The Strasburg Rail Road in Lancaster County, PA is probably one of the best railroad experiences in the United States. The have special event trains throughout the year and almost all of their excursions are incredibly kid friendly!
We have been on numerous train excursions from the Strasburg Rail Road and this kid friendly guide will give you a sneak peak of what to expect and share some of our best tips to maximize your experience!
The Legacy of Sleepy Hollow Train
We visited the Legacy of Sleepy Hollow Train in 2022 for the first time and everyone (including the tween) totally enjoyed it! This is a very unique and minimally spooky train excursion that happens from September-early November every year.
The Legacy of Sleepy Hollow will tell the rest of the story of Ichabod Crane, through his great-great-granddaughter, Isabel Crane. The train ride lasts about 1 hour but there is a pre-show that you definitely want to arrive to see!
What to expect on the sleepy hollow train
As mentioned earlier, there are actually three parts to this train excursion and you will want arrive early and stay late for all three parts!
When you arrive at the train station, everything will be decorated for the spooky haunted experience. If you choose the earlier train excursion (630pm), it’s likely you will see all the decorations right as the sun is setting. If you arrive later, the decorations will transform into an eerie and spooky backdrop for the festivities.
Here is what this scene looks like at sunset.
And here is what it looks like after dark!
Wouldn’t you love a ride with this dude? There are great photo ops throughout the train depot area. So, definitely bring your camera!
The pre-show lasts about 10 minutes and is a fun set-up for the story you will learn more about onboard the train.
The train ride itself follows the same countryside path as the other trains. The big exception of course is that you will get spooked and haunted by the ghost of Ichabod Crane and the dreaded Headless Horseman!
Inside the train the lights will be dimmed and there will be flashes and strobe lights. Halfway through the trip, the train stops at a ‘battle scene’ where the drama starts to really unfold.
And then the train pulls away– heading back to the Strasburg Train Depot. But the story is far from over.
Back at the depot, guests will disembark and watch as the ghosts of Halloween past fight it out to reveal what really happened at Sleepy Hollow over 100 years ago.
Oh, and yes… there is the Headless Horseman! (if you are a Disney fan and have been to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party… you get a fantastic look at the Headless Horseman here too!)
It is actually really thrilling to watch the Headless Horseman race in on his horse, sword flashing and all. I think this was my favorite part of the entire experience.
Tips for the Legacy of Sleepy Hollow Train
- The train is recommended for kids ages 8 and older. But honestly, I think kids in the 6-7 range could totally be fine with it too. It’s more spooky than scary, if that makes sense. But, either way– there are scary elements so know your kids.
- If you are deciding between the 630pm or 8pm train here are two deciding factors: 1. The 630pm train will actually start at dusk, so it won’t be completely dark yet (but it will be dark sometime during the train). The 8pm train will definitely be dark. 2. If you choose the 8pm train the 630pm train people will still be around so the entire event could be more crowded. Going earlier you can explore the Strasburg Train Depot and grab a bite to eat before the train event.
- During the pre-show stand back by the train. The pre-show isn’t long and you want decent seats on the train. You can’t board the train until the pre show is over but you can stand near the train.
- There are 4 cars. The back car is the dining car. The front car is for the performers. If you are doing general seating you want to pick the car in front of the dining car… so car #3. This is because when you get to the mid-ride performance, you will be able to actually see it.. the front car (car #2) is really far away.
- Pick your seats on the train station side of the train. That’s where all the action happens!
- Try to pick a row closer to the exit (at the front of your car). It doesn’t have to be the closest to the exit but the first 3 or 4 rows. That way you can get off quickly and grab a front row seat for the headless horseman show!
Many people in the region experience the Strasburg Rail Road for the first time at Christmas. Why? Because they have quite a few fantastic Christmas train options! The train station will be decked out for the holidays and just completely festive!
Santa Paradise Express
This is the regular Santa Train and it’s completely delightful! This train is 45 minutes long and runs from mid-November through Christmas Eve (typically).
Santa is on board to give all passengers a small gift and take pictures. And sometimes Mrs. Claus will also be on board to greet guests!
One of the things I love about the Santa Paradise Express train is there are professional carolers and musicians spreading the holiday cheer throughout the train ride!
There are no bad seats on the Santa Paradise Express. One year we went with friends and splurged on the Club Car Charter. That was definitely a treat! The entire car is decorated and the seating is super comfy and spacious. Also, first class and up cars get hot chocolate and a cookie.. so kids would love that!
Night Before Christmas Train
One of our other favorite Strasburg Rail Road Christmas Trains is the Night Before Christmas Train. Yes, you will want to get nestled into your most comfy pajamas for this train excursion!
All passengers get milk and cookies, and then sit back and enjoy a dramatic reading of the classic, Night Before Christmas. It is not guaranteed, but it’s highly likely that Santa will pop in for a visit during the ride as well (but not for individual meet and greets).
When we visited, we opted for the first class Lounge Car No 118 and it was fantastic. The cabin was cozy with plush green velvet swivel seats. In the first class cars you can also order extra food and beverages.
The availability for the Night Before Christmas Train is typically a few weekends in December and then the entire week leading up to Christmas.
Other Christmas Trains
There are two other Christmas-themed trains at the Strasburg Railroad.
The Christmas Tree Train is truly iconic if you love to cut down your own Christmas tree! You travel by steam train to an authentic Christmas tree grove, choose a pre-cut Frasier Fir Tree, and have the train haul it back to the station for you!
And if you prefer a shorter daytime Christmas train experience, the Santa Claus Limited is a 45-minute train excursion that runs during the day Wednesday-Friday. These trips will include a very brief visit with Santa (but probably not personalized) and are perfect for families with younger kids who might not be too sure if they are ready to meet Santa yet.
A Day out with Thomas
Thomas the Train is a huge hit with families! And the Strasburg Rail Road typically holds special Thomas the Train events in June and September.
Kids are encouraged to dress up and there are Thomas the Train activities throughout the event.
Other Special Event Trains
Some of the other special train events Strasburg Rail Road hosts include:
- Easter Bunny Trains
- Murder Mystery Train Experiences (ages 10+)
- Bonnie and Clyde Experience (a stunt show)
- Wine and Cheese Train Rides (21+)
- Escape Room Trains (interactive and for all ages)
- Le Train Cabaret (21+)
Other Kid Friendly Activities at Strasburg Rail Road
There are really so many fun activities to engage your kids before and after the train excursion.
There is a train themed play structure, as well as an actual playground.
Kids will love trying out the pedal cart track too!
Strasburg Rail Road Picnic Groves
Apparently in years past (pre-COVID most likely) you could take the train to the Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, play, and then take the train back. That option is not available anymore.
However, Strasburg Railroad has their very own picnic area called Groff’s Grove! The picnic area has some play equipment, picnic tables, and grills for visitor use. Guests onboard the regular (non special event) trains can request to be let off at the grove, have a picnic, and then catch the return train (about an hour later).
Otherwise, Cafe 1832 is a decent choice for a quick bite before or after your train event. This cafe has a grill and offers hot dogs, burgers, chicken bites, grilled cheese, sandwiches, and desserts and sides.
Address: 301 Gap Rd, Ronks, PA 17572
Google Map Directions link
Most trains are typically 45 minutes long. Some of the special event trains can be longer.
Almost all (if not all) of the train excursions are round trip.
If you are interested in more train activities, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania is right across the street, and the Choo Choo Barn is less than a mile down the road. A few other local attractions that are very family friendly include the Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, Dutch Wonderland, Turkey Hill Experience, and Sight and Sound Theatres.