What’s on your holiday bucket list? You might just be craving the simpler things — like a warm cup of cocoa, a little snow, time to unplug and unwind with friends and family, and a scenic backdrop to top it all off.
An old-school ride on a train or horse-drawn sleigh hits all the marks — whether it’s taking you through a historic mining town and snow-capped mountains of Eastern Oregon or the millions of twinkling lights at the Oregon Zoo.
Here’s where to find winter rides this year.
Mount Hood Train to Christmas Town, Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge
You’ll feel like one of the woodland animals from the storybook “The Train to Christmas Town” in this recreation of the adventure. This special Mount Hood Railroad trip runs several days per week out of Hood River, starting at $42.30 for adults and $33.30 for children. Fun fact: “The Train to Christmas Town” is illustrated by Jeffrey Lee, of the 1980s arcade game Q-bert.
Baker City sleigh ride, Eastern Oregon
Revel in old-timey charm with a horse-drawn sleigh ride in historic downtown Baker City. Book your ticket in advance for this hour-long trip through time. Warm up with a hot drink afterward at the Geiser Grand Hotel. Rides run from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. each Saturday night from mid-December through February. The $24 ticket includes hot drink afterwards in the 1889 Cafe.
Sumpter Valley Railroad, Eastern Oregon
The snow-capped Elkhorn Mountains set the stage for this two-hour vintage train ride, which runs between the small towns of McEwen and Sumpter — a historic mining town just west of Baker City. The holiday trains run Dec. 14 and Dec. 15 before the railroad closes for the season (and resumes in May with train robbery rides and other themes). Round-trip tickets are $24 for adults and $14 for kids, with family passes available.
Sunriver Resort sleigh ride, Central Oregon
Over the hills and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go. This horse-drawn open sleigh (fitting four adults and two children) takes you along the Deschutes River, with warm winter blankets provided. Rides are daily through Jan. 5 and weekends into mid-February (weather permitting) at a cost of $175 per sleigh.
Oregon ZooLights train, Portland Region
A beloved part of Oregon ZooLights each year, this short-but-memorable train ride lets you ooh and aah over the twinkly lights (and wave to people on the walking paths) from the comfort of your train car. Take MAX to the zoo if you can and book a train ride later in the evening to avoid the crowds. The train runs through Jan. 5, 2020.
Holiday Express Train at Oaks Park, Portland Region
Find wildlife in the city aboard these vintage steam-powered cars of the Oregon Pacific Railroad. The Holiday Express traverses along the Willamette River in Southeast Portland from Oaks Park, through the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge to the gateway of the Springwater Corridor Trail. Join Santa for the magical 45-minute ride and enjoy hot drinks and cookies back at the station. Tickets start at $22 for adults and $16 for kids, with a family rate available.
Candy Cane Express, Oregon Coast
As the holiday season approaches, the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad transforms into the Candy Cane Express, a festive steam-powered tour through the coastal landscape of Garibaldi to Rockaway Beach. During the hour-long excursion, passengers (particularly the young ones) can visit with Santa Claus, sip on hot cocoa and enjoy cookies. The train glows in holiday lights, making it a truly magical experience. Adult tickets are $22, seniors are $20, children ages 3-10 are $18 and children under 3 are free. Check the website for dates and times.
If You Go:
Be sure to check road and weather conditions before heading out and carry snow chains or traction tires when advised.
Whenever you’re adventuring in the winter, wear waterproof layers, appropriate snow boots and don’t forget your sunglasses. Learn how to come prepared by brushing up on tips at How to Winter Like an Oregonian. Always follow Leave No Trace principals, including packing in and out, leaving what you find where it’s at, and respecting wildlife and other visitors.