If you’re looking for a unique and kid-friendly Halloween excursion just an hour or so from Jacksonville, venture north to coastal Georgia for a memorable adventure on the St. Mary’s Railroad. There’s just one more weekend of Halloween Express excursions left, so don’t wait too long to book your seats.
Guests load into three open-air cars for a journey through woodlands and over marshlands. Midway through the ride, the train stops so guests can vote for their favorite Halloween monster. Who will be the king or queen of the Monster Ball: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, or the Wicked Witch of the West? The Good Witch leads the festivities. Monsters board the train for its return trip. There are jokes, songs, candy, and plenty of photo opportunities. The hour-long adventure is not at all scary, so it’s fun for even the youngest riders. “On Halloween Express, we go back in time and reclaim the traditions of yesteryear,” says St. Mary’s Express Entertainment Director Barbra Ryan. This is their 6th year of themed rides and Ryan loves being a part of it. “Seeing the smiles of all the children just makes your day,” she says.
Though the pre-school set will find this journey the most engaging, it’s clean and fun for the whole crew. There were families with babies as well as those with older kids in attendance and a few with no kids at all. Birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated on every ride and military vets are recognized for their service. Train cars compete to be the loudest and most boisterous railcar. And of course, there’s always an opportunity to do the chicken dance.
Stationmaster and Narrator Doug Vaught kept the crowd engaged and laughing throughout the ride. There were plenty of chances to sing along to old favorites, including “Purple People Eater” and “Witchy Women,” and passengers danced along on their benches. The production is run largely by volunteers and they put forth an incredible effort to make the ride enjoyable. Also commendable to note: part of the train proceeds go to support St. Mary’s Little Theater performed at Theatre by the Trax.
Kids have the chance to pose with their favorite “Monster” after the ride and train lovers will enjoy a free journey through the St. Mary’s Railroad Museum at the train station, included with your trip. For more fall fun, head into Historic Downtown St. Mary’s to check out dozens of scarecrows lining the streets. “Stepping outside each day is like a great big hug,” Ryan says about her warm and welcoming hometown. She encourages guests to visit the local shops and restaurants and tell them the railroad sent them.
The Halloween Express will run again Saturday, October 27th at 10 am, noon, 2 pm, and 4 pm. Tickets are $20/ adult and $14/ child (3-12). Kids under 2 ride free and tickets should be purchased in advance by calling (912) 729-1103 or visiting their website. If you’ve got young kids or grandchildren and are looking for something fun to do together this Halloween season, the St. Mary’s Express is a great way to build memories and support a good cause.