Like most kids, my two sons fell in love with trains at an early age. Their love of trains grew ten-fold once they read The Polar Express and especially after watching the movie. As such, it’s no surprise that our holiday traditions must include trains. Unfortunately, many special Polar Express train rides are already sold out. But don’t fear, there are other ways to keep your train fans happy. So chug along and add these train-tastic events to your holiday calendar. Enjoy!
Ho ho ho! The popular CTA Holiday Train, festively decorated in lights, is a sight to be seen in itself, but the real highlight is finding Santa outside on his sleigh while his helpful elves hand out candy canes to passengers.
Illinois Railway Museum, 7000 Olson Road, Union
At the Happy Holiday Railway, Santa hops on board with you as you ride through the winter countryside then get off at his Toy Workshop. Those who happen to be on Santa’s “good list” will receive gifts and yummy treats. Reservations are required. Dec. 5, 6, 12 & 13.
Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Wonderland Express will please any train fan as choo-choos chug through decorated winter and holiday scenery, including famous Chicago landmarks such as Wrigley Field and the new Maggie Daley Ice Ribbon. Nov. 27-Jan. 3.
Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton
Lego’s and trains? Sold! The Northern Illinois Lego Train Club showcases their hard work at the free Lego Train Show on Dec. 12-13. The mini choo-choo will wind through scenery built completely with Lego’s. Bring an unwrapped toy and parking is free. To view the amazing displays without the lines and a chance to ride a trackless train, stop by the party on Dec. 12. Tickets are $25 for adults and $18 for children ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under are free.
Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Drive, Chicago
Stay warm and cozy at the Lincoln Park Conservatory while watching model trains wind through a miniature village and colorful landscape of poinsettias, trees, winter florals and sparkling lights. Admission is free. Nov. 27-Jan.3.