A favorite area holiday tradition for kids of all ages (including the adults!) is the Polar Express Train excursion at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. More than 70,000 passengers rode last year! Dates for this season: November 13, 2015-January 3, 2016
The 1.25-hour round-trip excursion departs the Bryson City depot (see other things to do in Bryson City) for a journey over the river and through the woods to the North Pole. Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, riders enjoy warm cocoa and cookies while reliving the magical story. Children’s faces show the magic of the season when the train arrives at the “North Pole” to find Santa Claus waiting. Santa boards The Polar Express, greeting each child and presenting each with a special gift as in the story, their own silver sleigh bell. Bring your camera! Christmas carols will be sung as they return back to the Depot. (They do not run on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.)
The Polar Express is a popular book by Chris Van Allsburg about a magical train ride on Christmas Eve, taking a young boy to the North Pole to receive a special gift from Santa Claus. It has become a contemporary holiday classic, with over 6 million copies sold worldwide. In 2004, the Academy Award-winning team of Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis created a wonderful animated movie version.
Tickets - Reserve early to get your first choice of dates!
Ticket prices begin at $42 for adults and $28 for children ages 2-12. Children under two years old ride complimentary. Book early to get your preferred date and time. Many excurisons sell-out. Tickets on sale April-December. Go to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Web site to buy tickets.
Crown Class ticket prices start at $52 for Adults, $38 for children 2-12 and $10 for 23 months and under. Upgrades are available for Family First Class seating where each guest will receive a deluxe serving of warm cocoa in a souvenir Polar Expressmug and other treats in addition to the standard offerings. Upgrade to Family First Class starting at $62 for adults and $43 for children 2-12. Children 23 months and under are $15. All fares subject to 7% Historic Preservation Fee and 6.75% state tax. Buy tickets.
- Smoky Mountain Trains Museum admission is included with all train excursion tickets. Be sure to visit after your trip!
- Wear your PJs! Even adults do.
- Ticket Changes: The train runs no matter the weather! If you see rain in the forecast for your trip, you can reschedule at least 48 hours in advance for $6/ticket fee. See below for details.
- Arrive Early: You should arrive at least 30 minutes before departure. Or arrive earlier to explore downtown Bryson City a bit. Take photos on the caboose and browse the shops. Many restaurants are within walking distance.
Directions: From downtown Asheville, it's 65 miles (allow 1.5 hours to drive) to the depot in Bryson City (for GPS, use 45 Mitchell St. Bryson City, NC for parking area). It's also convenient to stay in the Sylva or Cherokee areas.
Before your ride on the Polar Express, explore charming downtown Bryson City. Get your photo by the caboose! Read more about Bryson City.
You will be notified if a change in schedule or motive power affects your reservation. You may cancel your reservation in full or in part and receive a refund less a $14 fee per adult ticket and $7 fee per child ticket as late as 48 hours before departure. Within 48 hours of the departure the reservation becomes nonrefundable. You may reschedule any time prior to your originally scheduled departure with a $6 fee per ticket for another date within the same calendar year. You may not reschedule a reservation after the scheduled departure.