I never once associated trains with Christmas until I saw the 2004 neo-classic The Polar Express starring an animated (literally) Tom Hanks in a variety of roles, including the conductor.

It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 20 years since its release, but in that time, it's become just as essential a part of the holiday season as any of the other timeless Christmas movies or any of our beloved television specials.

It also spun off a series of attractions across the country. Suddenly, new entrepreneurs had those figurative light bulbs turn on over their heads and--BOOM--holiday train rides were born.

A Kentucky Holiday Train Ride

There may have BEEN such attractions prior to the 2004 holiday movie season, but the NAME Polar Express caught on, and you can now find them nationwide. That includes the Polar Express Train Ride, a Christmas component of the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. It departs from Stearns KY in McCreary County and takes passengers on an exciting hour-long ride through beautiful southeastern Kentucky. It's currently accepting passengers for the 2023 holiday season.

What to Expect on the Polar Express Train Ride

Passengers receive free hot chocolate and a cookie treat as they enjoy their excursion to the "North Pole," at which point Santa Claus hops on board for the ride back to the Stearns Depot, complete with Christmas carols. And since he's Santa, he'll have a special gift for each passenger.


I don't know about you, but that's how my family collected many of our family Christmas tree ornaments. We'd visit holiday attractions and pick one up as a souvenir. The collection really ballooned over the years.

The Polar Express Train Ride in Stearns KY is currently operating Friday through Sunday but will expand to a daily operation on December 13th. The last ride is scheduled for December 23rd.

LOOK: Holiday gift crazes and fads of the past century

Stacker compiled a list of toy crazes from the past 100 years. 

Gallery Credit: Jennnifer Billock

LOOK: 15 Unconventional Christmas Albums From the Past 50 Years

More From WKDQ-FM