2020 has the holidays looking a bit different, but these Christmas train rides near San Diego are still preparing to leave the station––en route to the magic of the North Pole. Enjoy the delightful tradition of going on a festive Christmas train ride with your little elves this holiday season. Everyone will love the reverie of rolling down the tracks either in-person or in one case, virtually. Read on for where to book this memorable holiday event. Tip: Tickets go fast, so grab yours today!

Irvine Park Christmas Train

'Tis the season to board the Christmas Train! Depart the twinkling train station at historic Irvine Park. Then, travel to the North Pole to meet Old St. Nick, and Mrs. Claus. This year, passengers will remain seated to greet Santa and Mrs. Claus from a distance. There will not be any photos with Santa or sitting on Santa's lap.

Note: You must buy tickets online in advance. Social distancing and masks are required.

Dates: Nov. 27-Dec. 23
Cost: $17-$20/person (for train); children 24 months and under free

Irvine Regional Park
1 Irvine Park Rd.
Orange, CA 92869
Online: irvineparkrailroad.com

photo: NCTD Coaster

Virtual Coaster Holiday Express Train

This holiday tradition has a new twist for 2020: the Coaster Holiday Express train ride has gone virtual. The magic will still leave the station at 10 a.m. on Dec. 19th, but you'll board the train from your living room. Santa and his festive carolers will regale you with an hour of songs, musings from the North Pole and live readings of your holiday wish lists. 

Reserve your family's spot starting Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. You'll receive a link to the Virtual Holiday Express a few days before the event. 

Be sure to submit a letter to Santa and he may read it live during the event. Email your wishlist (no more than one page) to Jolly Old Saint Nick at gonctd@nctd.org.

If you can’t join this train ride live or you didn’t RSVP in time, organizers will record and post the replay afterward so you can watch it when it’s most convenient for your family.

Dates: Dec. 19
Times: 10 a.m.
Cost: Free

Online: gonctd.com/holidayexpress

Santa Express Train Ride

The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum is offering a festive Santa Express train ride this holiday season. (Note: this event is different than their usual North Pole Limited event). On this 30 minute ride, you'll enjoy holiday music and decorated cars on the way to visit with Santa and tour the Display Building. To return to the Campo Station you can either walk back or catch a ride on the Caboose Shuttle.

Purchase your tickets here before they sell out! 

Santa Express: Weekends Nov. 28-Dec. 20

Cost: $5-$25

Campo Depot
750 Depot St.
Campo, CA 91906
619-478-9937 (weekends only)
Online: psrm.org

Sugar Plum Express

The Sugar Plum Express will depart the station on weekends starting Nov. 28th, but the event will be modified this year. Guests will have the option to visit Prancer's Holiday Tree Farm or Loose Caboose at the stop. If you opt for Prancer's Holiday Farm, this includes an optional pre-cut tree purchase, pony rides (additional fee), a food truck lunch, the chance to see Santa and more. The Loose Caboose stop enables you to buy fresh produce, snacks and drinks, and you can feed quails and chickens, shop the country store and visit the holiday display room. Families may also opt to stay onboard until the second stop and spend about an hour in the historic town of Santa Paula and another hour at Loose Caboose and/or Prancer's Farm upon return.

Dates: starting Nov. 28
Cost: $16-$28

Fillmore & Western Railway
364 Main St.
Fillmore, CA 93015
Online: fwry.com/holidaytrains

—Nikki Walsh & Beth Shea


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