By Victoria Stibrik

Christmas is coming, and Verde Canyon Railroad will celebrate with Liberty Wildlife of Arizona as the Magical Christmas Journey comes to Clarkdale.

“We respect all of our friends who have different railroads that run the Polar Express, and we know there are a lot of different places that do Santa’s Workshops,” says Teresa Propeck, vice president of marketing and passenger services.

“Our train has always been different than other people’s trains. But during the Magical Christmas Journey, I’m Peppermint Elf.”

Verde Canyon Railroad’s Magical Christmas Journey is truly a one-of-a-kind experience with a special guest appearance by Flurry the bald eagle.

“We wrote the story and created the characters, the unique North Pole, the miniature village, the entire concept. We created it a little over two years ago, and we’ve trademarked it so it is completely different than any other Christmas experience that people will have,” Propeck says.

It starts with a miniature village and eagle wings. The kids strap on the wings and “soar” through the little village. It’s a concept designed so kids can see what an eagle in flight sees when passing over Clarkdale. There are plenty of family photo opportunities, but most importantly there are refreshments—festive refreshments.

“There’s a lot of interaction long before they get on the train,” Propeck says. “We really like to make it that from the moment they get to the depot, it’s a very, very holiday experience throughout the entire time they’re there.”

Then comes the wildlife-filled train ride to the North Pole to pick up Santa Claus himself. (He declined to be interviewed.)

“We take people into this canyon to see the wildlife and the beauty on an everyday train ride in a setting where no one ever gets off our train, no one has ever impacted the wildlife or the terrain of our canyon,” Propeck says. “So, we feel like stewards who are protecting this wildlife region. The eagles, the great blue heron, deer, javelina—they all come right out by the tracks because they’re never going to be impacted. We decided that the story that we wrote needed to reflect our relationship with the canyon and the wildlife.”

On the way to get Santa, passengers can make a wish when traveling through the Magical Tunnel, and once they’ve arrived, they can take in the North Pole in all its Ugly Sweater Factory glory. And on the return trip, Santa will spend time in each car and each child will receive a gift.

COVID-19 restrictions are in place. Masks are required, temperatures will be taken, train cars will be filled to 50% capacity, social distancing will be enforced, but fun will still be had.

The Magical Christmas Journey starts December 4, and the train runs on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until December 24. The rides are at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., and each ride lasts one hour.

“We just want people to come out and have family time. We look forward to everyone coming and riding,” Propeck says.

Verde Canyon Railroad’s Magical Christmas Journey, 300 N. Broadway, Clarkdale, 1.800.293.7245,