I know, I know, Halloween feels like it was just yesterday, and we still need to get through Thanksgiving, but whether we’re ready or not, Christmas is already on it’s way, and it’s time to start making your plans. Stores are decorating, people are shopping, and holiday events are happening! The annual Christmas Tree Lighting at the Old Globe in Balboa Park is THIS weekend!! The other popular event that begins soon (and sells out FAST), is the North Pole Limited, the famous and festive train ride to the “North Pole”, put on by the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association.
If you have small children, and you haven’t experienced the North Pole Limited yet, I highly recommend you add it to your list of holiday happenings this year. Although the roundtrip train ride itself is under two hours, the whole experience will definitely take up the majority of your day. Getting to the train station can take anywhere from 1-2 hours, depending on where you’re coming from, so you will want to factor in rush hour traffic, and any strict bedtimes you may be sticking to. The train only operates Friday’s and Saturday’s, with departure times at 5pm and 7pm.
You’ll want to arrive at least 45 minutes early to park and pick up your tickets, and also allow for some time spent at the station after your ride to enjoy the gift shop, the festive lights, the fire pit, and the sand box. With limited access to any real food once you leave San Diego, I recommend you pack a picnic and enjoy it near the on site playground before your train departs. As mentioned, tickets do sell out quickly and MUST be purchased in advance, so if you’re thinking about planning a trip out there, especially with friends, make sure to purchase your tickets SOON.
Ticket prices run from $10 – $80 per person depending on age, and which trip you choose. Tickets purchased in coach are the cheapest, and also sell out the quickest. These tickets will include your train ride, cookies and hot chocolate, caroling with the elves, and a visit from Santa. If you’re looking for a more “premium” experience, your first class tickets will include all of the above, as well as additional soft drinks and candies, and a premium atmosphere…meaning comfier seats, more leg room, and more decorations.
Extra tips and tricks to make the most of your experience:
- If you have a large group (upward of 20 people), make sure you explore the option of chartering the Robert Peary car. Get the full scoop of this unforgettable ride here.
- If you book a Friday 7pm train ride, be mindful of that afternoon rush hour traffic on your way out to the station.
- Dress festive, and warm! There are many photo ops onboard and at the station, so wear your favorite sweater, or even Christmas PJs, but watch out for that temperature drop after the sun sets out in Campo.
- Keep an open mind and arrive in your best holiday spirit. The train ride can be incredibly magical for children, but I’ll admit that it does take some parent participation to really amp up the full experience. The organization is run 100% by volunteers, with most of the caroling elves coming from the theater group of the local high school. So if you happen to end up with an elf who would rather be at the football game, instead of singing Here Comes Santa Clause for the 14th time, you’ll be happy to have a car full of jolly moms & dads to sing along 😉
If you’ve enjoyed the North Pole Limited in the past, please share your experience and tips with us below. If you haven’t, let us know what you’re looking forward to the most!
Campo, California 91906