The magic is back! 2021 is the 30th year for a beloved Chicago tradition: The Allstate CTA Holiday Train. This year, Santa and the CTA are excited to welcome back riders aboard both the Allstate CTA Holiday Train and the popular Allstate CTA Holiday Bus. They’re even offering MORE rides this year! But, in an effort to spread holiday cheer—and not germs—Santa and the CTA have some restrictions in place—based upon the recommendations of public health officials—to keep everyone happy and healthy for the holidays in 2021. This includes requiring everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask or face covering. See other important travel tips in “Temporary Changes for 2021” below.
See below for additional details.
Temporary changes for 2021
This will be the first time in two years that Santa and the CTA get to have good boys and girls, moms and dads, take a ride on the Allstate CTA Holiday Train and Allstate CTA Holiday Bus.
But, Santa and his new assistant and chief spokes-elf, Ella the Elf have put some guidelines in place—based upon recommendations from the CDC and public health officials—to keep everyone healthy and happy.
- Face masks are required on the train, the bus and station platforms regardless of vaccination status. Everyone must wear one, even Santa, Ella and the other elves! (Per federal and state orders, masks/face covers are not required for children under the age of two, or for those who are unable to medically tolerate the use of one.)
- Be courteous, respectful and patient, while you wait and when you board.
- When possible, please socially distance on platforms, at bus stops, and aboard the Allstate CTA Holiday Train and Allstate CTA Holiday Bus. Further, to help keep everyone safe:
- If the train or bus become too crowded, it may not allow additional riders. If this happens, Santa apologizes and encourages you to come back on another day or at time when there may be less of a crowd.
- Also, there will be NO photo sessions with Santa this year.
- Please do NOT bring strollers on the train or bus.
- If your schedule is flexible, please consider alternative days and times to ride the Allstate CTA Holiday Fleet, when it will not be as crowded
- As a way to help avoid overcrowding, Santa is offering MORE service than ever this year, including rides around the Loop “L” on Sunday, December 5; and Sunday, December 12.
Allstate CTA Holiday Train
What few may realize is that the train serves two very important purposes: to deliver joy and the holiday spirit to thousands of riders and also to deliver food baskets to various charitable agencies throughout the city.
The train began on the Blue Line in 1992 when a “Season’s Greetings from the CTA” sign was placed on the front of an out-of-service train used to deliver food to various charities. Over the years, this holiday tradition has evolved from its modest and humble beginnings to a spectacular, joyous sight to see – in daytime or nighttime.
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.
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.
Charity food delivery
The CTA family continues its decades-long tradition of supporting Chicago communities. Each year, our employees donate their time and money to purchase groceries and assemble food baskets for delivery to community organizations across the city. This year, we'll donate approximately 600 food baskets to local community organizations.
Each food basket contains all the ingredients for a complete meal including a canned ham, potatoes, mixed vegetables, muffin mix, macaroni and cheese, fruit cocktail, green beans, corn and dessert.
In 2021, the Allstate CTA Holiday Train will travel will travel all eight rail lines beginning Friday, November 26 (the day after Thanksgiving) through Wednesday, December 22.
In order to help avoid crowding at stations and on platforms, look for the CTA Holiday Train during afternoons on the dates and rail lines listed below:
- Friday, November 26: Green Line and Orange Line from about 3pm to about 7 pm
- Saturday, November 27: Green Line from about 2pm to about 4:30pm
- Tuesday, November 30: Orange Line and Green Line from about 4pm to about 8:30pm
- Wednesday, December 1: Orange Line and Brown Line from about 3pm to about 6pm
- Thursday, December 2: Orange Line and Brown Line from about 3:45pm to about 6:45pm
- Friday, December 3: Orange Line and Brown Line from about 3pm to about 6pm
- Saturday, December 4: Orange Line and Brown Line from about 12:45pm to about 5pm
- Sunday, December 5: special Loop run from 11am to 2pm
- Tuesday, December 7: Red Line from about 2:30pm to about 5:30pm
- Wednesday, December 8: Purple Line from about 3pm to about 6:15pm
- Thursday, December 9: Red Line from about 3pm to about 6pm
- Friday, December 10: Purple Line from about 3:45pm to about 6:45pm
- Saturday, December 11: Red Line and Purple Line from about 4pm to about 7pm
- Sunday, December 12: a special Loop run from 11am to 2pm
- Tuesday, December 14: Pink Line from about 2:30pm to about 5:30pm
- Wednesday, December 15: Pink Line from about 3pm to about 6pm
- Thursday, December 16: Blue Line from about 3pm to about 6:15pm
- Friday, December 17: Blue Line from about 4pm to about 7:15pm
- Saturday, December 18: Blue Line from about 4pm to about 6:45pm
- Wednesday, December 22: Yellow Line from about 3pm to about 7pm
Why no detailed times this year?
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect people around the world and measures are still in place to protect everyone (such as the need for everyone to wear masks on transit). This year, as a precaution, we’re not publishing precise schedules to help avoid causing the train to become too crowded. As it did in some of its earlier years, the train will be out on the system to surprise and delight riders on each line and will carry passengers this year. However, the train will also be visible in Train Tracker while in service and you can use the timespans above to know when to keep an eye out! Your understanding is appreciated.
Allstate 2021 CTA Holiday Bus
Day or night, the commutes of thousands and the streets of Chicago’s neighborhoods are made merry with the Allstate CTA Holiday Bus. A part of our holiday tradition since 2014, this 60-foot bus has been transformed by CTA employees into a winter wonderland as a way to say “thank you” to customers and bring added cheer during the holiday season.
You’ll know this bus is near when you hear the sound of 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 exterior of the bus features Santa and reindeer on a roof, getting ready to deliver gifts to good boys and girls.
In 2021, the Allstate CTA Holiday Bus will travel 15 different routes serving all areas of the city beginning Tuesday, November 30 through Thursday, December 23.
Look (or listen) for the CTA Holiday Bus during afternoons on the dates and bus routes listed below:
- November 30, 11:45am–4:35pm: #56 Milwaukee
- December 1, 12:45–7:35pm: #56 Milwaukee
- December 2, 12:00–5:20pm: #77 Belmont
- December 3, 12:40–8:00pm: #22 Clark
- December 4, 12:30–6:50pm: #22 Clark/#97 Skokie
- December 5, 12:00–6:20pm: #74 Fullerton
- December 7, 11:45am–6:35pm: #66 Chicago
- December 8, 12:15–7:30pm: #66 Chicago
- December 9, 12:30–7:10pm: #126 Jackson
- December 10, 1:00–8:00pm: #12 Roosevelt
- December 11, 12:15–7:30pm: #12 Roosevelt
- December 14, 12:05–5:45pm: #62 Archer
- December 15, 12:05–5:45pm: #62 Archer
- December 16, 12:30–5:00pm: #49 Western/#X49 Western Express
- December 17, 12:05–7:30pm: #79 79th
- December 18, 11:45am–7:00pm: #3 King Drive
- December 21, 12:00–6:10pm: #28 Stony Island
- December 22, 12:15–7:25pm: #29 State
- December 23, 11:15am–5:15pm: #J14 Jeffery Jump