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 Best Santa Trains, Holiday Lights, and Celebrations in California – Create Your Own Family Traditions. Filmore & Western Railway Santa TrainOne of the best ways to slow the advance of the sometimes hectic, often crazy holiday season is narrow your focus, turn off electronic connections and live in the moment. We have assembled a few suggestions ideal for creating your mini adventures with your kids.  

Festival of Lights in Riverside, California – Lights, Cupcakes, and Ice Skating (End of November to early January). Millions of lights and holiday festivities in City of Riverside add to the Mission Inn’s Festival of Lights making the month of December awesome for families. There’s an outdoor ice-skating rink, nifty holiday vendors, and family-friendly entertainment. Bonus Points: At the Riverside Inn children may meet Santa Claus, see the world’s largest manmade mistletoe, and sample holiday sweets the original Casey’s Cupcakes®. (3649 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, CA 92501. 951.784.0300 or Festival of Lights)

California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento – Ride the Yule Train (End of November to mid December). Families are encouraged to come out to the California State Railroad Museum this holiday season to ride “Polar Express” complete with dancing waiters and Santa himself. The Rail Experience: Every weekend April through September, steam-powered excursion trains depart on-the-hour from the Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot in Old Sacramento operating on a 40-minute, six-mile route the train snakes along the banks of the beautiful Sacramento River. Bonus Points: Also this holiday season visitors can enjoy the museum itself with its children’s area and fascinating displays and exhibits about the history of railroading. Wait for it! Checkout the museum’s permanent Small Wonders: the Magic of Toy Trains collection. (California State Railroad Museum 111 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 445-6645, Museum Front Desk at (916) 323-9280 or www.csrmf.org)
 
Fillmore & Western Railway - Dine with Santa Train (Late November to mid December). There are several holiday choices – each including a memorable rail experience. Take the Christmas Tree Train to a tree farm to select and cut the perfect tree. Or ride to the "North Pole" with Santa’s elves. Listen to a story, sing Christmas carols and enjoy cookies and chocolate milk. Wait for it! Begin a family tradition onboard having “Dinner with Santa.” The Rail Experience: Pastoral vistas frame the route through the Santa Clara River Valley with century-old citrus and avocado orchards hugging farms and fields. The passenger coach cars and dining cars are from the 1930's and 1940's, and many restored locomotives used to power the train are all pre-1950.  (Fillmore & Western Ticket Office 364 Main St. Fillmore, CA. 93015. (805) 524-2546 or www.fwry.com)

Niles Canyon Railway in the San Francisco Bay Area - Ride the Train of Lights (Late November through December). The annual Train of Lights evening experience takes place on vintage trains decorated inside and out with holiday lights. Each ride is about an hour long, covering a 13-mile round trip. The Niles trains depart early so passengers can see the canyon and sunset. The Sunol trains will depart later and the trip is all about the lights. The Rail Experience: Niles Canyon Railway and the Western Railway Heritage Museum operate the route as a living history museum interpreting the importance of heritage railroads in the development of California and the nation. (Western Railway Heritage Museum Depot 6 Kilkare Road Sunol, CA 94586. Niles Station 37001 Mission Blvd. Fremont, CA 94536. (925) 862-9063 or www.ncry.org)

Disneyland in Anaheim - Christmas Wonderland and Holiday Magic Disneyland California Mickey Mouse Christams(Early  November through early January). Celebrate the holidays at the Disneyland with special parades, shows and entertainment including 'Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle' and the three part show which takes place each day. There’s also "Santa's Reindeer Round-Up" located at Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland. Join Santa, Mrs. Claus and their Reindeer for Christmas ‘Western Style’.  Real reindeer in the corral, crafts, reindeer games and dancing make this a Disneyland Holiday must see for the children in your family. Wait for it!  Each the evening guests are awed by  "Believe...in Holiday Magic Fireworks Spectacular." (Disneyland Resort Disneyland 1313 S. Drive Anaheim, CA 92802. (714) 781-4565 or www.wdwinfo.com/disneyland/)

LEGOLAND in Carlsbad – Holly Jolly Holidays with Snow (Mid November to January). During the holiday season LEGOLAND California celebrates with a Christmas tree made out of 245,000 green DUPLO bricks as well as thousands of twinkling lights, jolly holiday music special entertainment and nightly fireworks spectacular that celebrates holidays around the world. Visitors are invited to search for the miniature Santa and reindeer delivering toys throughout Miniland USA and catch a performance of "Let it Snow' the musical. Bonus Points: On selected nights in December enjoy fireworks lighting up the sky at closing time. Wait for it! This year the park will feature Holiday Snow Days with the first-ever snow fall in Fun Town. (LEGOLAND One Legoland Drive, Carlsbad 92008. (760) 918-5346 or california.legoland.com)

About the book, The Polar Express. On Christmas Eve, a boy boards the mysterious train bound for the North Pole. During the story Santa gives the boy a bell from the harness of the reindeer. On the way home, the bell is lost but in the morning the boy finds the bell under the tree. While his mother thinks the bell is broken, he knows it is not but only true believers can hear the sound of the bell. The book received the prestigious Caldecott Award.  More great reads by Van Allsburg. Other delightful stories include Two Bad Ants, Ben’s Dream, and The Wreck of the Zephyr and Jumanji which became a movie starring Robin Williams. More details at www.polarexpress.com and www.chrisvanallsburg.com

Content researched and created by FTf. Images provided by respective locations. Copyright updated 2016.
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