We’ve put together a list of several Christmas Trains you can take the kids to this holiday season around the state of North Carolina.
Many of these have an TBD status for the 2020 holiday season, and we will update with information as soon as we have it.
For each, we’ve indicated the number of miles it is from the center of Charlotte, and we’ve organized the list with the trains closer to Charlotte first.
Caveat: Not all of these train rides are cheap. In fact, some of these are very pricey. But we’re including them anyway, because they are so popular.
And at the end of this post, there’s a day-by-day list of holiday events in the Charlotte area.
Kannapolis Christmas–Winterland Express
700 W. C Street
Kannapolis, NC 28081 (27 miles from Charlotte)
2020 dates: Every evening from November 21st to December 30th, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Cost: $2 for train ride and $2 for carousel
No advance purchase
It’s free to enter the park, where you can see more than 250,000 Christmas lights. A group of animatronic bears will sing Christmas carols, Santa will be available for visits. Take a ride on the Winterland Express for $2, or ride North Carolina’s only double-decker carousel for $2.
Note for 2020: We will update if there are changes or cancellations, but this is the information on City of Kannapolis’ website, as of September 7th. We’ve heard that they have not yet determined if this event will take place.
The Polar Express
North Carolina Transportation Museum
411 South Salisbury Avenue
Spencer, NC 28159 (45 miles from Charlotte)
On this train ride, listen to the music of The Polar Express, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. There will be singing, dancing, and a reading of The Polar Express story. At the North Pole, Santa will present children with a gift. On the return trip everyone will receive a sleigh bell.
The Polar Express has been canceled for 2020.
300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane
Blowing Rock, NC 28605 (96 miles from Charlotte)
2020 Dates: Opens November 13th, 2020. Details soon!
Cost: $44 for adults, and $38 for children (children 2 and under free)
Tweetsie Christmas for 2020 is TBD, as of September 7th.
With your ticket, you will:
- Meet Santa in his own home — made of gingerbread, and filled with candied furnishings.
- Take a night-time train ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains. See thousands of Christmas lights along the three-mile track and the open areas of the park.
- Enjoy the sounds of Christmas during a 15-minute variety show in the Tweetsie Palace.
- Step into a snow globe filled with swirling (synthetic) snow, peek through a Christmas present, see giant nut crackers, toy soldiers, candy canes, toy drums, and more.
- Snacks for sale: Roast s’mores over an outdoor fire pit and enjoy freshly baked cookies, warm funnel cakes, and other handmade items from Tweetsie Railroad’s famous Fudge Shop.
Santa Train at Museum of Life + Science
Museum of Life + Science
433 W. Murray Avenue
Durham, NC 27704 (143 miles from Charlotte)
We haven’t heard yet if Museum of Life + Science is planning run their Santa Train this year, but they have fitted the trains on the Ellerbe Creek Railway with plexiglass and are running the trains now. In addition, they’ve told us that they offering the Pumpkin Patch Express in October, so we think the chances are good that they’ll be offering the Santa Train in December, although activities might be modified.
In past years, the Santa Train took you on a ride through thousands of twinkling lights, to the North Pole, where kids could meet Santa, make crafts, “skate in their socks,” enjoy hot chocolate and more.
In 2019 the Santa Train event took place on 12 days between December 4th and 22nd, and cost from $5 to $22, depending on the week and the time of the train. In addition the Museum offered a Sensory Friendly Santa Train one day.
Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express at New Hope Valley Railway
Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express
New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Road (151 miles from Charlotte)
New Hill, North Carolina 27562
2020 dates: December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19
Cost: Adults: $13, Kids age 2-12: $11, Seniors age 60+: $12
You can also rent the entire caboose (up to 10 people who are in a private group together) for $75
Tickets on sale: Now
Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express will run on the above schedule in 2020. Tickets are on sale now.
Ride a vintage train with New Hope Valley Railway. Passengers can meet Santa and pose for pictures with him on the train, and they can help him find his reindeer. Before your ride stop by the reindeer stables in the rail yard. Families are also encouraged to visit the photo opportunity that will be set up in front of the Post Office train car in the rail yard before or after their train ride. Food, drinks and desserts are available for purchase.
Hubb’s Express and Santa Too at Hubb’s Farm
Hubb’s Express and Santa Too!
10276 US Hwy 421 North
Clinton, NC (167 miles from Charlotte)
In 2019, Hubb’s Farm had a one-night-only event that featured the movie “Polar Express,” a train ride, hot chocolate, s’mores and campfires. Santa was available before and after the movie.
Note for 2020: We do not have information on whether this is taking place in 2020. We will update when we have the information.
The Polar Express with Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s Polar Express Train Ride
Bryson City Depot
45 Mitchell Street
Bryson City, NC 28713 (179 miles from Raleigh)
2020 dates: Dates from November 13th to December 31st.
Cost: For Coach Class, Off-peak: Adults $42, Child (2-12) $28. Children under 2 are free. Tickets are more expensive for first class, Crown Class, peak times, Christmas Eve and steam engines.
Tickets: For sale now
Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is currently up and running, with some changes, including face masks and 50% capacity. Read about the steps they’ve taken here.
Set to the soundtrack of The Polar Express movie, the 1 1/4 hour round trip excursion takes passengers from the Bryson City depot to a visit to the North Pole. Guests will enjoy warm cocoa and a treat while listening to and reading along with the story.At the North Pole, Santa will board the train and greet each child. Santa will give each child a silver sleigh bell.
Selma Santa Train
Selma Santa Train
Selma Train Depot
500 E. Railroad Street
2020 date: TBA
Ticket price: TBA
Santa will be on board this train ride. Juice and cookies will be served, and there will be caroling.
Note for 2020: Canceled
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