November 9-December 31, 2023
A favorite area holiday tradition for kids of all ages (including adults!) is the Polar Express Train excursion at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad located in its charming hometown of Bryson City. More than 90,000 passengers ride each year!
The 1.25-hour round-trip excursion departs the Bryson City depot (see other festive 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.
Wear your pajamas - fun for all ages!
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 a 7% Historic Preservation Fee and 6.75% state tax.
- Ride times begin at 5 PM every day. No rides on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day.
- Coach Class: starts at $43/adults, $29/children ages 2-12, children under 2 are free.
- Crown Class: starts at $53/adults, $39/children 2-12, $11/children 23 months and under.
- Premium Crown Class: starts at $62/adult, $44/children 2-12, and $16/children 23 months and under.
- First Class: starts at $67/adult, $47/children 2-12, $19/children 23 months and under.
- 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!
- 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 a small ticket fee.
- Arrive Early: You should arrive at least 1 hour before departure. Or, arrive earlier and stay late exploring Bryson City's festive downtown. Take photos on the caboose and browse the shops. Many restaurants are within walking distance.
- For passengers who need special assistance for wheelchair accessibility, there is one car with a hydraulic lift and golf cart for transportation from the parking area. Be sure to call well in advance to make arrangements at 800-872-4681. Once arriving at the depot, be sure the ticket office is aware of your need for assisted boarding.
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.
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 website for more.
Get your photo by the caboose in downtown, a couple of blocks from the depot!
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 fee 48 hours before departure. Within 48 hours of the departure, the reservation becomes non-refundable. You may reschedule any time prior to your originally scheduled departure with a 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
Yellow Rose Rentals, Bryson City
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.… read more
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, boutique hotels, bed and breakfast inns and campgrounds.
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… read more