Welcome the mad dash of Black Friday, the online fervor of Cyber Monday and the seemingly endless run of holiday parties, family obligations, soirées and shopping sprees that all but drown out the serenity of the season.
Those seeking a slower pace may want to consider the timeless appeal of Colorado railroads. Special holiday-themed events can be found departing train stations all around the Rockies.
The Santa Express (Royal Gorge)
Approximately 20,000 adults and children ride the Santa Express through the Royal Gorge from late November through late December.
The 90-minute trip includes a train ride from the Santa Fe Depot in west Cañon City to the “North Pole.” Children are encouraged to wear pajamas while they listen to Christmas stories, sing carols and enjoy homemade cookies and cocoa. The excursion also features a locally sourced, family-friendly lunch and dinner menu, according to the Santa Express website.
“New this year to the ride, the Royal Gorge has expanded the North Pole, adding even more buildings and decorations,” the website states. “As always, the North Pole is adorned like a true Christmas town, and this year there will be 30,000 lights, up from the 20,000 lights in previous years. Guests of all ages will enjoy the views of the Royal Gorge on the way to pick up the North Pole’s most famous resident — Santa Claus. Once Santa boards the train at the North Pole, children await their turn to share their holiday wish list and receive their very special Santa Express Train gift from Kris Kringle himself.”
According to Kelly Pascal Gould, who provides public relations services for Royal Gorge train events, the holiday season brings more than 100,000 rail enthusiasts to southern Colorado.
“This is a huge driver for visitation in area,” she said. “It’s a nice boost for restaurants, hotels and retail.”
Two other holiday-themed rides are available. Those include a more adult-themed holiday train ride with dinner but no Santa Claus, as well as New Year’s Eve festivities, which includes a three-course dinner in the train’s Observation Dome.
‘The Polar Express’ (Durango & Silverton)
Based on the award-winning book by Chris Van Allsburg and big screen adaptation in 2003, a Christmas Eve journey comes alive aboard Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s Polar Express.
Join chefs, a hobo, the conductor, Billy, Santa and his elves on a historic steam train. All passengers receive hot chocolate and a treat served by personal chefs, who also read “The Polar Express” story on the way to the North Pole to pick up Santa. Saint Nick visits each car and chefs will lead guests in Christmas carols on the return to Durango. All kids aboard receive a special gift from Santa.
Deluxe or premium-class cars are available.
The D&SNG Railroad offers a winter train to Cascade Canyon, beginning Nov. 26. Passengers ride the steam train 26 miles each way on a five-hour trip. This journey takes you through the San Juan National Forest and along the Animas River in heated coaches. The wilderness destination offers the opportunity for a fireside lunch, photos and walks along the Animas River.
The D&SNG Museum is open during the winter and spring months from 1-4 p.m. every day the train operates.
Visit online at durangotrain.com or call 1-888-872-4607 for more information.
Train to Christmas Town (Alamosa)
Head to the Rio Grande and hear the heartwarming tale of Janice, a little girl who looks forward to riding the Train to Christmas Town every year with her brother and grandmother. Accompanied by woodland friends and jolly elves, Janice relives happy memories as she rides the train to Christmas Town once again.
The Alamosa-based train ride begins with a conductor welcoming guests and punching tickets for entry into warm, decorated cars. Guests will meet Bumblebee the polar bear, Wabash the squirrel and Zephyr the depot cat. Elves will serve cookies and hot cocoa and lead guests in singing Christmas carols. Upon arrival at Christmas Town, Santa climbs aboard and walks through the cars greeting each child with holiday cheer and his signature “Ho, Ho, Ho!”
Santa’s North Pole Adventure (Georgetown)
The Georgetown Loop Railroad will begin welcoming holiday passengers Nov. 22. Santa and his helpers add the final touches to decorated, enclosed and heated coaches. Weekend trips run through Dec. 14, and then daily trips are available through Dec. 24. Santa vacations with guests after Christmas through Jan. 4 (except New Year’s Day), but Saint Nick will still find time to pass out treats to children.
“Santa’s on vacation, so he wears a Hawaiian shirt,” according to Group Reservation Manager Susan Edge of the trips taking place after Christmas Day.
Edge said the North Pole Adventure takes place during daylight hours, while a holiday lights train runs evenings from Nov. 28 through Dec. 31. The evening trip provides riders with holiday music synchronized to a light show in the forest above Georgetown.
Edge said roundtrip rides last about an hour and include hot cocoa, cookies, candy canes and an ornament to take home.
Options include coach boxcars with bench seating, or upgraded parlor cars with table seating and additional snack and drink options. The parlor cars also include beer and wine for purchase.
Edge said, due to Georgetown’s proximity to Denver, the event has been hugely popular since it began five years ago.
“I’d recommend reservations,” she said.
For more information, visit online at georgetownlooprr.com/special-event-trains or call 1-888-456-6777.