Ticket Alert: East Bay Polar Express: Niles Canyon Train of Lights (2023) - 510 Families
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Ticket Alert: East Bay Polar Express: Niles Canyon Train of Lights (2023)

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 7, 2023, and they will SELL OUT. Get on their mailing list now & set a calendar reminder. 

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) were available online for $35 each. First class, dome, and parlor cars are ticketed at $65. Caboose reservation is a flat fee of $750 (can seat 24-28 people of adult size) – FYI, the caboose means you can’t go to walk the length of the train or visit the snack bar during the ride.

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.

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. Snacks and drinks are $1 each (cash).
  • Holiday cheer!

Niles Canyon Holiday train

When to go on the Niles Canyon Train of Lights

Trains typically depart from Niles at 4:30 pm and Sunol at 7:30 pm throughout the holiday season. Tickets are available from November 19 through December 29.

Location: For Fremont departures, do NOT go to the downtown Niles train depot, point your GPS to 37029 Mission Blvd., Fremont. Parking is available on site.

Look for tickets here >

Related: Check out the Polar Express Train in Sacramento.

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

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6 thoughts on “Ticket Alert: East Bay Polar Express: Niles Canyon Train of Lights (2023)”

    1. Hi Ray, The train sounds are pretty loud but not incredibly loud. I think being inside the train is more pleasant than being right outside of it. Because of the length of the ride, I’ve had good luck with children aged about 5 to 10, but you’ll see babies and toddlers a plenty.

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