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.
And at the end of this post, when the holiday season draws close, there will be 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
2021 dates: Not yet announced, but typically Kannapolis Christmas will take place from late November to December 30th, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Cost: Free to enter and walk through the light display. Check back soon for the cost of the train. It’s generally just a buck or two!
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.
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
2021 dates: November 21-13, 19-21, 26-28. December 3-4, 9-12, 14-23.
Tickets start at $32 for kids and $38 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.
300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
96 miles from Charlotte
2021 Dates: Select evenings November 19th to December 30th.
Cost: $44 for adults, and $38 for children (children 2 and under free)
If the event is similar to past years, 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
2021 dates: TBD.
Ticket price: TBD
We are awaiting information on Museum of Life + Science’s Santa Train for 2021.
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
2021 dates: December 4th, 5th, 11th, 12th, and 19th.
Cost: Adults: $15, Kids age 2-12: $13, Seniors age 60+: $14
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. Children will receive one individually wrapped candy cane.
Hubb’s Express and Santa Too at Hubb’s Farm
Hubb’s Express and Santa Too!
10276 US Hwy 421 North
167 miles from Charlotte
Tickets: TBD. In past years it was $20 a person.
We are awaiting information for 2021. In past years, tickets included time with Santa, movie screening, hot chocolate, Hubb’s Express train ride, and a jingle bell for all attendees. Hubb’s also provided campfires for cooking marshmallows, s’mores and toe-warming.
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
2021 dates: Dates from November 12th to December 30th.
Cost: For Coach Class, Off-peak: Adults $43, Child (2-12) $29. 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
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
2021 date: TBA
Ticket price: TBA
If this event is similar to past years, Santa will be on board this train ride. Juice and cookies will be served, and there will be caroling.