Calling All Railfans: 6 Holiday Train Adventures in San Francisco
Edna St. Vincent Millay once quipped, “There isn’t a train I wouldn’t take, no matter where it’s going.” That irresistible lure of steel rails and the passing landscape evokes all sorts of sentiments and California doesn’t lack for its share of legendary routes and vintage railroad companies. The holidays are the perfect time to take a ride and create some special memories or, in one instance, share a moment with one of the greatest train lovers of all: Walt Disney.
The Walt Disney Family Museum
From Nov. 17, 2016 to Jan. 9, 2017, The Walt Disney Family Museum is creating an immersive installation celebrating Walt Disney’s family and his love of trains. The “Home for the Holidays at Carolwood” installation will include an elaborate three dimensional model of the Disney family home on Carolwood Drive in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles —including Disney’s personal steam locomotive, the Lilly Belle, chugging along his Carolwood Pacific Fair Weather Route. The intricate scale model will be on view for the entire duration of the installation. However, it will be decorated with seasonal lights on Disney’s birthday, Dec. 5. Personal photos depicting the Disney family and beloved Disney characters will fill the gallery with Yuletide cheer. Complementing the exhibition will be screenings of “Christmas with Walt Disney.” www.waltdisney.org
Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Railway
From Nov. 18 to Dec. 23, 2016 on select dates, visitors to Santa Cruz will be able to take one-hour round-trip journeys to the “North Pole” onboard The Polar Express™ train ride offered by Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Railway. Once onboard, singing and dancing chefs serve passengers cookies and hot chocolate while they narrate the classic children’s book, “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg. Santa and his helpers greet passengers at the North Pole and then board the train, where each child is given the first gift of Christmas: a silver sleigh bell. Families are encouraged to wear pajamas for the ride. The train departs from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
Napa Valley Wine Train
The Santa Train returns to the Napa Valley Wine Train, a collection of early 20th century Pullman rail cars that have been faithfully restored. Embark on an all new musical and interactive journey to Santa’s workshop accompanied by some of Santa’s best friends. Guests will enjoy hot chocolate, cookies and other holiday treats. The train runs daily from Nov. 19 through Dec. 29, 2016 (closed Nov. 24, Dec. 24 and 25). www.winetrain.com
Roaring Camp Railroad
‘Tis the season for three different holiday adventures onboard one of Roaring Camp Railroads' vintage steam trains through the redwood forest. The popular Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train departs from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk on Nov. 25-26, Dec. 3-4, 10-11 and 17-23. Bring a new and unwrapped toy for the Toys for Tots drive, held in conjunction with the daytime Holiday Tree Walk, reached via Roaring Camp’s daytime train excursion to Bear Mountain, Nov. 25-27, Dec. 3-4 and 10-11, 2016. On Dec. 29, 2016, share the light of Chanukah with the new Chanukah train. Gather at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on the fifth night of Chanukah for the lighting of the menorah at 6:15 p.m., and then set off on an incredible one-hour train ride on Roaring Camp’s vintage excursion cars adorned with thousands of shining lights and Chanukah decorations.www.roaringcamp.com
Railtown 1897 State Historic Park
Located in historic Jamestown in Tuolumne County, Railtown 1897 Historic Park and its trains have been featured in hundreds of movies and TV shows. The 26-acre attraction offers seasonal steam train rides and special events, plus daily roundhouse and movie prop tours and a gift shop. During the holidays, relive the magical journey of The Polar Express™ on an hour-long train ride to the North Pole. Hot chocolate and yummy cookies add to the festivities as riders journey north. Upon arrival, Santa will give each passenger a silver sleigh bell, the “first gift of Christmas.” Rides will be offered Friday-Saturday, Dec. 2-4, 9-11 and 16-18, 2016.
Caltrain Holiday Train
Decorated with 70,000 glittering lights, the Caltrain Holiday Train will visit nine Caltrain stations between San Francisco and Santa Clara on the evenings of Dec. 3 and 4, 2016. Holiday entertainment will be offeredand volunteers will be collection donations of toys for local children who otherwise might not receive a gift during the holidays. In its 13-year history, more than 50,000 toys have been collected.
For more than 40 years, Amtrak has been connecting lives all over North America. San Francisco is served by four routes and connecting Amtrak thruway service from nearby Emeryville: California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin. Pro tip: Be sure to check out the “Hot Deals” section on Amtrak’s website.
Considered one of the most beautiful train trips in North America, the California Zephyr climbs through the heart of the Rockies and continues west through the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas. Running daily between Chicago and San Francisco, the train passes such scenic highlights as Moffat Tunnel, a 6.2-mile tunnel that cuts through the Continental Divide in north-central Colorado; Colorado’s Gore, Byers and Glenwood Canyons; Winter Park; the Truckee River and Donner Lake.
Unsurpassed scenery is visible along the Coast Starlight route, which links Los Angeles and Seattle, passing through Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and Portland along the way. The dramatic snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta, lush forests, fertile valleys and long stretches of Pacific Ocean shoreline provide a stunning backdrop for your journey.
An intercity passenger rail service, the Capitol Corridor operates along a 170-mile track between Silicon Valley/San Jose and the Sacramento region and Sierra foothills. There are 17 stations along the Capitol Corridor route as well as bus connections to San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and Santa Barbara.
For traveling throughout California and its premier agricultural region, the San Joaquin runs multiple times daily between the Bay Area (or Sacramento) and Bakersfield. Passengers will often opt for the route to connect to thruway service for Yosemite National Park.
What’s Better than Black Friday? Track Friday! Book this Friday through Monday, and save 30% on select Amtrak trains when you travel Dec. 10, 2016-April 9, 2017. Amtrak’s Track Friday Sale is available Black Friday through Cyber Monday, exclusively on Amtrak.com.
*Restrictions and blackout dates apply. Not available on all routes. Available only on Amtrak.com. Available on one-way Coach fares only. Subject to availability.