Blackberry Farm Holiday Express: All aboard for Yuletide cheer

Imagine looking through the bright eyes of a child. Remember that age? Everything seemed bigger than life - so sensational and spectacular.

We're older now, but the Christmas season still has that mystical effect. It's that sparkling glow of holiday spirit, bringing forth a warm glow and a special sense of happiness.

It's the same magical feeling you'll experience at the Blackberry Farm Holiday Express, and all the trimmings that come with it.

'Tis the season for a magnificently memorable ride on the steam-engine replica train around beautiful Lake Gregory. It's happening the next three weekends (Dec. 5-6, 12-13 and 19-20) - from 2 to 6 p.m. each day. Two Friday dates - Dec. 11 and 18 from 5 to 8 p.m. - have been added as well.

And, for just $5 admission (children under 2 free), it's a Yuletide bargain that makes Black Friday blush. For the first time, advance tickets are available. Visit

With even more new attractions and activities this year, it's the kids' equivalent of waking up to a mountain of presents on Christmas Day.

Speaking of gifts, Santa Claus will be in town for all eight dates, collecting kids' wish lists at the Early Streets Museum. He'll be right at home at Blackberry Farm, where it will feel like you've been transplanted to the North Pole.

There's a sleigh full of other activities, including:

• Huntoon House: See what a Victorian Christmas looks like - from décor to small antique toy displays

• Reindeer Food Bar: Mix up a snack bag and take it home to treat Santa's reindeer on Christmas Eve

• North Pole Oasis (Carriage Museum): Enjoy crafts, music and a full menu of concessions available for purchase

• Candy Cane Village (Adventure Playground): Festively decorated with lights; the kids will love it!

• Little Elf Hobby Shoppe (Weaver's Cabin): Create a commemorative bird feeder to help your feathered friends celebrate the holidays

• Sugar Plum Play Land: Enjoy winter-themed sensory tables and dive into the corn crib

• Santa's Workshop: Observe the blacksmith creating Victorian-era toys and tools

• Gingerbread School House: Classic holiday stories read alongside the warmth of a wood-burning stove

• North Pole Barn: Visit Olivia, the friendly Potbelly Pig, as she helps Santa's reindeer get in shape for Christmas

• Reindeer Training Facility (Pony Ring): See the ponies demonstrate what it takes to become a sled-pulling reindeer

And be sure to enjoy a winter hay wagon ride, where you'll be entertained by carolers and storytellers. Volunteer carolers (individual and group) are welcome; call (630) 897-1550 to schedule. Additionally, each Saturday will be highlighted by the Lamplighters Barbershop Quartet.

Getting a seat on the train is a breeze … with no waiting. Upon entry to Blackberry Farm, each guest receives a ticket that's stamped with a specific ride time. When that time arrives, simply show up at the train depot and hop on board.

More than 60,000 Christmas lights will illuminate the sparkling pioneer village, with shooting stars flashing above Blackberry Creek and holiday cartoon characters.

• Jeff Long ( is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District.

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