One of our favorite traditions is climbing aboard the Polar Express every holiday season. Much like the book, you’ll enjoy a magical excursion to the North Pole. Our closest train ride is in Bryson City, North Carolina. There are many around the nation, so there’s probably one not too far from you. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers an incredible holiday journey November through December to young and old. From dancing chefs carrying warm hot cocoa to magical icebergs that transport you to the North Pole, this is an activity for all who truly believe. You’ll even get to visit with Santa!
Your ticket also includes admission into the train museum. It’s an impressive space filled with model trains. The entire adventure, including the museum, takes a couple of hours and is worth the trip. Ryan and I have really enjoyed watching this grow over the last five years. Each year they make it bigger and better. The staff is always friendly, and the entire town embraces the fun.
While in town, don’t forget to grab lunch at the Filling Station. It’s a great restaurant with automotive décor and delicious fries! They’ve also got the biggest ice-cream sandwiches I’ve ever seen. You’ll also want to shop around town and pick up some holiday goodies. There’s plenty to do for nature lovers and gamblers too. We enjoy the buffet at Harrah’s Cherokee for dinner before or after our train ride. They do a great job of decorating the hotel and casino for the holidays.
Two other towns to visit are Dillsboro and Highlands. Dillsboro is less than thirty minutes from Bryson City. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at Boots Steakhouse the last time we visited. The service was great and the food was amazing. Their Caesar salad was extremely fresh, and the rice pilaf was addictive. There are several cute shops in Dillsboro, but my favorite is Nancy Tut’s Christmas Shop. I always purchase a couple of new ornaments. We like to stop by the chocolate shop too.
We decided to visit Highlands this year on our way up. It’s a beautiful town nestled in the mountains. We did a bit of shopping as we explored the town. I found some rustic ornaments for my farmhouse inspired tree and chocolate covered Oreos! There is a really nice hotel there that I’d love to visit the next time we are up there. This town appears to be the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle.
If you’re looking to make some lasting memories for your family, I highly recommend visiting Bryson City to ride the Polar Express. I recommend purchasing your tickets in March or April to secure your spot. Tickets go quickly! Ryan and I prefer First Class, because it’s roomier, and they give you some additional treats. There are several classes to choose from, and the experience is great no matter which one you select. So, are you coming?