Santa Claus usually travels by sleigh. But, when in Santa Cruz, he prefers the train. And you can climb aboard, too: The holiday lights train starts its run the day after Thanksgiving.
The folks at Roaring Camp Railroad in Felton are getting their holiday lights train ready for the season.
“It's just fun. It's just plain fun. The season,” said holiday lights train founder Gary Guttebo. “It’s hard to find anybody that comes here grumpy.”
The holiday lights train is Guttebo’s brainchild. Fourteen years ago, he and two friends wanted to create a Christmas experience on the railroad tracks.
“For one thing, it's like a rolling piece of eye candy going right down the middle of the streets of Santa Cruz,” Guttebo said. “And so it's like a parade.”
Thousands hop on board the festive train every year.
Senior conductor Kent A. Jefferys says it's an amazing adventure.
“It becomes a magical land, a magical sleigh,” Jefferys said.
The nighttime holiday ride begins at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and takes everyone on a Christmas journey.
Thousands of lights blink and flash on the side of the train.
“Inside, hot chocolate, singing carols, Mr. Claus and his beautiful wife show up, and we have a great time with all of the kids, even the ones that are over 90 years old,” Jefferys said.
The Roaring Camp itself is decorated with wreaths and other ornaments.
And, with tall redwoods and Douglas firs surrounding it, those who work aboard the holiday train say it's hard not to get into the spirit of the holidays.
“It is beautiful. It is awe-inspiring,” Jefferys said. “It makes your soul rise and soar.”