Winter Wonderland

Just a trains’ ride away
By ANGELINA MARTIN

Winter time in the foothills of the 209 is a sight to behold, but in order to see California’s glimmering snowpack in a postcard-worthy setting, sometimes, you have to take a trip.

The Sierra Scenic Train and Reno Fun Train are two holiday excursions hosted by Key Holidays, with travel services provided by Amtrak. The mid-week and weekend trips take passengers on a train ride through the snowy, picturesque mountains of the Sierra Nevada to Reno for a perfect three-day getaway.

The Reno Fun Train’s origins can be traced as far back as 1963, when the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Reno Chamber of Commerce devised a plan to not just stimulate wintertime business in Reno, but also keep train crews working during the offseason. From this collaboration the Reno Fun Train was born, with ex-49er player Don Burke acting as its first host. The party train continued to run through the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and in 1993, Amtrak offered the contract to Key Holidays, which has since brought new life to the train by reestablishing old traditions and adding new features.

Today, the Reno Fun Train boasts a dance car, with live entertainment and a party atmosphere, and allows passengers to ride in luxury by providing light meals served roundtrip, a piano lounge and a sightseeing dome car. The Pullman Gold Service made available on the train features first class service and table dining, and the 21 and up crowd makes for a fun and unique locomotive experience where travelers can conga line, make new friends and experience the romance of riding through a winter wonderland on their way to Reno.

The Sierra Scenic Train is the family-friendly, weekday version of the snowy train ride to Reno, trademarked in 1995 when Amtrak and Key Holidays decided to use the success of the weekend train to start a mid-week excursion. Formerly known as the Reno Snow Train, the Sierra Scenic got its new name in 2014.

The weekday ride features historical narration, strolling minstrels and entertainment provided by the piano lounge car. Once in Reno, passengers can try their hand at gambling, skiing or snowboarding, take in a show or wine and dine at some of the area’s top-rated restaurants. Meals and drinks are available for purchase in the café/bar car; you can bring your own if you wish, and lunch is provided on the return trip.

Key Holidays is offering an early booking discount of $10 for those who book and pay in full by Dec. 15. Hotel packages are available for purchase along with a train ticket, or travelers can book hotels on their own if desired. The Reno Fun Train starts at $250 per person, and the Sierra Scenic at $240 per person.

Both the Reno Fun Train and the Sierra Scenic Train depart from Sacramento (departures are available in Emeryville, Richmond, Martinez and Suisun as well) and run February through mid-March, and each trip has its own theme, such as Motown Express, Mardi Gras, Soul Train and more. The Reno Fun Train is even hosting a Prom Night Do-Over with chocolate and wine tasting on March 9.

For more information and to make reservations, visit KeyHolidays.com or contact Key Holidays directly at 800-783-0783.

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