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Train Rides with Santa AZ - Magical Christmas Journey - Photo Credit Verde Canyon Railroad flickr

Train Rides with Santa in Williams & Clarkdale AZ: Holiday Guide

What better way to celebrate the holiday season than exploring some train rides with Santa? The holiday season is a magical time filled with warmth, joy, and a sense of wonder that seems to touch every heart. It’s a season of traditions, and few traditions are as beloved as the journey to visit Santa Claus himself.

You can embark on two of these unforgettable adventures in the picturesque towns of Williams and Clarkdale, Arizona. They combine the timeless joy of train travel with the enchantment of meeting Santa Claus. These train rides not only captivate the hearts of children but also rekindle the holiday spirit in adults.

So, let’s dive into the holiday highlights of these train rides with Santa in Williams and Clarkdale, Arizona.

FEATURED IMAGE: Magical Christmas Journey – Photo Credit Verde Canyon Railroad flickr

The Spirit of the Holidays and Santa Claus Arrival

The holiday season brings with it an undeniable sense of excitement. It’s a time when families come together, streets are adorned with twinkling lights, and the air is filled with the sweet aroma of freshly baked cookies. At the heart of it all is Santa Claus, the jolly man in red who makes children’s dreams come true.

In Williams and Clarkdale, the magic of the holidays comes alive with two Santa train rides. They transport you to a world where Santa himself is the guest of honor. Whether you choose the Grand Canyon Railway’s “Polar Express” or the Verde Canyon Railroad’s “Magical Christmas Journey,” you’re in for an unforgettable experience.

The Grand Canyon Railway Polar Express Experience

The Grand Canyon Railway’s “Polar Express” is a beloved holiday tradition. It has captured the hearts of countless families. Based on the classic children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg and the animated film, this enchanting Santa train ride is an immersive experience that recreates the story’s magic.

As you board the steam train, you’ll find yourself in a cozy passenger car decked out with holiday decorations. The journey unfolds with a dramatic reading of “The Polar Express” while enjoying hot cocoa and cookies. Families are encouraged to wear their pajamas for that authentic feeling of embarking on a nighttime adventure to the North Pole.

As the train chugs along, you can enjoy the breathtaking winter landscape views outside your window before arriving at the North Pole. And, of course, no Christmas train ride would be complete without a visit from Santa Claus. He’ll board the train to greet each child personally, spread holiday cheer, and hand them a special gift.

When Can You Ride The Polar Express?

2024 Dates

The holiday magic begins on November 8th and continues through December 30th. These enchanting 90-minute round-trip rides depart from Williams, Arizona, and transport passengers to the “North Pole.” With departures scheduled almost every night at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. MST, there are ample opportunities to embark on this heartwarming journey.

Where do You Board The Polar Express?


The Grand Canyon Railway Depot at 280 N Grand Canyon Blvd is where the “Polar Express” departs from. It is a charming and historic train station located in Williams, Arizona. This iconic depot is the gateway to the Grand Canyon and is renowned for its nostalgic ambiance. As passengers gather at this historic station, they are transported back to an era when train travel was the epitome of adventure and luxury. Families board the “Polar Express” from this picturesque depot to embark on their magical journey to the North Pole.

Know Before You Go

  • The “Polar Express” operates during the holiday season, from mid-November to the end of December. Be sure to check the schedule and book your tickets in advance.
  • Pajamas are encouraged but not required.
  • The train departs from Williams, Arizona, so plan your travel accordingly.
  • For those traveling with little ones, strollers are allowed on board. However, space is limited in the vestibules between each car. You can also park them at the depot.
  • Hot chocolate and cookies are included. No dairy, gluten, or nut-free items are available, but you can bring your own.
  • ADA-accessible cars are available. However, you need to make reservations at least seven days in advance.

How to Purchase Tickets

The Polar Express train-only ticket reservations can be made online. To secure your seat, visit the Grand Canyon Railway’s website here

The Polar Express is a popular event; booking your tickets well in advance is advisable to guarantee your spot on the train. Once you make a reservation, you’ll receive all the details to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience aboard the Polar Express.

Guests can book a Polar Express package for a truly immersive Polar Express experience. This all-inclusive package includes a round-trip train ticket, a one-night stay at the Railway Hotel, and a delightful dinner and breakfast at the iconic Red Harvey Restaurant. This makes it a complete getaway that captures the spirit of the holidays.

Verde Canyon Railroad Magical Christmas Journey – The Experience

The Verde Canyon Railroad’s “Magical Christmas Journey” is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a more intimate and scenic holiday train ride with Santa. Nestled in the stunning red rock country of Clarkdale, Arizona, this train offers a unique holiday experience combining natural beauty and festive charm.

At the depot of the Verde Canyon Railroad, the Christmas spirit comes alive in a magical way. The entire area features festive lighting and holiday decor. The warm and welcoming atmosphere puts visitors in the holiday mood. Santa’s elves are on hand to entertain and engage with passengers of all ages, spreading joy and laughter throughout the station. 

Flurry, the majestic bald eagle, and Princess Noel are also on the scene and warmly greet all passengers. The excitement continues with a visit to the whimsical Bird’s Eye Village. There, children can don a pair of eagle wings, adding to the enchantment of the experience. It’s a delightful prelude to the “Magical Christmas Journey,” setting the stage for the enchanting adventure that awaits.

Once aboard the train, the friendly staff ensures that your journey is filled with joy from start to finish. During the ride, passengers can enjoy seasonal drink specialties as they take in the mesmerizing scenery. This is a one-hour Verde Canyon excursion. The towering cliffs and the Verde River create a breathtaking backdrop. Then, the journey to the North Pole unfolds along Santa’s private tracks. It is an exclusive route for this extraordinary adventure.

Upon arrival at the North Pole village, passengers are greeted by the joyful presence of Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, their merry elves, and even Santa’s trusty reindeer. The festive workshop atmosphere at the North Pole village completes the picture. All this makes it a holiday journey that truly captures the spirit of Christmas.

When Can You Go on The Magical Christmas Journey Train Ride?

2024 Dates

The “Magical Christmas Journey” at the Verde Canyon Railroad takes place from November 29th through December 24th. It is a one-hour round-trip breathtaking journey with departures scheduled every night at 4:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. MST. Be sure to check the schedule for specific dates and plan ahead to secure your spot on this magical adventure.

Where Do You Board The Magical Christmas Journey Train?


The Magical Christmas Journey aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad departs from the charming town of Clarkdale, Arizona, at 300 N Broadway. This picturesque location serves as the starting point for this enchanting holiday experience. 

Know Before You Go

  • The “Magical Christmas Journey” operates on select dates in November and December. Be sure to check the schedule and secure your tickets in advance.
  • The Verde Canyon Railroad is located in Clarkdale, Arizona.
  • There are indoor coach-class cars and outdoor passenger cars available.
  • Strollers are not allowed aboard the train.
  • If you require a manual wheelchair-accessible train, kindly mention it while making your reservation.
  • Snacks are available for purchase at the depot.

How to Purchase Tickets

For “Magical Christmas Journey” train tickets, make reservations at the Verde Canyon Railroad’s website here

The “Magical Christmas Journey” is a popular event; booking your tickets well in advance is advisable to guarantee your spot on the train. Once you make your reservation, you’ll receive all the details to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience aboard the Magical Christmas Journey.

Weekday Holiday Train Rides with Santa Benefits

While the holiday season is undoubtedly magical, it’s also a time when many popular attractions can become crowded, and accommodations can be hard to come by. However, if you’re flexible with your travel plans, consider booking your train rides with Santa during the weekdays. This offers several advantages that can enhance your overall experience.

Less Crowded: Weekday train rides tend to have fewer passengers than those on weekends. This creates a more relaxed and spacious environment. You’ll have more room to move around, ensuring you and your family have a comfortable journey.

Accommodation Availability: If you’re staying overnight, booking on weekdays increases your chances of finding available accommodations. Whether you prefer cozy cabins, historic inns, or modern hotels, these charming towns offer a range of options to suit your needs.

Savor the Atmosphere: With fewer visitors, you can savor the festive atmosphere and enjoy the holiday-themed train cars, decorations, and activities to the fullest. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit without feeling rushed.

Make Lasting Memories: A weekday visit allows you to take your time, making it easier to capture those perfect family photos, have longer conversations with Santa, and truly appreciate the unique experiences each train ride offers.

While weekday train rides offer these benefits, planning and booking your tickets in advance is essential anyway. These holiday events are popular and tend to sell out quickly.

Verde Canyon Christmas Village Eagle Wings - Photo Credit Verde Canyon Railroad flickr
Verde Canyon Christmas Village – Photo Credit Verde Canyon Railroad flickr

In closing, there’s no better way to celebrate the holiday season than by embarking on a “Train Ride with Santa” in Williams and Clarkdale, Arizona. Whether you’re captivated by the enchanting journey to the North Pole on the “Polar Express” or prefer the serene beauty of the Verde Canyon on the “Magical Christmas Journey,” these train rides offer a unique opportunity to make lasting memories with loved ones.

So, this holiday season, let the spirit of Santa and the magic of train travel transport you to a world where joy and wonder know no bounds. Book your tickets and get ready for an unforgettable adventure on these train rides with Santa.

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