The Polar Express at Railtown 1897– Just the Start of Your State Parks Adventure!

If you are heading up into the Sierra Foothills for a ride on The Polar Express at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park this holiday season, round out your family adventure with a visit to other nearby state parks.

Columbia State Historic Park is  just a short 7 mile drive from Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and is full of holiday spirit for the month of December. The historic Gold Rush town is decorated with cedar bows, and lots of old-fashioned cheer. Park shops are open daily from 10am to 5pm, and offer unique shopping options.  You can watch old-fashioned candy canes being made at Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen, shop at the leather store, candle store or book store, enjoy a sarsaparilla or fresh baked cookie, and make family memories on a stagecoach ride.  During Miner’s Christmas you can also enjoy fresh roasted chestnuts and old-fashioned children’s games on the street.  Free town tours are offered every Saturday and Sunday at 11am and Columbia has a wonderful little museum.

The California Store at Columbia State Historic Park with a rare dusting of snow

The California Store at Columbia State Historic Park with a rare dusting of snow

Columbia State Historic Park offers  unique accommodations  in two historic hotels.  The City and Fallon Hotels are located on Main Street,  inside the park and offer beautifully restored Victorian-era rooms. The park also has several cottages available for overnight stays– perfect for families. Call the City Hotel to book your room or cottage at (209) 532-1479. Show the hotel staff your Polar Express tickets and you will receive a 20% percent discount for your entire stay!

Guest room in the City Hotel at Columbia State Historic Park

Guest room in the City Hotel at Columbia State Historic Park

Another California State Park within driving distance of both Railtown 1897 and Columbia is Calaveras Big Trees State Park located in Arnold, Ca. In the Winter months the park often has snow, and is home to some of the largest trees in the world, making this winter wonderland a must-see. The spectacular Sequoia redwoods can be seen on an easy trail hike. Once snow arrives in the park, guided snowshoe tours are held on Saturdays at 1 pm. Snow shoes are available on a first come first serve basis. Calaveras Big Trees State Park also has cabins available for rent. Call the park for more information at (209) 795-2334.

Giant Sequoia at Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Giant Sequoia at Calaveras Big Trees State Park

And, of course, don’t forget to come back and visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park during the daytime!  Tours of the historic roundhouse are available everyday.  This unique building is one of only two original, functioning steam-era roundhouses.  Climb into the cab of one of the sleeping giants, see a locomotive restoration in progress, visit the belt driven machine shop, and view the historic track car collection.  If you come between noon and 3PM on the Polar Express days, you can even watch the train crew firing up the famous Sierra No. 3 steam engine for the evening. The park also has a self-guided Jr. Ranger program.  Print the book ahead of time, or pick one up for free at the Depot Store (209) 984-3953.

Get an up-close view of a steam engine in the Roundhouse

Get an up-close view of a steam engine in the Roundhouse

Lots to see and do at these California State Parks in December.  Make this your new holiday tradition!
December Events in Columbia and Railtown 1897 State Historic Parks & Calaveras Big Trees State Park:

November 27-Dec 20th Candy Cane Making– Columbia SHP

December 2nd and 3rd  Lamplight Tours– Columbia SHP

December 12th Gold Rush Days– Columbia SHP

December 9th, 11th, 15th, and 16th The Victorian Feast at the City Hotel

December 10th, 11th, 17th, and 18th A Miners Christmas– Columbia SHP

December 11th Los Posadas Nativity Procession– Columbia SHP

December 11thEquestrian Parade- Columbia SHP

December Saturday Snowshoe Tours– Calaveras Big Trees SP

The Polar Express at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, December 2,3 4, 9,10,11,16,17,18.  Trains depart at 4:30, 6:00 and 7:30.  Tickets sell out quickly.

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