Written by Kristin Kleimann-Duggan
Are you and your family both train and holiday enthusiasts? Do you like beautiful scenery, holiday lights, meeting Santa, and good food and drinks? Do you enjoy adventures close to Denver? If so, the Santa Express on the Royal Gorge Train Route may be just what you are looking for…
This past weekend, our family and some friends took the 2-hour roadtrip (each way) to ride the Santa Express in Canon City. We decided to stay overnight in Canon City to make the overall trip more tolerable for the young children, oh, and for us. The length of the train trip (2 hours) was perfect, the scenery and holiday lights gorgeous, the experience nostalgic, and the food and drink delicious.
Once you board the train, you are provided hot chocolate and cookies to snack on. As the train starts its journey, they play Holiday music and conduct sing alongs. If it is still light out, you are treated to spectacular views of both the gorge and the Arkansas River, and possibly the sunset. There are a few open air cars that you can go to to really experience the views. Once the train reaches the “North Pole,” which is all done up with lights, Santa and the elves board. The elves come around and give each child a bell from one of Santa’s reindeer. Santa also makes his way to talk to the children and collect their wish lists. We absolutely loved the adventure and highly recommend the overall experience.
For 2018, trips are offered November 16th-December 30th. Trips are scheduled up to four times daily: generally, 9:30, 12:30, 4:30, and 6:30. Some dates are less expensive than others so do check their website schedule. There are several different classes of service offered including Vista Dome, Club, and Coach. The ticket price varies by class.
We opted for the Vista Dome class and purchased our tickets (easily) online in advance. Vista Dome service provided us with 360-degree views, assigned seats at a table (seats are in groupings of four so we were all seated together), and table side food and drink service (food and drink are not included in the ticket price, but purchasing food in advance is an option.) Food, drinks, and the full service bar are available to all classes of service. Passengers are also permitted to visit the open air car as frequently as they’d like and at any point in the trip.
One of the highlights of the tour is seeing the Royal Gorge bridge from a unique vantage point, below it! The Royal Gorge bridge is the world’s highest suspension bridge and is located at the narrowest and deepest point in the gorge. The train stops under the bridge for a few minutes for viewing and for photo opportunities.
A Very Brief History of the Royal Gorge Route
The Royal Gorge route opened in 1879 and cost $11,759 (about $250,000 in today’s dollars) but service eventually ended in 1967 for a variety of reasons. The Royal Gorge historic rail line was resurrected in 1999 with the goal of creating “an entirely new Colorado experience featuring excellent food, friendly service and memorable events while sharing the most spectacular scenery in the Rocky Mountain West” (Royal Gorge Route Railroad “Signal” Publication). The route is run by a private, family owned Colorado company passionate about good food and wine.
Visit: www.royalgorgeroute.com or call 1.888.724.5748
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