Polar Express Train Rides, Holiday Express, Santa Train, and Santa Trolley

We know it’s still sunny and hot, but now is the time to book holiday train and trolley rides if you want to avoid wait lists! Originally inspired by Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express, these magical rides can include everything from story times to caroling to meals with Santa. Many choose to wear pajamas to get in character, or feel free to don your most festive holiday sweater!

These events tend to fill up very quickly, so if you want a spot, make sure to sign up as soon as tickets become available. This article is sponsored by Oak Brook Park District.

Oak Brook Park District Holiday Express

Oak Brook Park District Holiday Express
Thursday, December 19, 2019
4:20 – 7:00 pm (Departures every 20 minutes)

Family Recreation Center
1450 Forest Gate Road
Oak Brook, IL 60523

Experience a festive trolley ride from the Family Recreation Center to meet the one and only Santa at the North Pole! Come early so you can enjoy activities such as crafts, bounce houses, light refreshments, and more before your departure. All individuals over two that travel to the “North Pole” must be registered. Trolley departures are every 20 minutes, allowing you to choose a time that works for you! Please note, there are no exchanges or refunds for missed departure times. Arrive early to check-in and enjoy the available activities. Children two and under are free. Fee is $12 for residents, $15 for nonresidents.

2019 Polar Express Train Rides, Holiday Express, Santa Train, and Santa Trolley

Downers Grove Polar Express

Polar Express Storytime Train
Saturday, November 23, 2019 | 8:45 am, 10:45 am, and 12:45 pm
This two-hour trip is $30 for residents and $45 for non-residents. Infants 11 months and younger free.

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Chocolate milk and cookies while listening to The Polar Express. When the train reaches the North Pole (a.k.a. the Aurora train station), Santa climbs on board for the return trip. Registration opens July 30 for residents and August 6 for non-residents. Check the 2019 Fall Park District guide and the park district website for full details and information on how to register.

Glen Ellyn Polar Express

The Polar Express Storytime Train
Dates and times announced in late September.
See the Glen Ellyn Park District website for more information.

Kids climb aboard for a magical trip to the North Pole complete with storytime, snacks, carols, and a visit from Santa.

Elmhurst Polar Express

Polar Express Storytime Train
Sunday, December 1, 2019 | 11:00 am and 3:00 pm
The trip takes about two hours and the cost is $26 for adult residents and $21 for their children and $32 for adult non-residents with $26 for non-resident children.

Cookies and refreshments while listening to The Polar Express book. Santa waits for travelers when the train arrives. More details are available here or on the Elmhurst Park District website. Registration opens August 3rd for residents. 

Lombard Polar Express

Polar Express Storytime Train
Sunday, December 1, 2019 | 9:00 am – 12:30 pm and 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm
$50 per person age 2 and older; children under 2 years old seated on a parent’s lap during the train ride and mealtime are free.

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Holiday train ride with a sing-a-long and story. Includes breakfast or lunch with Santa. Decorate cookies, play games, and create a holiday craft. Pre-registration required through the Butterfield Park District; see the Special Events guide for more information, and look for the Fall 2019 guide, which will contain more details.

Santa Storytime Express Bus
Sunday, December 1, 2019 | 9:30 am – 12:30 pm and 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
$45 per person/all ages

Decorated express bus with a sing-a-long and story. Includes breakfast or lunch with Santa. Decorate cookies, play games, and create a holiday craft. Pre-registration required through the Butterfield Park District; see the Special Events guide for more information, and look for the Fall 2019 guide, which will contain more details.

Oak Brook Holiday Express

Oak Brook Park District Holiday Express
Thursday, December 19, 2019
4:20 – 7:00 pm (Departures every 20 minutes)

Family Recreation Center
1450 Forest Gate Road
Oak Brook, IL 60523

Experience a festive trolley ride from the Family Recreation Center to meet the one and only Santa at the North Pole! Come early so you can enjoy activities such as crafts, bounce houses, light refreshments, and more before your departure. All individuals over two that travel to the “North Pole” must be registered. Trolley departures are every 20 minutes, allowing you to choose a time that works for you! Please note, there are no exchanges or refunds for missed departure times. Arrive early to check-in and enjoy the available activities. Children two and under are free.  Fee is $12 for residents, $15 for nonresidents. 

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Activities include crafts, the reading of the Polar Express, bounce house, and light refreshments. See their website for more information and Register online.

Oswego Holiday Express

December 12-15, 2019 | times vary, trains depart every 20 minutes
$15 for residents, $25 for non-residents.

Live reindeer, hot cocoa, and Santa. Wheelchair accessible train rides are available on December 12. Each participant, no matter what age, needs to register. Registration begins on November 1.

Tinley Park Polar Express

Polar Express Story Time Train
Sunday, December 8, 2019 | 11:18 am, 1:18 am, 3:18 pm
$15 per person for residents and $20 per person for non-residents.

Stories, carols, cookies, and hot cocoa. Santa and Mrs. Claus board the train on the return trip. Children age 9 months and younger do not need a ticket. Registration begins July 30, 2019 and non-residents can register August 13, 2019. Please note, online registration is not available for this program and it does fill quickly. More information is available in the Tinley Park Park District Fall Brochure.

Other Polar Express and Santa Train Events

More events will be popping up throughout the fall! In the past, BensenvilleBerwyn, Clarendon HillsFrankfort, HinsdaleLagrangeOak Park, Orland Park, Westmont, Willowbrook , and Worth have all held events. If you live in those towns, keep an eye out for your fall park district guide, which may have event details.

Have a favorite holiday train or trolley ride? Help other families plan a new tradition by sharing in the comments!

About the Author

Claudia Coyne
Having grown up in Palos Park, Claudia has a great love for the southwest suburbs and the hidden gems of the area. Claudia currently lives in Tinley Park with her husband and four children (two girls, ages 6 and 4 and two boys, ages 3 and 1). Cabin fever with four children can get rough, so they’re always looking for new and exciting adventures outside of the house! During the warmer months, you’ll find her and the family at the pool, out on nature walks, grilling in the yard, or at the zoo. And pick a park, any park… Claudia’s kids possess a magical super power of being able to detect the nearest park within a 5 mile radius, so there’s always a stop off on the way home to discover new playgrounds! When the cold comes, they like to craft, hibernate at the library or indoor play places, and play in the snow. In her tiny sliver of free time, Claudia enjoys sewing, photography, and baking.

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