Having a son that is obsessed with all things transportation, we thought it would be fun to see Santa this year on a train like in the book/movie Polar Express. Because these train rides are very popular here in the greater Chicago area, we opted to go out into the country to the Happy Holiday Railway at the Illinois Railroad Museum. Located about halfway between Chicago and Rockford, Illinois, the museum is in the little town of Union. It took us about 45 minutes to get there from the northwest suburbs/Schaumburg area.
Tickets are $15 per person for kids over one year. We bought ours the week of our train ride, although there were limited times available. We arrived on a wet evening, having kept the details of our visit a surprise from our son. He was so excited that we were riding on a train and seeing Santa. I think he’s still convinced that we actually went to the North Pole! It is important to arrive a little early to get good seats together as a family and not be squished together.
The museum had some festive lights up and a few barns open to check out before or after the train ride. There was also a trolley available to take from the gate to where we caught the train. The historic train cars were decorated nicely for the holidays and with the
Christmas music playing, there was a festive mood in the air. Once the train started going, we were treated to hot chocolate (at a great temperature for kids, for which I was appreciative) and cookies. Santa started at the front train car and went through the cars, stopping to ask each child what they wanted for Christmas and to take pictures and give them a bell- just like in Polar Express!
Compared to the hustle and bustle of going to see a mall Santa, or the long lines at some of the other Santas we have visited in the past, with pictures packages available for $30+, this holiday train ride was definitely worth it! For the same price as the cheapest photo package at the mall, we got to go on a train ride aboard a historic rail car, we ate treats, we didn’t have to wait in any lines, we saw Santa and we got to take our own pictures with him for free! Aside from the drive out to the museum, everything else was a major win in our book. If we are in the area next Christmas, we would definitely entertain the possibility of doing this again!