3 things you need to know about the CTA holiday train

Chicagoans take their trains pretty seriously. If you really want to see them impassioned, ask them if they’ve spied the Holiday Train yet this season.

If you go

Through Dec. 23


From the tiniest toddler to the most massive man, no one is immune to the spectacle’s pure joy. Thousands of lights adorn the sides, roof and interior of the six-car train, and garland, bows, and all manner of North Pole decor make it quite clear that you’re riding in an extraordinarily special train. The icing on the gingerbread is Jolly Old St. Nick himself, “driving” the first train car, pausing for photos along selected stops, and ensuring that all good boys and girls receive candy canes.

This year’s Sprint CTA Holiday Train also continues a 20-year tradition of giving back to Chicago communities. CTA employees donate time and money to buy, compile and deliver more than 300 holiday gift baskets. The baskets are complete feasts, containing a main course, plenty of sides and, of course, dessert.

If you want to hop aboard Chicago’s version of the Polar Express (and why wouldn’t you?), here are some timely tips:

– A full schedule of train appearances is available on the CTA website, making it easy to plan the “serendipity” of Santa’s arrival for your kids. (Shh, if you won’t tell, we won’t either.)

– This isn’t the time to lug all of your worldly possessions; the train will be crowded! Collapsible strollers and the smaller diaper bag will be your best friends.

– And even though this might seem rather obvious, board the train first before taking photos! (It’s still a running train on a timetable; Chicagoans may love their Holiday Train, but they also love getting home on time.)

A holiday tradition that restores childlike wonder while it reaffirms commitment to our neighborhoods?

Now that’s worth its weight in sleigh bells.

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