Many people have horror stories about the sights, sounds, and smells on the El. But once a year, the Chicago Transit Authority makes up for all of it with their holiday and trains and buses.
Decked out in lights, snowflakes, candy canes, Christmas trees and Santa himself, the train decorations really go all out. They’re paired with buses that look like reindeer, complete with a nose-so-bright red front-light.
And while all of this is in good fun, there’s also a charitable component to it as well: CTA employees assemble food baskets to deliver to community organizations across the city for those in need during the holiday season.
This tradition has been alive with the CTA since 1992. It “began on the Blue Line in 1992 when a ‘Season’s Greetings from the CTA’ sign was placed on the front of an out-of-service train that was used to deliver food to various charities.”
The CTA also points out a few travel tips when planning an afternoon around catching one of these trains or buses:
- “Plan ahead and allow extra travel time. You can also track the whereabouts of Santa using CTA Train Tracker, which will indicate the Holiday Train with a candy cane.
- Travel light: with many families making the train a part of their holiday traditions, small collapsible strollers are encouraged so that you and others have an opportunity to board the train.
- Boarding: the train/bus will become more crowded as it travels down its route; therefore, we recommend customers consider the following:
- Board at a station/stop close to the beginning of the route. Unlike other in-service trains/buses, many people who board the train or bus often stay on board until it reaches the end of its route—and will then take it back home if it is scheduled to make a return trip.
- Train (Only): rail cars toward the front or back of the train will be less crowded compared to those immediately adjacent to Santa’s sleigh.
- Taking photos: see schedules for scheduled photo sessions with Santa. When taking photos while the train and bus are in service, we recommend the following:
- Train: if you are planning to ride the train and take photos from a station platform, don’t miss your opportunity to board the train! Board the train first and then plan to take photos of Santa or the train when exiting at your destination.
- Bus: riders who wish to take photos with Santa on board the bus are encouraged to do so only when the vehicle is stopped and ideally just before exiting the through rear doors.”
You can expect to start seeing the train around the city starting this Friday and buses starting next Tuesday. For the most up to date information, follow the CTA’s website, complete with train schedules where available and bus schedules coming soon.
Green Line and Orange Line: Friday, Nov. 24
Green Line: Saturday, Nov. 25*
Green Line and Orange Line: Tuesday, Nov. 28
Orange Line and Brown Line: Wednesday, Nov. 29
Orange Line and Brown Line: Thursday, Nov. 30
Orange Line and Brown Line: Friday, Dec. 1
Orange Line and Brown Line: Saturday, Dec. 2*
Pink Line: Tuesday, Dec. 5
Pink Line: Wednesday, Dec. 6
Blue Line: Thursday, Dec. 7
Blue Line: Friday, Dec. 8
Blue Line: Saturday, Dec. 9* (+ photo-only stop on Pink Line)
Red Line: Tuesday, Dec. 12
Purple Line: Wednesday, Dec. 13
Red Line: Thursday, Dec. 14
Purple Line: Friday, Dec. 15
Red Line and Purple Line: Saturday, Dec. 16*
Purple Line: Thursday, Dec. 21
Yellow Line: Friday, Dec. 22
*Photos with Santa.
#56 Milwaukee: Tuesday, Nov. 28, Wednesday, Nov. 29*
#92 Foster, #91 Austin: Thursday, Nov. 30
#22 Clark: Friday, Dec. 1*
#22 Clark/#97 Skokie: Saturday, Dec. 2*
#66 Chicago: Tuesday Dec. 5*, Wednesday, Dec. 6
#126 Jackson: Thursday, Dec. 7*
#12 Roosevelt: Friday, Dec. 8*, Saturday, Dec. 9
#29 State: Wednesday, Dec. 13*, Thursday, Dec. 14
#28 Stony Island: Friday, Dec. 15*
#62 Archer: Saturday, Dec. 16*, Sunday, Dec. 17
#X49 Western Express: Wednesday, Dec. 20*
#79 79th: Thursday, Dec. 21*
#3 King Drive: Friday, Dec. 22, Saturday, Dec. 23*
* Photos Santa Claus