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 80,000 passengers rode last year!
Dates: November 10-December 31, 2017 (no trains Nov 12-16, Thanksgiving, 27, 28, Christmas Day)
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! Sing Christmas carols as you return back to the Depot.
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.
On most days, trips begin at 5, 6:30 and 8:15 PM. There are additional daytime trips on most weekends.
Tickets - Reserve early to get your first choice of dates!
Higher rates are on peak days - weekends and the week before Christmas. Book early to get your preferred date and time. Many excursions sell-out. Tickets on sale April-December. A special steam excursion is planned for New Year's Eve! All fares subject to 7% Historic Preservation Fee and 6.75% state tax.
- Coach class ticket prices begin at $42 for adults and $28 for children ages 2-12. Children under two years old ride complimentary in coach.
- Crown Class ticket prices start at $52 for adults, $38 for children 2-12 and $10 for 23 months and under.
- First Class starts at $64 for adults and $44 for children 2-12. Children 23 months and under are $16.
- Go to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad website to 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.
- Arrive Early: You should arrive at least 30 minutes before departure. Or, arrive earlier and 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.
Watch our video of the Polar Express arriving at the North Pole:
Places to Stay & Eat near the Train
Before your ride on the Polar Express, explore charming downtown Bryson City. Get your photo by the caboose! Many restaurants and gift shops surround the depot. 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.