Recently our family found a COVID safe family-friendly activity in West Sacramento, just a day trip from the San Francisco Bay Area. The Fox River Train provides families theme-based steam train rides with open air cars, beautiful scenery, plenty of hand sanitizer, and attendants that make the ride fun for everyone. We recently rode on the Pumpkin Express but know that they have planned a Magical Christmas Train for November and December. Check out how River Fox made the train ride safe, and how you can make sure to get in the holiday spirit in a fun pandemic-safe way for the whole family.
As we neared the 8th month of the pandemic, we realized that Halloween was going to look a lot different than previous years. No school parades. No school parties. Would trick or treating be allowed? What was it that we could do to make Halloween special? Then, on my computer, I see an ad for Fox River Train in Sacramento. I click on it to discover the hit idea for Halloween.
Fox River Train is a steam train ride just outside Sacramento. I had ridden the steam train in Old Sacramento many times, but this one is a different, longer, and surprising more grown up friendly ride along the Sacramento scenic farmlands.
The things that sold me on this train ride was safety. The ride was:
- Completely done in the open-air cars
- Attendance was capped and groups seated apart to make sure people kept their distance
- Timed entry and you could only enter the activities area at your designated time
- Mask requirements
- The promise of safe trick-or-treating
We booked four tickets for Halloween Day.
On the 31st we all got dressed in costume and drove to West Sacramento and the River Fox Train parking lot. Parking was easy, as was the check in. Since we were early, and we could wait in our cars or at the concession area, where there were shaded tables. We decided to head over to the concession area for a drink and were impressed to see that every table had a bottle of hand sanitizer on it for people to use.
Once it was time to board, we were loaded one group at a time (to ensure distance) and got to walk through the beautiful old train cars until we hit the open air cars in the back of the train. Here a costumed attendant took each group back individually to a set of chairs that were in a marked square, and about 6 feet from the next group of chairs. We got great seats on the riverside of the train and settled in for our ride.
We took off for our 1-hour ride and were able to see some gorgeous scenery pass by. We passed the river, and then went through the farmlands that surround Sacramento. We saw corn and rows and rows of olive trees. There were cute farmhouses and historic old buildings. It was a beautiful fall day, and you could see the hint of leaves being ready to change color (this is California, it happens late here).
While on the ride, costumed attendants walked up and down, handing out candy to kids with trick or treat bags. My kids loved this method of trick or treating, that involved no walking, and a ton of candy. Meanwhile, at the head of the open cars were treats for the adults (but not free ones). A pleasant surprise about this ride – it sold wine and beer. That always makes these kid activities much more enjoyable!
Once the ride ended, that was when the fun activities began. Out on the lawn were games, picture areas, and a sifting area. As each group left the train, kids were given a bag filled with dirt. They could take it over to the sifting area and use the water and the sifter to find the gems in the dirt. (While I did not worry about Harry Potter sifting, I was internally cringing as my Angel did her activity in her pristine white dress).
Next, we moved on to the ball toss game, a ring toss game, a plunk like game, and some fun picture booths. At each station, an attendant sanitized all the shared items in between each child. Winning at the games got you tickets where you could pick out prizes at the store. In the store, the child could tell the attendant what prize they wanted, and the attendant picked it out for them (to avoid multiple hands in the bin) The prizes were your usual bouncy balls, sticky hands, etc.
In addition, they had a costume contest shortly after the train ride. Using applause, they determine the kids with the cutest or most unique costume. Personally, I really liked Dwight from Office Space and Marshmello, but the adorable Minnie Mouse was hard to beat (she had a huge family there and was hamming up the attention. Super cute 3-year-old…).
At the end of the activities was a one-way pumpkin patch. Each person could take one pumpkin home. It was Halloween Day, so we did not really need any, but my daughter HAD to make sure we took home a huge one. It was a lovely place for photos and great way to make sure you excited with a smile on your face.
[The pumpkin patch was lovely, but my tired minions were ready to go]
All of us really enjoyed this train ride, much more than we had expected. We have done a few here (Napa Santa Train, Polar Express, Old Sacramento, Day out with Thomas to name a few…) but we all felt like this was the right mix of relaxing and fun. River Fox Train is one we will go back to in the future.
While the River Fox Train is no longer doing their Pumpkin Express, they are preparing for the Holidays with a Magical Christmas Train, which you can get reservations for now. This ride includes sing-a-longs, elf games, and a socially distanced visit with Santa. They will be in open cars with weather curtains and heaters. Check out the website for more information and the other train rides they offer.
- Address: 18095 County Road 117, West Sacramento, CA 95691
- Cost: Adults (13+) – $55, Children (3-12) – $45, Infants (2 and under) – $10 for the Magical Christmas Train
- Times: The Magical Christmas Train has rides at 10 AM, 1 PM, 4 PM and 7 PM, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in November and December. Reservations required.