McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park Impacted By COVID-19 Rules
One of Scottsdale’s most popular holiday attractions that has taken place since the 1980’s and one that draws thousands every year can expect an impact from the pandemic.
Attendees at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park’s popular holiday lights event can expect smaller crowds and unfortunately higher ticket prices this year due to health and safety precautions.
The popular valley holiday event that invites spectators to ride the model train and view beautiful lights that blanket the park is still planned to take place. This year’s holiday lights will be on display 6-9:30 p.m. Nov. 27-Jan. 3. There will be no lights on Dec. 24, 25 or 31.
The park will allow a limited number of guests in one-hour increments at 6 p.m., 7:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. each night. Guests can purchase tickets ahead of time to reserve a time at therailroadpark.com/holidaylights.
Nick Molinari, the City of Scottsdale’s operations supervisor for the park, said only around 200 guests will be admitted per hour. Once their hour is up, guests will be asked to leave.
Molinari said there will be a specific area blocked off for staff to check in guests with tickets for a specific time slot and separate entrance and exit points.
“Since the only people in the park during a specific hour will be those who have bought tickets, we will notify them at certain points how much time they have left in the hour,” he said. “We will then notify visitors when they need to exit the area.”
“However, we will continuously evaluate the event to determine whether that number should be adjusted,” he said. “We normally have thousands of people at the event nightly, so the 200 threshold is minimal for an outdoor park.”
This year, the 200-person limit will drastically reduce the total number of people who can enjoy the park’s holiday lights.
In 2018, Molinari estimated 1,000 people visited the park on a slow night and 3,000 or 4,000 on busier nights during the five-week event.
This year, the will limit the train and other rides to 50 percent capacity to allow for social distancing. In addition, Santa Claus will not be on site.
“The Center for Disease Control places a lower risk on events that can be held outdoors with a smaller amount of people who can remain socially distanced,” Molinari said. “This was the foundational principle for the modified structure of the event.”
As a result of the new reservation model, ticket prices will also go up this year. The park will charge a flat $15 per person admission. The price increase comes with an improved experience for customers due to the smaller-than-normal crowds.
Last year, the park charged $5 per train ride and $3 per carousel ride with no admittance fee during the holiday lights event.
“While that may seem like a significant jump from last year, visitors can ride the train and carousel more than once during their hour at the park,” he said. “With the limited amount of people in the park, the lines should be very short, equivalent to what our fast pass customers normally experience.”