The world’s jolliest fellow has left the North Pole a little early and made his way to Colorado. Yes, the man who rocked a massive beard long before it was trendy will be on board the Georgetown Loop Railroad the rest of the year. If you’ve never hopped the rail—a classic Colorado experience—this is the time of year to do so.

The trek is only three-miles, but it takes one hour to cross Clear Creek, navigate both Republican and Democrat mountains, circle Lebanon Mine, reach Silver Plume, and make the return trip back to Georgetown. It won’t take long to get into the holiday spirit, though; At Devil’s Gate station (where the train departs), you’ll find actual chestnuts roasting on an open fire, carolers, and complimentary hot cocoa.

On board, Santa and Ms. Claus pass through each car to pose for pictures, pass out sugar cookies, jingle bells, and, of course, listen to holiday wishes. “For a family it’s a special thing to do,” says Josh Owen, who’s ridden the train two years in a row with his daughter. “A unique holiday experience.”

Owen plans to make the holiday ride an annual thing (his daughter, Harper, 7, thinks Santa is “really, really nice.”). He’ll join a longstanding tradition: As part of the state-run Georgetown Loop Mining and Railroad Park, the train has run year round since 1973 when the Colorado Historical Society began restoring the 1880s train. Santa first boarded in the winter of 2008. Thank goodness, because we’d rather take a scenic train ride instead of standing in a line to meet Santa at the local mall.

Tip: Upgrade to the parlor car for table seating and food and beverage service.

Price: Adults start at $27.95, children $18.95.

Warning: Do not park in Santa’s well-marked spot. Your sleigh may be towed.

—Image courtesy of Mark Graybill