The Tilden Park Steam Trains transform into a toddler-friendly Santa Train (assuming you can find parking, which is a pretty big assumption). Here’s the good, the bad, and the jolly of it.
Tilden Park Steam Trains Holiday Outing
Decorated with twinkling lights, tiny snowflakes, and Christmas ornaments on some of the evergreens along the route, the steam trains in Tilden Park are extra Christmasy in December. You can ride them in 2021 on December 11, 12, 18, and 19 from 11 am – 7 pm, weather permitting.
Santa Claus rides on a special train on a looping track and waves to the gathering children with a friendly smile. You should not expect lap sitting or special conversations with the Big Guy, because he stays on the train.
I arrived around 3:20 pm and two trains were running instead of one. Though I found the waiting time to be the same as usual (about 15 minutes), but we spent less time getting on and off. The attendants were all in cheery moods.
Nightime is a different story. While the pretty lights and overall magic of the location are far more special when it gets dark, it’s also much colder and the line and wait time is far far longer. Julie arrived with her 3-year-old at around 5 pm on a Saturday and didn’t end up boarding the train until 6 pm. That’s a long wait in rather chilly temperatures for a five minute train ride (Emergency purse M&M’s helped with the wait).
Steam Trains Holiday Hours
Weather permitting, the steam trains are open with holiday decor on Saturday and Sunday, December 11, 12, 18, and 19 from 11 am – 7 pm. The trains usually close at dusk so the night rides are especially thrilling with the Christmas lights on.
Beginning on December 26, the train returns to regular wintertime hours and close at 5 pm or dusk (whichever comes first).
Holiday rates are the same and your punch card will still work
$3.50 per ride or $14 for 5 rides. FREE for under 2 years. Buying 5 tickets is recommended to save time in line.
For more info, visit their site>
Holiday Steam Trains Parent Tips
- Buy tickets in bulk, 5 tickets for $14. It is a better deal. The card machine takes long time to process funds, so cash can be quick and easy for purchase.
- Bundle up. Our mild California winters feel the chilliest in the shaded woods on a moving train. Wear all your cozy clothes and bring an extra blanket.
- To beat the crowds and holiday chaos, aim for early morning or naptime (between 3pm and 5pm). Lunchtime and evenings are especially busy.
- Parking can be a bummer, so head to additional parking at back (this requires bit of walk to platform but is doable depending on who you brought along). If your timing works out, you might be able to find parking just in time for when people are leaving.
- Nighttime riders will appreciate glowsticks or even headlamps for visibility to and from the parking lots. It can be really dark and treacherous walking along the roads after sunset.
- Bring a snack, maybe even some sweat treats to keep spirits up during the long wait.
For an extra magical day, hop in the car and pair with the Christmas Merry-go-round (you can warm up with cocoa there)!
[Photo Credits: Kat Choi and Julie Herson as noted]