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All Aboard The Polar Express!

The Polar Express experience begins as soon as visitors arrive at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Depot. Guests are treated to a spectacular light show synchronized to a familiar Christmas song to enjoy while waiting for the train. All train cars have white rope lighting around the exterior edges and light up the landscape as the train travels to pick up Santa at the North Pole Village, which is illuminated by 62,000 colorful lights. Keep an eye out for the Flight Training Airfield with reindeer at the ready.

On the train, sing some Christmas carols and watch the chefs dance through the cars, get your golden ticket stamped by the conductor in your car, and enjoy warm cocoa and a treat, while listening to The Polar Express magical children’s story. Santa is waiting at the North Pole, where he’ll board the train, and greet each child on the return trip, giving them their own silver sleigh bell to take home. Don’t forget to wear your pajamas!

The Polar Express is a 1-1/4 hr round trip that runs November 9 – December 31 (No runs on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day). There are multiple car options available. Schedules vary by the day.

For reservations, call 800-872-4681.

Recommended by Travel Writers… – One of “The Most Magical Christmas Train Rides in America!” – “The Polar Express Is Not Only Real, You Can Ride It” – “How to Celebrate a Merry Smoky Mountain Christmas”

Kids in pajamas at train engine

Our small town embraces the Christmas spirit of the movie with beautiful decorations, letter writing to Santa (now through Christmas Eve) and “to-go cups” with cookies and hot chocolate packets (now through January 2) in the Visitor Center, which is open every day.

Over 200,000 LED Christmas lights enhance stores, bridges and lamp poles, and the town’s 50-foot Christmas tree. The iconic red caboose on Caboose Corner provides a holiday-themed venue for group photos.

Learn about all Holiday events in Bryson City.

Take time for a visit with the old Appalachian Toymaker, located in the Storytelling Center just down the tracks (behind the train museum) at 140 Fry Street. Watch the toymaker create handcrafted wooden toys  on the front porch and listen to a holiday story or two in the evenings.

Browse our galleries and shops for one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts, and explore our bookstores and our family-friendly museums.

For a small town, we have a surprising variety of restaurants to tempt you with meals from fine dining to pizza and burgers. To satisfy that sweet tooth, save time for a treat at a bakery, a chocolate shop, or ice cream parlor. Try some of our local brews at one of three breweries in town.

During the November – December Polar Express season, expect wait times at restaurants. Reservations, where accepted, are recommended.

Lodging options run from mom ‘n pop motels, to country inns and B&Bs to mountain cabins and small chain hotels.

Bryson City is one hour west of Asheville, two hours from Knoxville and Greenville/Spartanburg, and three hours from Atlanta, Charlotte and Chattanooga.

Sponsors of Bryson City / Swain County Chamber of Commerce Events

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad logo
Town of Bryson City NC logo
Explore Bryson City logo

Bryson City - Swain County
Chamber of Commerce

P.O. Box 509
Bryson City, NC 28713

Karen Proctor
Executive Director


Visitor Guide pages

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