Destination: Museum of Life and Science's Santa Train
Posted December 3, 2015
Updated December 4, 2015
I've been writing about it for years, but I've never actually ridden the long-running Santa Train at the Museum of Life and Science. And my time might just be running out. My younger daughter is six and, as much as it pains me to admit it, my family's Santa years are numbered.
So I got the tickets, told my daughter and then, for several weeks, answered daily questions about when we were going to go. She was very excited.
Our night was this past Wednesday, the first night of many for the Durham museum's 38th annual Santa Train. It runs in the evenings this week through Sunday; Dec. 9 to Dec. 13; and Dec. 16 to Dec. 20 with multiple departure times each night. Tickets are $15 for Wednesday and Thursday evenings and $20 for Friday through Sunday evenings. Kids 2 and younger are free.
Don't expect to walk the museum grounds at night. Instead, ticketholders enter near the butterfly house and follow the Christmas lights to the museum's Ellerbe Creek Railway depot. I'd given myself an hour to get from Raleigh to Durham, which should have been plenty of time - if it hadn't been at rush hour. We ran up to the depot just as our train was boarding. Be sure to leave plenty of time - factoring rush hour traffic - especially if you are coming from a distance.
The open-air kiddie train was nearly full once we left the station. From there, the journey, dotted with some holiday light displays, included a stop at the "North Pole" where Santa and an elf greeted us. We didn't get off the train. Instead, Santa stopped at each seat to ask the children for one thing they wanted for Christmas. The elf gave each of the kids a Rudolph nose. Then we headed back to the station.
Our train left at 6 p.m. We pulled into the station at 6:11 p.m. We got off the train and headed over to the tent for crafts, free face painting (though donations are encouraged) and some hot chocolate and candy canes. We stopped at the synthetic ice rink and bought a $2 trinket at the outdoor gift shop before we left.
The entire experience took about an hour. Parking was easy. There were no lines the night that we were there. And the grin on my daughter's face the entire time was worth every minute.
Tickets are on sale now for the museum's Santa Train. Some nights and times do sell out so be sure to get them sooner than later if you plan on going.
The annual event is a fundraiser for the museum, helping to support its mission. So portions of the tickets are actually tax deductible.
The Museum of Life and Science's website has more information about the event and tickets.