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.
Before you head out in wintry weather, be sure to check road and weather conditions and carry snow chains or traction tires when advised.
Here’s where to find winter rides this year.
Mt. 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 hour-long round-trip runs several days per week out of Hood River, mid-November through a few days after Christmas. Enjoy holiday music, hot cocoa and cookies, and watch storybook characters come to life. Santa and his elves will wave and greet each child with a gift.
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 are offered mid-December through February. Your ticket includes a hot drink afterward in the hotel’s 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. Check the calendar for the holiday-themed rides offered in December, as well as fall foliage rides in October and and other themed rides throughout the year.
Sunriver Resort sleigh ride, Central Oregon
Over the hills and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go. This Victorian horse-drawn open sleigh (fitting four adults and two children) takes you through the Meadows Golf Course at the resort, with warm winter blankets provided. Check the website for dates in January and February, weather permitting.
Oregon ZooLights train, Portland Region
A beloved part of many family holiday traditions, the train ride at Oregon ZooLights lets you ooh and aah over the twinkly lights from the comfort of your train car or personal vehicle. Consider taking the MAX to the zoo to skip the parking hassle, come early in the day to enjoy the animals, and book early in the season to avoid the crowds. See website for dates and times.
Holiday Express Train, 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 the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. Join Santa for the magical 45-minute ride and enjoy hot drinks and cookies back at the station. Check the website for dates and times.
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 and back. During the hour-long excursion, riders can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, sip on hot cocoa and enjoy cookies. The trains glow in holiday lights, making it a truly magical experience. Check the website for dates and times in November and December. Seating options include both fully enclosed cars, a partially open car and a historic 1910 dining car.