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.
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. For many families, these Santa Trains are a highlight of the holiday season.
Check out our huge day-by-day list of holiday events in the Charlotte area! We update it every day!
Also, please note that some of these rides are on actual, full-size trains, some are on smaller models, and one is sort of a train-like ride, not actually a train on tracks.
And at the end of this post, there is a day-by-day list of holiday events in the Charlotte area.
Kannapolis Christmas–Winterland Express
700 W. C Street
Kannapolis, NC 28081
28 miles from Charlotte
2022 dates: November 19th to December 30th, 2022, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Cost: Free to enter and walk through the light display. $2 to ride the train, but you need to reserve your spot in advance.
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, and Santa will be available for visits.
The Polar Express Train Ride at North Carolina Transportation Museum
The Polar Express Train Ride
North Carolina Transportation Museum
1 Samuel Spencer Drive, Spencer
46 miles from Charlotte
2022 dates: November 11-12, 18-20, 25-27. December 2-4, 8-11, 13-23
Tickets start at $34 for kids and $40 for adults.
The train ride is set to the sounds of the movie soundtrack as you travel to the “North Pole.” Along the way, listen to a reading of Chris Van Allsburg’s classic, The Polar Express, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. At the North Pole, families will leave the train and watch Santa present the first gift of Christmas. Back at Candy Cane Lane, all passengers who “believe” will receive their own sleigh bell.
Country Christmas Train at Denton Farmpark
4259 Handy Road
Denton, NC 27239
59 miles from Charlotte
2022 dates: Nov. 25-27; Dec. 2 – 4; 8 – 11; Dec. 16 – 23, 26 – 27, 2022
Ticket prices: $20 for adults; $6 for children 5-11, free for children 4 and under. Santa pictures: 2 for $15, cash only.
Enjoy a train ride, and explore the grist mill, a petting zoo, doll museum, kids’ rides, and much more. Santa pictures are available.
300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
96 miles from Charlotte
2022 Dates: Select evenings November 25th to December 30th.
Cost: $52 for adults and $35 for children. Children ages 2 and younger are admitted for free.
- 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.
Holidays in the Park at Museum of Life + Science
Museum of Life + Science
433 W. Murray Avenue
Durham, NC 27704
143 miles from Charlotte
2022 dates: Dates in December.
Ticket price: $16 for admission only to walk around, and $19 for admission plus a train ride.
This isn’t a Santa Train, but this year the Museum is hosting Holidays in the Park, which includes the option of including a train ride. Museum of Life + Science’s Holidays in the Park includes holiday music and light displays, family photo ops, sock-skating, complimentary candy canes, Magic Wings Butterfly House, and an optional ride on the Ellerbe Creek Railway past colorful lights.
Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express at New Hope Valley Railway
Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express
New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Road
New Hill, North Carolina 27562
151 miles from Charlotte
2022 dates: December 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, and 17th
Cost: All ages: $16
Take pictures with Santa in the rail yard, using your own camera. Then go on a 50-minute train ride and search for Santa’s missing reindeer.
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
180 miles from Charlotte
2022 dates: Dates from November 10th to December 31st
Cost: Ticket prices start at $43.
Tickets: For sale now
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, Selma, NC 27576
198 miles from Charlotte
2022 date: Check back soon. This event was canceled in 2021.
Double-Check Before You Head Out!
We make every effort to make sure that everything on Charlotte on the Cheap is 100% accurate.
However, sometimes things change without notice, and we are not always notified. It's also possible that we can make a mistake.
Please verify all deals and events with the venue or organizer before you go.
You might also be interested in:
- Free things to do this week
- Discounts on concert tickets, kids' activities, restaurants, more
- Most spectacular Christmas light displays
- Day by day list of holiday events
- North Carolina Christmas Gift Guide
- Christmas tree farms and lots
- Live nativities in the Charlotte area
- Pictures with Santa
- Hanukkah celebrations in Charlotte
- Charlotte area holiday markets
More Holiday Events
Check out our huge day-by-day list of holiday events in the Charlotte area or see a few here.