New Year’s Eve train rides
Themed train rides are a fun, slightly different way of experiencing train travel. There are endless opportunities for railroads to host events that are multigenerational, and thus, keep them growing in popularity. From holiday decor to murder mysteries to food-oriented trains, themed excursions offer a unique way for friends to gather or perhaps for couples to cozy up to one another. It’s the kind of night that one is sure to remember.
The following list offers you a novel way to celebrate the ending of a chaotic 2023, while welcoming in the hope associated with the new year.
A number of railroads host themed New Year’s Eve train rides for couples, friends, and families. Others offer their regular train/schedule, albeit with winter scenery. Each has something different to entice guests looking for a short adventure, whether it be day or night.
Let’s take a quick peek at a few themed trips on the horizon.
Note: This list is not all inclusive.
1. Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
New Year’s Eve Train & Fireworks
Details: Ages 3 and up. Ride duration is roughly 2 hours. The train departs at 10:30 p.m. At midnight, the train will stop for a fireworks show. There are two different seating options available with different age guidelines: “Pizza & Pop” (open to all ages) and “Wine & Cheese” (21 and up). Children under 18 must be supervised. Reservations are required. You may bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages on board this train. Note: For this family-friendly event keep the ages of your party in mind when booking.
2. Royal Gorge Route Railroad
New Year’s Eve Dinner Train
Canyon City, Colorado
Details: There are lunch and dinner train options (12:30 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m.). Ride duration is 3 hours. Food and drinks are available. The first-class dinner menu — which includes a free glass of sparkling wine and multiple courses — is offered on the 7 p.m. train only (must be 21 or older). When purchasing tickets, there are coach, deluxe, or vista dome options for seating. Passengers must arrive 45 minutes prior to departure to collect tickets and board. Couples may be seated with another couple, as tables accommodate four people.
3. Nickel Plate Express
New Year’s Eve Masquerade Express
Details: It’s a masquerade party aboard a historic 1956 Santa Fe El Capitan train. It doesn’t get much more fun than this. Departing from Hobbs Station at 8 p.m., this ride is a 45-minute journey to Atlanta, Ind. There, you’ll enjoy an evening of classical music, delectable appetizers, and champagne. After midnight and the toast to new beginnings, you’ll return to the station. Two seating options are available: Diamond (Duke dining car) and Platinum (Reporter lounge). This is a one-of-a-kind experience (only offered this year). Themes will vary in years to follow.
4. Napa Valley Wine Train
Midnight In Paris: A Legacy NYE Celebration
Details: The first of its kind, the “Midnight In Paris: A Legacy NYE Celebration” is being offered by the Napa Valley Wine Train this New Year’s only. On a 2-hour tour through Grgich Hills Estate passengers will enjoy: dancing aboard the open-air car, a three-course breakfast and lunch, a glass of sparkling wine, and a winery party with small bites. Itinerary available online. Event begins at 9:45 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. Note: The toast is at 3 p.m. to coincide with the midnight celebration in France. Theme chosen in honor of Grgich Hills Estate founder and winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich who turned 100 this year!
5. Belmond British Pullman
New Year’s Luxury Train Trip
Details: This train offers the ultimate Black-tie event for you and your special someone. You are encouraged to dress to impress. On the British Pullman, you’ll be transported back into the 1920s Art Deco era as you enjoy a five-course dinner, champagne, a bottle of wine, and scenic journey through the British countryside. Table magicians will be entertaining guests throughout the evening. This is a round trip that departs London Victoria Station at 6:50 p.m. and returns at 12:30 a.m. Note: You might want to brush up on your table etiquette. This is a night where knowing your dinner fork from your salad fork may come in handy.
6. Tennessee Valley Railroad
New Year’s Eve Dinner Train
Details: All ages are welcome. Duration of trip is 2 hours and includes a four-course dinner. You are encouraged to choose your entrée when ordering tickets. Two dining options are available, the vintage dining car (four guests per table) or the Pullman car Clover Colony (two per table). Departs Grand Junction Station at two times, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Note: This year is sold out. However, there is a Holiday Lights Train that runs at 5:30 p.m., 7:15 p.m., and 9 p.m. as well.
7. Roaring Camp Railroads
New Year’s Holiday Lights Train
Santa Cruz, California
Details: Train departs from Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for a 1-hour journey that includes light-up hula hoopers and a live DJ as you pass through the streets of Santa Cruz. Tickets will be available soon for Dec. 26 to Jan. 3. Boardwalk locations may be available for food or beverages. However, no eating/drinking on the train. Adorned with thousands of holiday lights, these vintage cars are going to be wildly rolling through city streets, so stay tuned for tickets.
8. My Old Kentucky Dinner Train
New Year’s Eve Excursion
Details: Bourbon and a “Best Dressed Contest,” is just the tip of the iceberg. This 3-hour round-trip excursion offers quite an array of experiences: live music, champagne toast at mock-midnight, four-course dinner, souvenir champagne flute, photo booth, and more. There are four 1940s vintage dining cars pulled by two R.J. Corman commemorative 50th anniversary locomotives — and 35 types of bourbon to choose from in the gift shop prior to boarding. Ages in 21 and up for this ride. Note: This event takes place on Dec. 30.
9. New York Transit Museum
Holiday Nostalgia Train
Manhattan, New York
Details: The “Holiday Nostalgia Train” R1/9s will be running between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Dec. 30. The route is between 2nd Avenue on the uptown F line platform and 145th on the downtown D line platform. This is an annual tradition. The train consists of eight cars from the 1930s that ran throughout the system — along lettered lines — until the late ‘70s. These rides serve as a visual reminder of NYC’s transit history. The Holiday Nostalgia rides are offered throughout December. Note: These are the cars that inspired the popular song “Take the A Train” by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. This event takes place on Dec. 30.
10. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Cascade Canyon Winter Train
Details: Through the San Juan Mountains we go! This 5.25-hour round trip is offered on New Year’s Eve. Departing from Durango Depot at 9:15 a.m. and returing at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available for presidential class, first class, deluxe class, and standard class. Children four and under are free, if they don’t need a seat. Views of the San Juan National Forest and Animas River can be observed from the inside of the heated coaches. Boxed lunches are available for order. Snacks and drinks can be purchased on the train. There is an hour layover in Cascade Canyon, which you can walk alongside the Animas River, have lunch, and take photos.
11. Skunk Train
Christmas Tree Train
Details: Exploring the world’s largest living Christmas tree. Departure is at 10:30 a.m. at the Willits depot. This is a 2-hour trip through the redwood forest. No assigned seating on this trip, and your furry, four-legged friend is welcome for an additional $10.95. Infants under two ride free. A commemorative gift is included with the VIP package, along with advanced boarding and priority concessions. Nothing says holiday magic quite like a family-friendly adventure to Mr. Skunk’s Magical Workshop by the World’s Largest Christmas Tree.
Polar Express rides are also being offered on New Year’s Eve at several railroads throughout the U.S. These family-friendly shows/train rides are the same performances hosted on any other day/time.
Check out the “Holiday trains & Polar Express rides (2023)” article for more information on participating railroads/museums.