride at Adams Station between Nov. 27 and Dec. 20. The 80-minute trip includes writing letters to Santa with Mrs. Claus and then stopping to deliver them to Santa himself at Santa’s Mail Express. Children receive gifts from Mrs. Claus on the trip back. Per COVID-19 safety measures, all guests must wear masks and socially distance. View the state’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

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You can ride the Santa Express Trains departing Hobo Junction Station in Lincoln, N.H., on weekends from Nov. 27 to Dec. 20. Families can choose between first class (at tables) or coach (bench-style) seating, and children can write letters to Santa and meet Santa and Mrs. Claus during the journey. Each child receives a gift from Santa. COVID-19 safety measures include mandatory masks, social distancing, and sanitizing stations. Also, food and beverages are not allowed on the train. View New Hampshire’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Families will watch Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive by train during Santa’s Holiday Express on the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway, N.H., between Nov. 27 to Jan. 2, 2021. The hour-long ride includes a treasure hunt and a goodie bag that includes cookies and chocolate milk. COVID-19 safety guidelines, including social distancing, are followed throughout the journey, according to the website. View New Hampshire’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

You can board The Holiday Express at Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum in Portland, Maine, between Nov. 27 and Dec. 23, where 10 historic coaches will be decorated for the holidays. Families listen to Christmas music on the ride to the “North Pole,” and Santa waves to guests as he prepares his sleigh. First-class passengers receive a souvenir mug and grab bag. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, guests must wear masks, socially distance, and food and drinks will not be served. View Maine’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat will host its first Reindeer on the Rails at Essex Station in Essex, Conn., between Nov. 27 and Dec. 23. Families will take a 60-minute train ride through the lower Connecticut River Valley after walking through a “whimsical evergreen and candy cane forest.” During the ride, children will wear reindeer antlers and write letters to Santa, which will be stamped and mailed at The Reindeer Express Post Office. Families can choose from a breakfast or lunch train and Santa will make an appearance at both. Guests must wear masks and socially distance while on the train. View the Connecticut COVID-19 travel restrictions.

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Santa’s Trolley Winter Wonderland at Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, Conn., is open but doing things differently this year. Santa will be at the museum from Nov. 27 to Dec. 20 in a special trolley car set up for social distancing. The outdoor event will include a decorated station and trolley yard and rides on an antique trolley car. Each child will receive a gift. The museum says on its website that it will follow state and federal guidelines regarding social distancing and cleaning. View Connecticut’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Though the Blackstone Valley Polar Express has been cancelled due to COVID-19, producers are instead offering a “Search for Santa” ride from Nov. 27 to Dec. 20. The 20-minute boat ride to the “North Pole” on the Blackstone Valley Explorer in Central Falls includes a reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” activity sheets and crayons, treats, hot chocolate, and a scavenger hunt to find Christmas characters. Children also receive a gift from Santa. As part of the COVID-19 safety measures, all guests get free masks and hand sanitizer, according to the website. View Rhode Island’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Christmas trains that are cancelled:

The following Christmas train rides have been cancelled this year due to COVID-19: Edaville Express: Where’s Santa? at Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver (which is closed due to the pandemic); the Jolly Jingle Express in Woburn; The Polar Express in Burlington, Vermont; and Journey to the North Pole in North Conway and Lincoln, N.H.

Did we miss one? Please let us know in the comments. 

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