Oh, how I hate to do this Christmas-before-Halloween thing to you, but tickets will sell fast for this special holiday tradition. Tickets for the Niles Canyon Train of Lights went on sale at 10AM on September 16 (What?!) and they will SELL OUT.
Our guest blogger today is Lisa Truong who runs the non-profit Help A Mother Out in Oakland.
Even if you don’t currently reside with a pint-sized train enthusiast, you will want to check out this wonderful holiday adventure right here in the East Bay. This time of year Niles Canyon Railway operates their popular holiday Train of Lights. This has become an annual to-do for my own family and definitely worth the mini-road trip and splurge. We’re looking forward to riding on a restored locomotive, decked out with holiday decorations and lights, sipping hot cocoa, and saying hi to Santa as he makes the rounds through the train cars.
NCRY is an all volunteer non profit organization of Bay Area die hard train buffs, who work together to restore historic locomotives and a living feel for a bygone era. History buffs will appreciate the role of railways in this region which date back to the start of the transcontinental railroad.
Roundtrip Tickets (ages 3 and older), departing from either the small town of Sunol or Niles (Fremont) are available online for $30.00 each. Depending on how crowded your train is, the under 3 set may need to sit on your lap. In years past tickets have sold out within a few days, but as of the time of this writing (and likely because of the recession), there are still lots of bookings left, especially if you choose to depart from Niles (Fremont). Ticket proceeds benefit NCRY, helping them maintain their collection of steam and diesel locomotives.
What to bring
- Warm layers. It gets cold and you may want to opt for an outdoor car.
- Snacks. It’s fun to pack a thermos of hot cocoa/mulled cider and a batch of cookies. If you forget, NCR volunteers operate a reasonably priced snack bar on the train with proceeds going back to the non profit.
- Holiday cheer!
When to go on the Niles Canyon Train of Lights
Trains depart from Niles at 4:30PM and Sunol at 7:30PM every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the holiday season (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Check the schedule for details. No trains on Christmas Eve or Day.
If you can’t make the train this holiday, you can still ride the rails during non-winter months. From spring to late summer Niles Canyon Railway offers Sunday train service. They operate steam locomotives the first Sunday of every month, and you can even reserve your very own caboose for birthday parties. Check the NCRY website in late January.
Other fantastic Holiday Trains
- Caltrain runs a Holiday train on December 3rd and 4th. Holiday Train stops at 9 Caltrain stations from San Francisco to Santa Clara. Celebrations with holiday characters are at the station and passengers are not allowed. FREE.
- The Zoo train runs at the Oakland Zoo during the holiday light celebration. No advance purchase required. There is admission charged for both ZooLights and the train.
- The Napa Wine Train offers a special holiday Santa train with cocoa and treats. Tickets start at $55 each; on sale by phone 800-427-4124.
- The California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento offers a POLAR EXPRESS train with readings of the story and a sleigh bell souvenir. Tickets start at $45 each and go on sale beginning 10/1/2016.
[Photo credit via Creative Commons: Moyerphotos; Heather Flett]