Contributing post by Justine Burgess
We just can’t get enough of Irvine Park and how family-friendly it is. Irvine Park Railroad, located near the front of the park, is one of my sons favorite stops in the park. It has many seasonal events we’ve enjoyed over the years. Our family was recently invited to attend the 17th annual Irvine Park Railroad Christmas Train in Irvine Regional Park.
The train is festively adorned with twinkling lights and garland, and the park areas around the train, the tracks, and at the North Pole stop have been transformed (with hundreds of lights and decorations) into a wonderland. The Christmas train takes travelers to the North Pole outpost in the park, where families can take photos with Santa, snack on cookies and popcorn, listen to Christmas music, and warm up with hot cocoa, perfect for the chilly December evenings. Food and drink items are available for sale at both the Train Station and the North Pole.
Christmas Train tickets are $10 each (ages 24 months and younger are free). Visitors may take their own pictures with Santa, or you may purchase a picture taken by Irvine Park Railroad. Each 5” x 7” photo will be done with an Irvine Park Railroad border and are available for pickup shortly after being taken.
We rode the train just as darkness fell, the lights along the track turning the dusky and rainy twilight into something far more exciting for my 4-year-old. I was amazed at how beautifully the lights emphasized natural shapes in the park, and while the lights grew brighter as we approached the “North Pole”, the excitement of the children on the train was palpable. Upon exiting, my son was initially hesitant to talk to Santa- he was not too certain that his behavior this year had been acceptable for presents. After speaking with the big guy in red (and posing for a photo), he left smiling. It took only a few minutes for our picture to be ready, and we made a stop for cookies, popcorn, and cocoa before re-boarding for the trip back to the station.
Near the train station is Santa’s Village, looking homey and inviting. The enchanting little area really made our evening, and the icicle-lighting on the historic-styled buildings made it feel like a tiny mountain town. Here you can find something fun for every member of the family. Activities open an hour prior to the Christmas train, and include cookie decorating, coloring pages, a “moon bounce”, and carnival games (like bean bag-tossing) that can be enjoyed by all ages. Mrs. Santa Claus also makes an appearance here, reading Christmas tales to the kids and visiting with guests between story times. After the book, my son had an animated conversation with Mrs. Claus that ended in high-fives. I have a sneaking suspicion he was trying to persuade her to tell Santa that he’s been a model child all year. Overall, it was a great family experience, and I recommend it (especially at night- the lights really make it special) for a fun family time.
The Irvine Park Railroad Christmas Train will be open December 7-9th, and from December 14-23rd at Irvine Regional Park, 1 Irvine Park Rd., Orange, Ca., 92869.
Irvine Park Entry is $5 per vehicle on weekends, $3 during the week; however, parking for the Christmas Train is FREE after 5:00 PM. Visit the Irvine Park Railroad website for more information on pricing and the schedule. You can also visit the OC Parks Facebook page for up-to-the minute information and to share your own pictures!
Santa’s Village requires activity tickets, $4 each or $50 for a book of 15. Coloring and Story time with Mrs. Claus are FREE.
This is not a sponsored post. We received free admission, activities, and snacks, in order to facilitate this review. All thoughts and opinions remain our own.