Updated October 28, 2018
If you’re looking for a holiday adventure, we’ve got just the ticket! The Santa Express at the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad is the merriest holiday train experience in Central Iowa, complete with Santa, his elves, hot cocoa and cookies. The Santa Express doesn’t wait for stragglers, so you’ll want to reserve your tickets ASAP! Read on to discover more about this memorable holiday train ride adventure.
Know Before You Go
- Dates: Operates Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, November 23 through December 16, 2018.
- Departure Times: Friday at 6:00 pm; Saturday at 10:30 am, 1:00, 3:30 and 6:00 pm; Sunday at 10:30 am, 1:00 and 3:30 pm.
- Location: Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad; 225 10th St, Boone, IA 50036
- Cost: General Tickets – $18.00/2 year olds and up; FREE under 2 (on your lap); First Class Tickets – $45/2 year olds and up; FREE under 2 (on your lap).
- Parking: FREE parking is available.
- Food: Hot chocolate and a cookie are served on the train ride. Snacks can be purchased in the Depot’s gift shop. You can also take your own snacks.
- Restrooms: Public restrooms are located in the Depot and there are restrooms on the train.
- Prior to your visit check out the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad’s website where you’ll find everything you need to know.
While You’re There
About the Railway
The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad is located in Boone about 45 minutes northwest of Des Moines. The railway has been chugging passengers on its line to the old mining town of Fraser since 1983, with the original tracks laid in 1893. During the holiday season, this historic train ride transforms itself into the Santa Express. The book Santa’s Scenic Valley Ride, which was written by local author Misty McNally is read on the trip to the North Pole. The book is available for purchase and the author is in the Gift Shop signing copies.
Booking the Trip
You can reserve your tickets on-line or purchase them over the phone. You will receive an e-mail confirmation. Tickets will be available for pick-up at the Ticket Window in the Depot and it’s recommended that you pick the tickets up an hour ahead of your departure time. For groups of eight and up, I recommend calling to make sure you can all sit together.
What to Expect on the Train
Prior to departure, you will wait in the Depot, which can get crowded. If you get there early you can peruse the Gift Shop or find a seat. Boarding starts a half hour prior to departure and your train assignment will be written on your ticket. On board the hour and a half train ride, you will be treated to a reading of Santa’s Scenic Valley Ride story. Hot Chocolate, which is thankfully covered with a lid, and a cookie will also be passed out by the very efficient Elves.
Once you’ve safely arrived at the North Pole, Santa (and sometimes Mrs. Claus) will get on board to deliver each child a surprise gift (their very own bell from Santa’s sleigh, Shhh). On the return trip the MC and Elves will tell jokes or ask trivia questions and lead the passengers in singing Christmas carols. Don’t forget to take in the scenery, as you’re chugging along. Whether there is snow on the ground or not you can look for wildlife and crossing the Bass Point Creek High Bridge is a highlight of the trip.
What to Bring on the Train
This year was our third trip on the Santa Express and the kids have always been encouraged to wear their PJs. Several adults also get in on the fun, so feel free to dress the whole family in pajamas. Anything you need is okay to bring on the ride including diaper bags, camera cases, stuffed animals, water bottles and snacks. Just keep in mind that space is limited so try to bring just the necessities.
You will also want to keep an eye on the weather. The first year we rode the Santa Express, Central Iowa was experiencing extremely cold weather and we were warned that the train may be cold. We dressed appropriately with hats, gloves, snow pants and boots. We also took along sleeping bags for the kids to burrow into. The train car ended up being toasty warm, but it never hurts to be prepared and the kids loved having the sleeping bags!
The Santa Express is a great holiday adventure for the whole family!
Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
225 10th Street
Boone, IA 50036
Have you and your family ridden the rails on the Santa Express? Tell us about it in the comments below!