My two year-old daughter, Miller, has recently developed a fascination with trains so when I was asked to review the Strasburg Railroad’s Santa Paradise Express, I knew I had at least one enthusiastic companion!
My husband and I loaded up the kiddos and hit the road to Ronks, PA, home of the Strasburg Railroad – a historic coal-burning steam locomotive. The drive through the countryside to the station was pretty and serene, and soon the smoke of the waiting locomotive blackened the horizon. As we pulled into the parking lot, my daughter flipped out squeaked with excitement to see the enormous train waiting at the station. As we walked to the platform, a conductor in traditional garb politely greeted us and pointed us in the direction of our beautifully restored railcar. Smoke billowed out of the steam engine as throngs of excited families boarded the train, and we quickly found our seats aboard Santa’s Paradise Express.
A few choo choo’s later, the wheels stirred to life and the train began its journey to Paradise. Miller was thrilled as she waved ‘bye-bye’ to folks on the platform, and soon began to look for cows and horses as we traveled through the Amish countryside. My 9 month-old son was thrilled when a brass duo began playing Christmas carols in our car. A few minutes later, the conductor announced that the big man himself would soon be making the rounds. With a jolly ‘ho ho ho’, Santa Claus entered the car and wished our little ones a very Merry Christmas. Miller was completely starstruck. She never took her eyes off the jolly old elf as he made his way through the car, handing out gifts to the children and posing for pictures.
As the train continued chugging towards Paradise, PA, two carolers entertained us with beautiful renditions of traditional Christmas songs. Much to the delight of the children on the car, they finished their performance by leading the passengers in a festive ‘Jingle Bells’ sing-along. The engine soon made it’s way to the opposite end of the train (the kids all loved waving to the engineer as he passed), and we began our trip back to the station. The kids played with their slinkies from Santa and we even spotted two bald eagles perched majestically in a tree. Gorgeous!
After an approximately 30 minute ride, the train pulled back into the station. We waved goodbye to Santa and watched as the engine reconnected to the front of the train. Miller was fascinated by every aspect, and quietly whispered ‘choo choo, choo choo’ as we watched the engine back up.
We picked up our Santa photo (various packages available for purchase) and visited the gift shop where Miller and Maddox picked out train Christmas ornaments to commemorate our special day aboard Santa’s Paradise Express. Soon, it was time to wave ‘bye bye’ as the train pulled out of the station to take its new passengers on a festive holiday ride to Paradise.
We couldn’t have been more thrilled with our experience. The Strasburg Railroad is a fun and family-friendly excursion, and the wonderful visit with Santa was an added bonus. I have a feeling that this will become a regular Christmas tradition for our family!
We were provided tickets to Santa’s Paradise Express at the Strasburg Railroad to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% my own.