Polar Express Train, NC Smoky Mountains

Polar Express Train, Great Smoky Mtns Railroad

November 9-December 31, 2018
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!

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.

Polar Express Train, Bryson City NC

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.

Here's a tentative list of trip departure times - subject to change:

  • Nov 9-10, 16-21 & 23-30: 5, 6:35, 8:15 PM
  • Dec 1-23: Mon-Fri 5, 6:35, 8:15 PM. Saturday 11 AM, 1, 5, 6:35, 8:15 PM. Sunday 3, 5, 6:35, 8:15
  • Dec 24 Christmas Eve: 3, 5, 6:35 PM
  • Dec 26-30: 5, 6:35, 8:15 PM.
  • Dec 31: STEAM 5 & 6:35 PM

New for 2018: Enjoy a sound and synchronized light show while waiting for the train. The train is lit up also! North Pole Village is illuminated by 62,000 colorful lights. There’s more fun than ever on the train with hobo, show conductors, waiters, dancing elves and Hero Boy.

Polar Express Train PJs

Wear your pajamas - fun for all ages!

2018 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 $65 for adults and $45 for children 2-12. Children 23 months and under are $16.
  • Go to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad website to buy tickets.

Polar Express Train, North Carolina


  • 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.

Bryson City, NC

Arrive early and find much to do in the charming small town of Bryson City - including shops, museums, restaurants and lots of fudge! See our Bryson City Guide. Also, go to the Bryson City Web site for a long list of holiday events.

Bryson City, NC Caboose

Get your photo by the caboose in downtown, a couple of blocks from the depot!

Ticket Cancellations
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.

Watch our video of the Polar Express arriving at the North Pole:

Read more about the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and about other Holiday Events and Outings

Go to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad website for info and to buy tickets.

Places to Stay & Eat near the Train

Cabin in Bryson City
Bryson City Lodging: Cabins, B&Bs & Hotels
Find a wide variety of lodging accommodations in Bryson City and the Great Smoky Mountains, including log cabin rentals, hotels, bed and breakfast inns and campgrounds.
Bryson City Restaurants
Bryson City Restaurants
For a small town, you'll find a nice variety of restaurants, ranging from southern home cooking to a brewery and gourmet dining. A nice reward after a day of exploring the Great Smokies and Nantahala River.
Yellow Rose Vacation Rentals
Find a variety of cabins scattered throughout the small North Carolina mountain towns that surround the Great Smoky Mountains, including Bryson City, Cherokee, Nantahala River and Fontana Lake. Vacation rentals range from cozy one-bedroom cabins to large 5+ bedroom lodges. 37 cabins, rates from $125 per night, stay 6 nights get the 7th... read more
Hidden Creek Cabin Rentals
Stay in a log cabin, cottage or chalet in the Great Smoky Mountains. You will be surrounded by activities such as rafting down the Nantahala, zip lining, hiking, tubing down Deep Creek and riding the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. 25 rentals, from $99/night, weekly rates, hot tubs, campfire pits, mountain views, creekside... read more

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