CTA 'L' Train

Chicago’s popular holiday train, a festive and decked out train that often features special appearances, will soon hit the tracks for the 2023 season.

The city announced its full holiday train and bus schedule, with appearances starting on Nov. 24. (See the full schedule below)

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Chicago’s most unique and beloved holiday tradition is here: The Allstate CTA Holiday Fleet. Now in its 32nd year of operation, we are excited to be delivering holiday cheer throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods and welcome you aboard our decked-out and dazzling Allstate CTA Holiday Train and the popular Allstate CTA Holiday Bus!” the Chicago Transit Authority wrote.

The festive Chicago staple first began on the Blue Line in 1992 with an out-of-service train that delivered food to charities, but it later evolved into the elaborate and beloved spectacle it is now, though it still helps to deliver food baskets to charities around the city.

“Today, as the train pulls into each station, Santa waves to riders from his sleigh on an open-air flatcar carrying his reindeer and decorated holiday trees,” the CTA said. “Each car of the train is wrapped with holiday and seasonal images. Thousands of twinkling lights outline the shape of the train and windows, with even more lights running across the tops of the cars.”

The CTA holiday bus followed years later in 2014, as the agency transformed a 60-foot bus “into a winter wonderland to say ‘thank you’ to customers and bring added cheer during the holiday season.”

“You’ll know this bus is near when you hear holiday music playing and a jolly ‘Ho-ho-ho!’ from down the street. Look up and you’ll see Santa waving and greeting all the good boys and girls of Chicago from the roof hatch of the bus,” the CTA said. “The exterior of the bus features Santa and reindeer on a roof, getting ready to deliver gifts to good boys and girls.”

For the first time since 2019, photos with Santa will return to both the holiday train and bus on designated days and times. A CTA employee will take the images using your preferred device, but the photos will be on a first-come, first-served basis and one photo will be allowed per family or groups.

While the train and bus do operate on a schedule for riders, they can fill up quickly.

For those hoping to get on, the CTA offers the following tips:

  • 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, or by using the dedicated holiday bus tracker.
  • 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): Railcars toward the front or back of the train will be less crowded compared to those immediately adjacent to Santa’s sleigh.
  • Taking photos: When taking photos while the train or bus are in service, we recommend the following:
    • Train: If you are planning to ride the train, board the train first and then plan to take photos of Santa or the train when exiting at your destination—don’t miss your opportunity to board the train!
    • 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 through the rear doors.  

See the full schedule below: (Photo opps with Santa are noted using the camera emoji)

2023 Allstate CTA Holiday Train schedule
All times pm
Green Line & Orange LineFri 11/24Departing:
Midway toward Loop, then Harlem/Lake at 3:07
Harlem/Lake to Cottage Grove at 4:31
Cottage Grove toward Loop, then Midway at 5:51
Green Line
& Photos with Santa
Sat 11/25 📷Departing:
Harlem/Lake to Ashland/63rd at 2:11
Cottage Grove to Harlem/Lake at 3:30
Green Line & Orange LineTue 11/28Departing:
Midway toward Loop, then Harlem/Lake at 4:01
Harlem/Lake to Ashland/63rd at 5:31
Ashland/63rd toward Loop, then Midway at 7:06
Orange Line & Brown LineWed 11/29Departing:
Midway toward Loop, then Kimball at 3:07
Kimball toward Loop, then Midway at 4:41
Orange Line & Brown LineThu 11/30Departing:
Midway toward Loop, then Kimball at 3:53
Kimball toward Loop, then Midway at 5:28
Orange Line & Brown LineFri 12/1Departing:
Midway toward Loop, then Kimball at 3:07
Kimball toward Loop, then Midway at 4:41
Orange Line & Brown Line
& Photos with Santa
Sat 12/2 📷Departing:
Kimball toward Loop, then Midway at 12:53
Midway toward Loop, then Kimball at 4:01
Kimball toward Loop, then Midway at 6:39
Red LineTue 12/5Departing:
Howard to 95th/Dan Ryan at 2:43
95th/Dan Ryan to Howard at 4:19
Purple LineWed 12/6Departing:
Howard to Linden at 3:15
Linden to Loop, via express, at 3:50
Loop (from Clark/Lake) to Linden at 4:38
Linden to Howard at 6:00
Red LineThu 12/7Departing:
Howard to 95th/Dan Ryan at 3:13
95th/Dan Ryan to Howard at 4:46
Purple LineFri 12/8Departing:
Howard to Linden at 3:45
Linden to Loop, via express, at 4:20
Loop (from Clark/Lake) to Linden at 5:07
Linden to Howard at 6:20
Red Line & Purple Line
& Photos with Santa
Sat 12/9 📷Departing:
Howard to 95th/Dan Ryan at 12:16
95th/Dan Ryan to Howard at 3:01
Howard to Linden at 4:16
Linden to Howard at 6:31
Pink LineTue 12/12Departing:
54th/Cermak to Loop at 2:43
Loop (from Clark/Lake) to 54th/Cermak at 3:10
54th/Cermak to Loop at 4:16
Loop (from Clark/Lake) to 54th/Cermak at 4:43
Pink LineWed 12/13Departing:
54th/Cermak to Loop at 3:06
Loop (from Clark/Lake) to 54th/Cermak at 3:33
54th/Cermak to Loop at 4:44
Loop (from Clark/Lake) to 54th/Cermak at 5:11
Blue Line Thu 12/14Departing:
O’Hare to Forest Park at 3:13
Forest Park to O’Hare at 4:57
Blue Line Fri 12/15Departing:
O’Hare to Forest Park at 4:13
Forest Park to O’Hare at 6:02
Blue Line 
& Photos with Santa
Sat 12/16 📷Departing:
Illinois Medical District to Forest Park at 3:52
Forest Park to O’Hare at 3:53
Yellow Line Skokie Swift BirdThu 12/21All trains on Yellow Line will be 2-car Holiday Trains for service departing:
Howard from 3:08 until 6:53
Dempster-Skokie from 3:22 until 7:07
2023 Allstate CTA Holiday Bus schedule
RouteDate in serviceDeparture times  
#56 Milwaukee
Tue 11/28Approx. 11:45a until 5p
Wed 11/29Approx. 12:45p until 7:35p
#91 Austin/
#92 Foster
Thu 11/30Approx. 12p until 5p
#22 ClarkFri 12/1Approx. 12:40p until 8p
#22 Clark
#97 Skokie
Sat 12/2Approx.12:40p until 7p
#74 FullertonTue 12/5Approx. 12p until 6:20p
#66 ChicagoWed 12/6Approx. 11:45a until 6:50p
Thu 12/7Approx. 12:20p until 7:30p
#126 JacksonFri 12/8Approx. 12:30p until 7:05p
#12 RooseveltSat 12/9Approx. 12:15p until 7:30p
#62 ArcherTue 12/12Approx. 12:15p until 5:45p
#49 Western#X49 Western Exp.Wed 12/13Approx. 12:30p until 5:00p
Thu 12/14Approx. 12:20p until 8:20p
#3 King DriveFri 12/15Approx. 11:40a until 7:15p
Sat 12/16Approx. 11:40a until 7p
#79 79thTue 12/19Approx. 12:10p until 7:30p
#28 Stony IslandWed 12/20Approx. 12:00p until 6:10p
#29 StateThu 12/21Approx. 12:20p until 7:30p
#J14 Jeffrey JumpFri 12/22Approx. 11:05a until 5:15p


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