Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Yuletide Express

The Yuletide Express excursions are short and sweet — and Santa came along at just the right time! (Photos by Natasha Dillinger)

Parent review: Yuletide Express trains a short, sweet holiday outing

Santa trains keep chugging along with a shorter option for pandemic.

Update, Dec. 2, 2021: The museum reports that all holiday train rides for 2021 are sold out.

All aboard the Yuletide Express!

In a normal year, tickets to the Northwest Railway Museum’s Santa Train are pricey and sell out shortly after they go on sale in late summer, so we had never managed to go.

However, after years of reading bedtime masterpieces like Kevin Lewis’ “Chugga Chugga Choo Choo” and ogling the trains passing the beach at Carkeek Park, my kids have become quite train-obsessed. So when the train transformed into the Yuletide Express in 2020, it felt like the right time to splurge on one of the remaining holiday activities still able to operate relatively safely.

Here’s the plan for 2021

Duration: The Yuletide Express is 25 minutes in 2021. (Trains run Nov. 27-28 and Dec. 4-5, 11-12 and 18-19. There will also be a Santa Limited ride (Dec. 11-12 and 18-19), which is a two-hour excursion in 2021. Tickets must be purchased online in advance at  

Activities: Families on the Santa Limited will fill those two hours with a round-trip ride between North Bend and the Railway History Campus, touring the train shed exhibit hall and receiving a small gift from Santa in the restored Chapel Car. On the Yuletide Express, families take a short ride to Snoqualmie Falls and back while Santa cruises the aisles, delivering a small gift to each child on the train. Prepackaged cookies are provided for kids to take home.

Other COVID protocols: Proof of vaccination required for all visitors 12 and older. Masks required for everyone 5 and older, including crew, and requested for age 2 and up.

Cost: $25 per person for everyone age 2 and up.

All aboard for holiday fun

Yuletide ExpressAboard the train, we adults enjoyed seeing the old train cars parked along the rails and peekaboo views of Snoqualmie Falls, but the kids started to get a little restless and I was grateful to have our train book along for entertainment.

Then, I turned around to glance through the window at the back of our beautifully decorated car and spotted Jolly Old Saint Nick making his way toward us. My highly practical daughter, then 4, reminded me loudly with a roll of her eyes, “Santa Claus is just for pretend, Mommy!” Thank goodness for the distance from believers!

wooden topDespite her lack of faith, when I asked her later about her favorite part of the ride, she replied without hesitation that it was seeing Santa Claus. Wearing a mask with a very realistic bearded mouth on it, Santa managed to delight both my kids with our short visit. My oldest doesn’t normally open up to strangers, but she happily told Santa her age and even managed to squeak out a “thank you” for her gift (a beautiful little wooden top). It’s a miracle!

On the return trip, we compared features of the train cars to the ones in our book and hopped down at the depot to pick up our snickerdoodles. We spent 10 to 15 minutes admiring the antique train cars and climbing stairs before heading home.

Since my young kids have short attention spans, the Yuletide Express was the perfect length pandemic outing with just the right amount of holiday magic.

Yuletide Express boards at Snoqualmie Depot: 38625 SE King St., Snoqualmie.
Santa Limited boards at North Depot: 205 E. McClellan St., North Bend;

This updated article was first published on Dec. 3, 2020.

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About the Author

Natasha Dillinger

Natasha Dillinger is a Seattle mom who paused a career in accounting and finance to focus on showing her two young children around the Pacific Northwest. Follow their adventures near and far on Instagram @suitcasesinseattle