Gift a CVSR Membership

Support the Rails with the Gift of a CVSR Membership

Your gift will help preserve this historic railroad and allow your recipient to celebrate its the return of many well-loved events in 2024, when repairs on the tracks are slated for completion.

By Julie Cajigas &  Carmen Addison

"Special events are returning to the rails in 2024! Prepare for unforgettable experiences as we bring back the much-anticipated special events, the iconic National Park Scenic Excursion, and much more! Tickets go on-sale, Friday December 15 at 9:00 a.mAnd. . . there’s more to come. . . . Dinner Train, Ales On Rails, etc. Stay tuned, as those details will be coming soon!" - from CVSR e-mail dated 12/13/23. 

The first time Julie Cajigas’ children experienced a night train ride was pure magic.

“We arrived at the Northside Train Station in Akron in pajamas, and both kids were given commemorative train tickets for the conductor to stamp,” she said. “The train was filled with families and other children in pajamas looking forward to a trip to the North Pole.”


As the train wove its way through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the family enjoyed Christmas carols, cookies, and hot chocolate. The kids weren’t anticipating the North Pole visit, because they were so taken with the train itself and the singing and snacking.


“When we arrived at the ‘North Pole,’ in Peninsula, it was magic even for the grown-ups,” Cajigas said. “Hundreds of characters stood on the platform singing and waving, and Santa and Mrs. Claus were there sitting near the sleigh, and everything was bursting with holiday cheer.”


She recalls a man dressed as Buddy the Elf working his way through the crowd and other movie and story character names being shouted out by the two littles. Then, Santa boarded the train to spend time with each child and hear their Christmas wishes.


“It is a moment I will never forget,” she said.


The tickets for the ride were made possible by the children’s aunt and uncle, who purchased a membership to Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) that allowed them to be first in line for the North Pole Adventure™ tickets, which have already sold out for the 2023 event.


Cajigas said that the gift was enjoyed by her and her husband just as much as by the children.

She was heartbroken to hear that the railroad has been experiencing challenges since COVID-19.

“During COVID, we took our son for a craft-themed children’s ride on his birthday because it was a small, limited group of people, and something he would absolutely love,” she said.

Her son and his cousin crafted rainbows, listened to a story, and enjoyed the beautiful spring views of the park. Then, they got to walk to the gift shop car and choose a souvenir of the birthday ride. Both boys selected a cap, bandana, and train whistle, so they could look like genuine train conductors.

(top) The Cajigas family circa 2018 riding the train. (middle) The children pressed against the window glass as the train pulled into the North Pole. (bottom) Santa giving Jameson Cajigas a silver bell.  Photos courtesy of Julie Cajigas.

(top) Jameson Cajigas (r) and Clayton DuRoss (l) after a ride on the train. Neither was too enthusiastic about taking a photo, but they had the best time ever on the ride. (bottom) Jamie Cajigas making his rainbow craft on his pandemic birthday ride. Photos by Julie Cajigas.

Little did she know that less than a year later, operations would be suspended and many of the excursions she and her children loved paused.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) is a non-profit heritage railroad based in Northeast Ohio, operating within the picturesque Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

According to a March 2023 news release, “The National Park Service and CVSR, a non-profit volunteer supported park partner, work together to manage, and safeguard the historic locomotive fleet and tracks. The NPS owns and preserves the 26 miles of tracks, while CVSR owns and maintains the locomotive and passenger fleet.”

The news release also explained that due to erosion near the riverbed, the tracks would need to undergo repairs and construction to continue safely running excursions and tickets for upcoming programs would be refunded. This was a significant financial blow to the railroad, who had already suffered losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A follow-up release on March 23 announced that train operations would reopen in Summer 2023, but at limited capacity. 

Established in 1972 as a not-for-profit railroad, CVSR’s mission is to provide an exceptional, educational, and recreational experience for visitors while preserving the historical and natural heritage of the Cuyahoga Valley.

“As a heritage railroad, we offer a unique blend of history, nature, and adventure through scenic train rides, special events, and educational programs,” its website says.

In addition to being first in line for North Pole Adventure Tickets, the membership gifted to the Cajigas family by gave them two round trip coach tickets per day. This became a summer-time activity that offered a little extra sparkle over the playground or the neighborhood splash pad.

“We also really love the educational programs and children’s programs the railroad offers,” Cajigas said. “The reading and craft excursions and the princess and prince rides are wonderful for the kids.”

CVSR offers educational programs for schools, youth groups, and adults, promoting awareness of the park's cultural and environmental significance. There are a variety of special events offered including the highly popular North Pole Adventure™ holiday ride. 

The railroad needs the community’s support, now more than ever.

“The National Park reports repairs to the land around the track that is affected by erosion will be completed in late 2024,” Lynee Bixler, director of marketing and communication for CVSR, said. “We will continue running 26-mile round trip excursion between Akron and Peninsula until erosion repairs are complete.”

Update: Many CVSR excursions will reopen in Jan 2024 and tickets go on sale Dec. 15, 2023. For more info or to purchase tickets visit the CVSR website.

In the meantime, though, Julie Cajigas has added a family membership to her list of gifts for her children from Santa this year, even though operations are limited.

“The railroad has given me many beautiful memories of my children,” Cajigas said. “I also have fond memories of riding the train to Hale Farm and Village as a child.”

She is not dissuaded though activities like the Grape Escape wine ride, the Ale on the Rails ride and others are not currently offered.

“The ride from Northside Marketplace to Peninsula is a wonderful weekend activity for the kids,” she said. She also hopes to use her coach tickets for some much-needed self-care.

“I can take a friend, eat breakfast at Nomz, shop at Northside, ride up to Peninsula for lunch and shopping and enjoy the ride back, chatting and spending quality time.”

If she were an avid bicyclist, she could also get a bike pass and ride up with her bicycle, enjoy the towpath and trails, and bring it back on the train for the ride to Akron.

For her, though, the membership is a gift that gives more than just train tickets and event access.

“It’s a gift for me and the kids, but also a gift to help the railroad offset costs of these repairs,” she said. “I absolutely want to support the continued preservation of this important Northeast, Ohio landmark. The kids and I will always love to ride the train.”

Hazel enjoying a craft and storytime on the train. She made friends with the volunteers and loved the ride. Photos by Julie Cajigas.

Gift a Membership

From the CVSR Website: Ride More. Save More.


Ride more. Save more.

With a membership, you’ll enjoy tickets to our National Park Scenic excursion throughout the year. Whether you prefer a short ride for a few hours or an all-day adventure, membership allows you to ride for as long as you want.


Create cherished family memories.

Make lasting memories with your loved ones as you embark on exciting excursions together. A membership offers the perfect opportunity to bond with your family and friends while experiencing the beauty of Cuyahoga Valley National Park from the comfort of our vintage train cars.


Elevate your experience.

Membership upgrades offer enhanced amenities and comfort. Indulge in luxury and make your train ride an unforgettable experience that exceeds all expectations.


Exclusive discounts and perks (Coveted early access to North Pole Adventure™). As a member, you’ll have access to exclusive discounts on tickets and concessions. Additionally, enjoy early access at the Brakeman and higher level to our highly sought-after North Pole Adventure™ experience and receive special invitations to unique events throughout the year.


Memberships start at just $50. Learn more and purchase your gift membership here today.

To reach content author Carmen Addison, email her here.

Downtown Akron Partnership Announces Downtown Dollars E-Gift Card Program > read more here.