It wasn’t too long ago that my nine-ager was obsessed with all things train. From our behemoth Thomas the Tank table to our five billion books about the science behind its motors, her little eyes sparkled as she choo-choo’ed along in her little dream world. We’ve since graduated to cooler things like robots and snap circuits, but, she still selflessly (ha!) suggests that we take train rides for the sake of her little brother. And, the DC-area is filled with holiday train adventures:
1. Virginia Railway Express – Tickets go on sale on Monday, 11/20!
Probably one of the most popular (and least expensive!) holiday traditions is Virginia Railway Express’ Santa Train. All 2017 Santa Trains will run on December 9th, and have various originating cities: Manassas, Burke, Woodbridge, Spotsylvania, and Fredericksburg. Their $6 tickets will go on sale on Monday, November 20 at 9:00am and generally sellout in under five minutes. They are are using a new online system and encourage you to set up an account on the site beforehand as every second counts in the checkout process.
From December 1-31, B&O Railroad in Baltimore, MD transforms into a winter wonderland filled with trains of all sizes and shapes, train rides with Santa, holiday festivities, and family fun and activities. New this year is a walk through a 30 foot Christmas tree in the center of the B&O’s historic roundhouse. General Museum admission is $20 for Adults, $17 for Seniors (60+), $12 for children (2-12); and Coach Train Rides are $3/adults and $2/children.
This year’s annual U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) holiday exhibit, Season’s Greenings: Roadside Attractions, will open Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017 and run through January 1, 2018. This year, take a trip across America as their model trains chug around, below, through, and above plant-based recreations of iconic sights from across the United States. Explore classic attractions like Texas’ Cadillac Ranch, Colorado’s hot-dog-shaped Coney Island Hot Dog Stand, South Dakota’s Corn Palace, New Jersey’s Lucy the Elephant, and many more representing 40 different roadside attractions, all made from plants and other natural materials. The U.S. Botanic Garden is open to the public, free of charge, every day of the year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays in December, the Conservatory will be open until 8 p.m. for live seasonal music concerts and after-dark holiday exhibit viewing.
During this three hour holiday train ride, you will experience the Christmas City Express, hear the story, meet the elves, sing carols, take part in the elf naming ceremony, play reindeer games, and of course, meet Santa, Mrs. Claus- and much, much, more.
During weekends in December, celebrate the season with toy trains and Santa aboard the streetcars from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museum will be closed on Sunday, December 24. Admission (which includes Museum displays, docent-led tours, unlimited street car rides) is $7 for adults (18 to 64) and $5 for children/seniors (2-17, 65 and over).
Take a merry tour of the Zoo on a trackless train that whisks guests around the Great Cats exhibit and features gorgeous views of the holiday light displays. ZooLights is free and open to the public.
In addition to a magical winter wonderland illuminated with more than one million dazzling colorful lights shaped into hand-crafted, original art forms of flowers, animals and other natural elements, the Garden of Lights wouldn’t be complete without a visit inside the Conservatory to enjoy watching G-Scale model trains wind through a seasonal landscape. Admission is $25-30/car.