That’s me in front with Peyton. My husband, Jerry, and Trevor are behind us on the Christmas Train to the North Pole.

All aboard to the North Pole!

by Peggy Cheng

All aboard to the North Pole! Irvine Regional Park has been home to many fond memories for our family since the boys were toddlers, and its Christmas Train celebration is no exception. The track of glowing holiday lights, our visits with Santa, and wandering Santa’s Village have become a tradition that helps us ring in the season every December.

The Christmas Train warms our hearts as much today as it did when the kids were young. When the boys were 5 and 2 years old, we fit comfortably in the bench seat of the one-third scale train. Trevor cheered “choo choo!” while Peyton covered his ears in my side to the blare of the train whistle. We marveled at how this historic park, which dates back to an 1897 gift from Irvine Company, was transformed into a holiday wonderland each year.

Irvine Regional Park has transformed into a winter wonderland full of holiday lights.

Santa’s village

At the North Pole that first year, I worried how Trevor might react to Santa, only to be relieved when he proudly announced the specific names of Lego sets on his wish list, followed by Peyton’s echo, “Legos!”

Back at the village, the boys were happy to collect prizes at the activity booths and head home, even more eager for winter break.

I assumed the boys might lose interest in the Christmas Train as they got older, but today they enjoy it in surprisingly new ways.

They relish their independence. They’re all too happy to receive their tickets and dash off to the winter-themed carnival games. It’s fine with me, as other parents and I enjoy our warm concession stand drinks and watch happiness in action from a distance.

When asked what their favorite part of Christmas is, the boys answer without hesitation, “riding the train.”

We had a nice chat with Santa and Mrs. Claus, both of whom greeted us during our train ride.

Year-round beauty

Irvine Park Railroad has created something special in the corner of this expansive 491- acre park, whether for Easter, fall, Christmas or just another sunny day in Orange County.

The simplicity of chugging around lakes and under sprawling oak trees still hasn’t lost its novelty in the almost 10 years we’ve been riding it.

We are so thankful to have the N.H. Underhill Christmas Train as an annual part of our Irvine family story.

The picturesque Irvine Regional Park, which dates back to an 1897 gift from Irvine Company, is part of our family tradition during the holidays.

While you’re there…

If you’re planning to ride the Christmas Train this December, make a day of it at Irvine Regional Park.

There’s plenty to do at this 491-acre park:

  1. The grounds: Rent a bike, surrey, horse or walk through groves of ancient oak and sycamore trees. A paved trail meanders through the park.
  2. The lake: Bring a rod and let the kids fish for catfish and trout. Rent a paddleboat for a little sightseeing, or stroll the banks and take pictures by the waterfall.
  3. OC Zoo: See animals native to the south- western U.S.: black bears, mountain lions, bald eagles, island foxes, ocelots, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, porcupines, coyotes, turkey vultures and more. Admission: $2.

For the most current information regarding activities and accessibility, visit ocparks.com/parks/irvine.