A big thanks to Napa Valley Wine Train for hosting my family on its seasonal Santa Train. This review was not sponsored.
The seasonal Santa Train in Napa Valley is a favorite for Santa Claus lovers. Modeled after the Polar Express, passengers take a 90-minute round trip train ride up to the “North Pole” to receive a small gift and treats. Santa Claus also circles through the train twice for hugs, high fives, and lots of photos.
These train rides depart twice each evening November 19 to December 28, excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Ticket prices begin at $49 each.
What to expect at the Napa Santa Train Station:
Arrive at the station up to an hour early. You will be greeted by a snack and wine bar; Christmas movie medley on multiple televisions; and a social media photo “booth”. The booth is a brilliant idea that lets visitors each take that perfect still or mini-video picture in front of the train’s facade (without having a bunch of people dangerously standing in front of the real train).
I convinced my people to wear pajamas and we received many compliments. Other families got their children into their fancy Christmas clothes — that would have been a hard sell on my crew.
About fifteen minutes before boarding the train, a live action show begins with the conductor and a cast of magical Christmas characters including dancing and singing along. Little ones will probably enjoy it. Big ones will roll their eyes. Soon after, boarding happens in an orderly manner by zones, like Southwest Airlines.
What to expect on the Napa Santa Train:
Various train cars have different interior configurations. Ours was set up with dining tables seating four on one side and two across the aisle. As you can see from my window reflection, the big boys were across the aisle from us but we were still close together. Children get a coloring page, a blank letter to write to Santa, and some crayons. I might recommend a few paper activity books or a blank notebook for squirrelly children, but leave the screens at home.
The timing works that the parents are served wine or spiked cocoa drinks on the outbound leg, then everyone gets a cookie and hot cocoa at the North Pole turnaround point. You can also order snack boxes on board. When I was served my “jolly cocoa” (so good!), my youngest was begging for his own treat so this is worth knowing. Outside food is not permitted.
Top tips from our conductor on the Santa Train:
- Come early and get a seat in the station to watch the show.
- The food in the station is also cheaper than anything you’ll find on board, so have your heavy snacks then.
- Enjoy the wine or special jolly drinks, heck you’re in wine country!
My family recommends this outing for children ages 3 to 6, but anyone with a healthy dose of Christmas spirit will have fun.
How to buy your tickets to the Santa Train:
It’s pretty easy to book tickets online for the Santa Train through winetrain.com, but they don’t come cheap. The early train ride runs 5pm to 7pm and is $49 per person. The second later train ride begins on December 18th and runs 7:15 to 9:15pm for $69 per person.
[Photo credit: Flett Family and Napa Valley Wine Train for the exterior and other interior]
More holiday trains in the Bay Area >
Our guide to holiday activities!
Thanks again to Napa Valley Wine Train for hosting my family on its seasonal Santa Train. All experiences are our own.