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“This is not the North Pole!” cries little Seth as our Sono-Ma County caravan pulls in to the Skunk Train’s depot. While Willits California may seem an unlikely gateway to Santa, a ride on the vintage Mendocino locomotive is a sure way to connect or reconnect with your child-like holiday spirit.

Kids (big and small) sport jammies, and prepare for a dream-like adventure. A powerful locomotive roars into place behind the passenger cars. The children look on with a mixture of fear and delight. Elves help families board a jolly train bedecked in white lights and evergreens, with shiny packages poised in luggage racks.

The train lurches forward and the “Train Singer” enters to lead a round of caroling, enticing even the more serious dads to bellow and bob along.

Then little Justin calls to his sister, “Abby- look! Santa’s wife!” and in enters Mrs. Claus smelling of sugar cookie perfume. Later, the singing dies down and the joyful noise transforms into an awe-filled hush. The parents smile to themselves while the children press their faces to the glass and gaze at the towering redwoods. The nostalgia continues as the “Night Before Christmas” is read aloud.

Soon, more elves arrive offering cookies and hot cocoa – with lids easing the parents' own experiences. Children and adults clink cups together with a chocolate “Cheers!”

The elves also hand out paper and pen for last minute letters to Santa, and families bend their heads together with important whispers.

Finally, a lovely, lighted cottage comes into view, and the train stops to pick up its most awaited passenger – jolly old St. Nick! Even the shyest child waits to hug Santa offering a muted Merry Christmas.  The glorious 90-minute ride ends all too quickly.

Follow in the footsteps of families from Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Ukiah, and as far as Santa Barbara and make this your annual tradition!  Hop on this happy holiday train and make your reservations today (or call 1-866-457-5865) or mark your calendars for next year!  Or take this family's lead and try the open air ride in the summer.

Thanks to the Chevron station on Lake Mendocino Drive in Ukiah for making this family's holiday by awarding them tickets through your annual give away!

Watch this slide show for more smiles and holiday joy.


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