Ticket Alert: East Bay Polar Express: Niles Canyon Train of Lights (2021) - 510 Families
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Ticket Alert: East Bay Polar Express: Niles Canyon Train of Lights (2021)

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 10 am on October 9, 2021, and they will SELL OUT. Get on their mailing list now. 

niles canyon polar express christmas train
Niles Canyon tree of lights | Photo: moyermk

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 its popular Holiday Train of Lights. This is a wonderful annual to-do and is 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 (they started decorating already!), sipping hot cocoa, and saying hi to Santa as he makes the rounds through the train cars. With all that is going on nowadays, I’d say we all deserve extra holiday cheer this year.

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.

Ticket information

Roundtrip Tickets (ages 3 and older), departing from either the small town of Sunol or Niles (Fremont) will be available online for $35 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.


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Niles Canyon Christmas train interior
Niles Canyon Christmas train interior (coach car) | Photo: NCRY

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!

Niles Canyon Holiday train

When to go on the Niles Canyon Train of Lights

Trains depart from Niles at 4:30 pm and Sunol at 7:30 pm every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during the holiday season (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). The trains will start running from November 19 through December 29. This year, the trains will also run on two additional Mondays, December 20 and December 27.

Look for tickets here>

2021 Fall Train Service: If you’d like to ride the train before the holidays, NCRY offers a Saturday and Sunday train service this Fall for select weekends through October. Check the NCRY website for specific dates and to purchase tickets online.  

Spring to Late-Summer Service: NCRY also operates trains during non-winter months. Historically, from spring to late summer NCRY offered a Sunday steam train service on the first Sunday of every month and you could even reserve your very own caboose for birthday parties. Check the NCRY website in late January.

Related: Check out the Polar Express Train in Sacramento.


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[Photo credit via Creative Commons: Moyerphotos; Heather Flett]

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