CTA holiday bus returns to Chicago Monday. Here's how to catch it

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Your Chicago bus ride is about to get more festive.

Monday, the Chicago Transit Authority’s holiday bus returns to the roads, the agency said. The bus joins the 2023 CTA holiday train, which began running Friday.

According to officials, the wintertime staple first began on the Blue Line in 1992 with an out-of-service train that delivered food to charities. The CTA holiday bus followed in 2014, as the agency transformed a 60-foot bus ‚Äúinto a winter wonderland to say ‚Äėthank you‚Äô to customers and bring added cheer during the holiday season.‚ÄĚ

This year, 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‚ÄĒand 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‚Äôs 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‚ÄĒdon‚Äôt 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 schedules for the CTA holiday train and bus below: (Photo opps with Santa are noted using the camera emoji)

2023 Allstate CTA Holiday Train schedule
All times pm
Green Line & Orange Line Fri 11/24Departing:Midway toward Loop, then Harlem/Lake at 3:07Harlem/Lake to Cottage Grove at 4:31
Cottage Grove toward Loop, then Midway at 5:51
Green Line
& Photos with Santa
Sat 11/25¬†ūüď∑Departing:Harlem/Lake¬†to Ashland/63rd at 2:11
Cottage Grove to Harlem/Lake at 3:30
Green Line & Orange Line Tue 11/28Departing:Midway toward Loop, then Harlem/Lake at 4:01Harlem/Lake to Ashland/63rd at 5:31
Ashland/63rd toward Loop, then Midway at 7:06
Orange Line & Brown Line Wed 11/29Departing:Midway toward Loop, then Kimball at 3:07
Kimball toward Loop, then Midway at 4:41
Orange Line & Brown Line Thu 11/30Departing:Midway toward Loop, then Kimball at 3:53
Kimball toward Loop, then Midway at 5:28
Orange Line & Brown Line Fri 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¬†ūüď∑Departing:Kimball¬†toward Loop, then Midway¬†at 12:53Midway¬†toward Loop, then Kimball at 4:01
Kimball toward Loop, then Midway at 6:39
Red Line Tue 12/5Departing:Howard to 95th/Dan Ryan at 2:43
95th/Dan Ryan to Howard at 4:19
Purple Line Wed 12/6Departing:Howard to Linden at 3:15Linden to Loop, via express, at 3:50Loop (from Clark/Lake) to Linden at 4:38
Linden to Howard at 6:00
Red Line Thu 12/7Departing:Howard to 95th/Dan Ryan at 3:13
95th/Dan Ryan to Howard at 4:46
Purple Line Fri 12/8Departing:Howard to Linden at 3:45Linden to Loop, via express, at 4:20Loop (from Clark/Lake) to Linden at 5:07
Linden to Howard at 6:20
Red Line & Purple Line
& Photos with Santa
Sat 12/9¬†ūüď∑Departing:Howard¬†to¬†95th/Dan Ryan at 12:1695th/Dan Ryan¬†to Howard at 3:01Howard¬†to Linden at 4:16
Linden to Howard at 6:31
Pink Line Tue 12/12Departing:54th/Cermak to Loop at 2:43Loop (from Clark/Lake) to 54th/Cermak at 3:1054th/Cermak to Loop at 4:16
Loop (from Clark/Lake) to 54th/Cermak at 4:43
Pink Line Wed 12/13Departing:54th/Cermak to Loop at 3:06Loop (from Clark/Lake) to 54th/Cermak at 3:3354th/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¬†ūüď∑Departing:Illinois Medical District¬†to¬†Forest Park at 3:52
Forest Park to O’Hare at 3:53
Yellow Line 
Skokie Swift Bird
Thu 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
Route Date in service Departure times  
#56 Milwaukee
Tue 11/28 Approx. 11:50a until 5p
Wed¬†11/29¬†ūüď∑ Approx. 1:00p until 8:15pPhotos at¬†Jefferson Park 4:00p-5:10p
#91 Austin/
#92 Foster
Thu 11/30 Approx. 12p until 5p
#22 Clark Fri 12/1 Approx. 12:45p until 8p
#22 Clark/ 
#97 Skokie
Sat 12/2 ūüď∑ Approx.12:30p until 7pPhotos at¬†Old Orchard 1:30p-2:30p
#74 Fullerton Tue 12/5 Approx. 12:10p until 6:30p
#66 Chicago Wed 12/6¬†ūüď∑ Approx. 11:45a until 7:00pPhotos at¬†Navy Pier 4:20p-5:15p
Thu 12/7 Approx. 12:20p until 7:30p
#126¬†Jackson Fri 12/8¬†ūüď∑ Approx. 12:20p until 7:05pPhotos at Jackson/Austin 3:00p-4:00p
#12¬†Roosevelt Sat 12/9¬†ūüď∑ Approx. 12:15p until 7:45pPhotos at¬†Harrison/Central 2:30p-3:30p
#62¬†Archer Tue 12/12¬†ūüď∑ Approx. 12:15p until 6:00pPhotos at¬†Midway 1:45p-2:45p
#49 Western#X49 Western Exp. Wed 12/13 Approx. 12:30p until 5:10p
Thu 12/14¬†ūüď∑ Approx. 12:20p until 8:40pPhotos at¬†79th/Western 4:20p-5:15p
#3 King Drive Fri 12/15 Approx. 12:20p until 8:15p
#79¬†79th Sat 12/16¬†ūüď∑ Approx. 12:10p¬†until 5pPhotos at¬†Ford City 4:00p-5:00p
#28¬†Stony Island Tue 12/19¬†ūüď∑ Approx. 12:40p until 6:50pPhotos at¬†Union Station Bus Terminal 4:30p-5:30p
#J14 Jeffrey Jump Wed 12/20 Approx. 11:45a until 7:00p
#6 Jackson Park Thu 12/21¬†ūüď∑ Approx. 11:45a until 6:30pPhotos at Wacker/Stetson 1:05p-2:05p
#29 State Fri 12/22 Approx. 12:20p until 8:05p
Sat 12/23¬†ūüď∑ Approx. 12:15p until 7:30pPhotos at¬†Navy Pier 1:50p-2:50p
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