Riding the “Polar Express”

On Christmas Eve, a steam locomotive train known as the “Polar Express” stops at the house of a boy who has become skeptical about the existence of Santa Claus. The conductor says the train is traveling to the North Pole, and the boy, although reluctant at first, climbs aboard. 

One of the most beloved Christmas books, which became an equally beloved Christmas movie in 2004, the Polar Express has fascinated countless children and grown-ups since it was originally written by Chris Van Allsburg in 1985.

North Carolina is one of only a few places in the world where children and families can delight in the experience of riding the “Polar Express” and visiting Santa at the North Pole. Inspired by the story, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s “Polar Express” train takes its passengers on a ride they will never forget. 

Passengers on the “Polar Express” receive a golden train ticket to board the festive vintage coaches. With music from the movie playing in the background, passengers are greeted by their hosts who will act out the story, sing, dance, and serve them treats. Guests are treated to hot cocoa as they listen to, and read along with, the story of the “Polar Express.” There are many exciting Christmas- themed displays to see along the way as the train makes its way to its destination, the North Pole where Santa Claus is waiting. The excitement builds as Santa boards the train to greet the passengers and offer each child a special gift…just as in the story. On the way back to town, there are Christmas carol singing and more festivities hosted by the crew of servers and actors. Many children and grown-ups alike wear their pajamas for the ride…just like the kids in the story.

The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is located in the charming town of Bryson City, NC. More than 90,000 passengers ride each year! The “Polar Express” ride takes about 1¼ hours, round-trip. 

All departures are from the Bryson City Train Depot in Bryson City, NC. Entrance to the parking lot is located at 45 Mitchell Street, Bryson City, NC 28713.  Guests should plan to be at the train depot one hour before departure. 

Near the depot, charming shops and eateries are all decorated in Christmas lights for the Holiday Season. If you happen to love fudge, you will probably want to check out the local fudge shop that’s been in Bryson City since 1978! The Smoky Mountains Trains Museum is a wonderful local attraction, and admission is included with all train tickets. Be sure to visit before or after your trip!

The “Polar Express” train runs from November 10th through December 31st, 2022. 

How to reserve tickets –
Higher rates are on peak days, weekends, and the week before Christmas. Book early to get your preferred date and time. Many dates and times sell out. A special steam excursion is planned for New Year’s Eve! All fares are subject to a 7% Historic Preservation Fee and 6.75% state tax.

Ride times begin at 5 PM every day. There are 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.

The Bryson City Depot is one hour from Asheville, two hours from Knoxville, and three hours from Atlanta, Charlotte, and Chattanooga, respectively. 



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