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 go on sale at 10AM on October 12, 2019 and they will SELL OUT. Get on their mailing list now. As of 10/15/19, tickets are sold out.
This Christmas train experience was originally shared with us by 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 nonprofit 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. 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 nonprofit.
- 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.
[Photo credit via Creative Commons: Moyerphotos; Heather Flett]