Everyone in the Bay Area knows about the famous Napa Valley Wine Train, the Historic steam train that goes up and down Napa Valley. It offers exclusive tours and amazing dining experiences, all aboard 1915 Pullman coaches that remind people of riches and splendor of the past. Looking for a new Santa Train experience to try this year, I was delighted to see that the Napa Valley Wine Train had a Santa Train during the holidays!
Once you enter the waiting room, children and adults are treated to Christmas shorts and songs on the screens as they wait for the big show to start. Then, in comes Ian the Conductor with his elf friend and Tinsel the Candy Cane Fairy. They lead the kids in song, a warm up dance, and tell them that we need to board the train to the North Pole to help Jolly the Bear reach Santa (He missed the toy train apparently) and tell him that he wants to become an official conductor bear. The children are told to watch their adults and make sure they follow the rules, and then we are all allowed to board the train by group. My children, energized by the dance, and excited to get started, ran over to us, and were bouncing until our group was called, impatient to get on the train to the North Pole.
Once on the train, the waiter pointed us to our table, a cozy four-person table, right by the window, looking out the west side as we went north in the Valley. The kids were so excited to see the coloring and started in making their pictures as beautiful as possible right away. As the train moved, the waiter asked if we wanted to order any food or wine. Being a wine train, there were two snack box options available, and several different wines and cocktails. Clearly, the kids are not the target audience ;). My husband and I each chose to purchase wine, but not snacks as the kids were too excited to eat.
As we traveled along we truly enjoyed a very intimate experience. The elf, Tinsel and Jolly made multiple visits during the ride. And they made sure to stop at each table and talk to the children individually. My daughter was so enamored she made a picture for each one as a present to thank them for letting her ride the train. The elf gave out candy canes as she quizzed on Christmas trivia, and loved to pose for pictures. Tinsel handed out cards for letters to Santa and talked to each kid about their desires to make sure Santa knew the message. And Jolly came by, letting all the kids hug him, high five him, or take pictures with him. The kids felt like they each got a lot of attention, which was amazing considering how many were not his train.
Of course a Santa train is not a proper ride until you get a visit from the big guy himself. As we hit the turn-around point, the west side of the train was decorated like the North Pole. There were lights, “snow”, Santa’s workshop and his house. My eight-year old was suspicious that it wasn’t really the North Pole (but he doesn’t quite want to give up the magic yet). My five year old was just so excited it didn’t matter to her if it was real or not. At the North Pole, Santa came down! He, like all the others, stopped at each table, talked to all the kids, and posed for pictures. And as we turned around we learned that Jolly the Bear was granted his wish! He came down with his conductor outfit on and helped Santa hand out little Jolly the Bears to each child. Both of mine loved them and hugged them with glee. My son said he would cherish it forever as a reminder of this trip.
At the North Pole, the waiters also handed out hot cocoa and cookies to all the riders on the train. We were able to enjoy the treat as the train headed back to downtown Napa. The kids coloring and talking with the elf and Tinsel and my husband and I looked out the window, and smiled at each other, with the mutual understanding of the joy we had watching the joy on our children’s faces.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and as excepted, so did the train ride. We got back into the station, and all disembarked at the station. But as we left, Ian the Conductor, the Elf, Tinsel the Fairy, and Jolly the Bear were there for one last hug, one last good-bye. My children were bouncing with energy and joy as we headed to a late dinner, singing chores, and talking about how the Santa Train was the best they had ever ridden in.
- Dates: November 18 – December 29, 2017 (excludes December 24-25)
- Time: 5pm or 7:15 Show Start
- Costs: Starting at $39 – $69 a ticket