Ok, so let’s talk trains.  Somewhere along the way, trains and Christmas became connected.  Now, it seems like they just kinda go together.  And, if you are like me and have a trainiac in your family, there is pressure to pay an awful lot of money to ride one around the holidays.

So, here are MY thoughts on the trains around town.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

  • City Park train ($8 per person) – The cost is actually $4/ticket, but there is an admission fee of $4/person to the amusement park.  This is a 15 minute ride through City Park.  It is outdoors and really fun!  However, it is a bit pricey.  Kids under 36 inches are free though so if your trainiac is small, worth it!
  • City Park Holiday train ($5 per person) – This is really the same ride as above, but in conjunction with Celebration in the Oaks ($9 admission).  It is at night, with the Christmas lights throughout the park.  The lines will kill you, though.  Bring snacks to survive!  And, make sure you check out the train garden with all the miniature trains!
  • Lakeside Shopping Center miniature train ($1.50 per person) – A tiny train that runs in a small loop around the decorated center stage beside Santa.  I guess, technically, you CAN ride with your kids but it is a tight squeeze.  The line is a nightmare, only because it is horribly set up, but my kids loved the ride.
  • The Columbia Christmas Train ($18 per person) – Lots of people are curious about this one.  We went last year so I will share our experience and opinions.  First, it is a LONG drive from Slidell.  We left as soon as Charlie got off his bus (3:30) and made it there right in time for the first train ride of the night.  We didn’t wait at all!  There were 2 train cars (one was a flatbed car with a structure built onto it, so not an actual car) being pulled by a small switch engine.  The engine pulls the cars down the track for awhile then pushes them back to the station.  It isn’t a loop and you don’t ever leave the train.  There are mounted monitors which play a video about the creation and fall of man on the way out and the birth of Jesus on the way back.  I was a bit disappointed because I was expecting the story to be told outside the train (like a light display or something).  There really wasn’t much to see outside the train during the ride.  When we got off the train, the line was LONG (people at the end were waiting through 2 rides).  Thank goodness we got there early!  Anyways, there is a ton of other stuff to do.  We went for a pony ride, visited the petting zoo, bounced on inflatables for over an hour, and rode on a hayride through a light display.  There were little to no crowds through the rest of the area.  There are tons of places to take pictures and beautiful lights everywhere.  Everything is included in the price, except food, crafts, and Santa pics.  The downside to the whole experience is the distance and the price.  Columbia is not on the interstate so you will be driving down windy back roads after dark.  My take away:  I’m really glad we did this once, but I doubt we will go again.
  • The Polar Express ($52/adult, $37/child) – If you hadn’t heard yet, The Polar Express is coming to New Orleans!  Sadly, the tickets are sold out for every ride.  Which, in my opinion is CRAZY!  Look at the price!  Ok, so maybe I’m a grinch but for my family of 5, we would be paying over $200 to fight a crowd, have hot cocoa and bring home a bell?!?!?!  Still, it IS the Polar Express and would be an amazing memory.  What a tough decision!  I do have an idea…
  • Ok, so this will really take some planning on your part.  And it helps if you have a family member willing to help you pull it off.  BUT, there is an alternative:  Amtrak runs from New Orleans, through Slidell, to Picayune (and more stops further north).  It also runs from New Orleans to Hammond (and more stops further north).  So, my idea is to re-create a Polar Express ride for your family!  No, there will be no Santa on your trip, but the price is right.  For 2 adult and 3 child tickets, NOLA to Slidell Slidell to NOLA (approximately an hour on the train), it costs $42.  I plan to bring along a copy of the book, a thermos of milk, and donuts.   The biggest problems are 1. finding someone to drop you off in NOLA and 2. The timing of the trains isn’t the best (it leaves NOLA at 7 am!).  If you do it backwards (Slidell to NOLA), the timing is better (Departs Slidell at 6:07 pm).  Hammond is a longer ride, but a little more inconvenient for us Slidellians. Anyways, it is worth a glance, if your kids are into trains!

I hope this info helps some.  I will post later this week with some activities for next week, and there are tons!!!




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