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These Colorado winter train rides will get you in the holiday spirit

Allyson Reedy, Denver Post
Conductor Jason Maxwell calls people to board the Polar Express train ride at the Colorado Railroad Museum on Nov. 10 in Golden. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

Colorado Railroad Museum’s Polar Express

This “Polar Express”-themed experience is so popular there are additional rides this year. Your journey starts with the boarding, where a conductor leads you to your car for a reading of the Christmas tale, complete with cocoa and cookies. Then everyone gathers trackside for the oh-so-dramatic arrival of the Polar Express steam train. Climb aboard and loop your way to the North Pole, where you pick up a red-suited, bearded stowaway. (Santa. We’re talking about Santa.)

Royal Gorge Santa Express

Meet Santa and his elves, partake in spectacularly beautiful scenery and feast on Feliz Navidad tortilla chips and the Ho Ho Ho Hot Dog? Just take our money, Royal Gorge Railroad, and get ready to pour a couple of spiked eggnog cocktails — and maybe a Nutcracker (Irish cream, hazelnut liqueur, coffee and whipped cream) or a Sugarplum Fairy (spiced rum, hot apple cider and caramel drizzle) — on our way to the North Pole. (Or, more accurately, the bottom of the Royal Gorge.) Once you’re at the Pole, Santa and his elves climb aboard to deliver Christmas cheer to the kiddos (in the form of those magical bells). There’s also a Breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus train for early risers.

Georgetown Loop

Pair your holiday train ride with this mountain town’s charming Georgetown Christmas Market (Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15) and you’ve got memories galore. Choose from three holiday jaunts on the railroad, all of which are variations on the same theme of ogling lights and vying for (or avoiding) Santa’s attention.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Polar Express

It’s BYOB — Bring Your Own Book — for this “Polar Express”-themed ride. Like in the story, wear your pajamas — just maybe with a coat over them since this is Durango in winter and all. This Polar Express train ride includes hot chocolate and treats in its decked-out cars, and all kids receive a special bell from Santa. Once you get to the North Pole, gape at the lights and chipper village in the distance. Maybe even wave to Santa — who knows? Remember that this season is truly amazing while singing Christmas carols with wonder-struck kids on the way back. Can’t make it before Christmas? You can enjoy a wintry ride into the San Juan Forest on the Durango & Silverton through spring.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Santa Train

A Hamilton and a toy or food donation buys you a seat on this charity train, which partners with a local food bank and Toys for Tots in Antonito. Over the last few years, the highest and longest narrow gauge steam railroad in the country has collected tens of thousands of new toys for local kids and food for local residents, making it a true Santa Train. Besides do-gooding and enjoying a great ride, you’ll get to hang with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves (who hand out hot chocolate and cookies).

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