Sadly, Raleigh Parks has made the difficult decision to cancel Holiday Express for 2021, due to staffing issues.
So we’ve put together a list of Christmas trains throughout North Carolina, and the 2021 status for each (updated as we learn the status.)
For attractions outside of the Triangle, we’ve indicated the number of miles it is from Raleigh. Please adjust the distance from your own starting point.
We have put together a huge list of holiday events in the Triangle, including parades, festivals, markets, Santa visits, and more. Check out our growing day by day list of holiday events in the Triangle!
Caveat: Not all of these train rides are cheap. Some of these are pretty pricey. But we’re including them anyway, because they are so popular.
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.
Please make sure to follow the links below for the official information and to buy tickets.
And at the end of this post, there’s be a day-by-day list of holiday events in the Charlotte area.
Please note that we’re still awaiting information on some of these train rides 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
24 miles from Raleigh
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.
Goldsboro’s Polar Express
Goldsboro’s Polar Express
900 Park Avenue, Goldsboro
53 miles from Raleigh
2021 dates: December 4th, 9th to 11th, and 16th to 18th
Take a train ride with Santa on a 1953 miniature train.
Pullen Park’s Holiday Express
520 Ashe Avenue, Raleigh
Pullen Park’s immensely popular Holiday Express has been canceled for 2021, due to staffing issues.
Santa Train at Museum of Life + Science
Museum of Life + Science
433 W. Murray Avenue
Durham, NC 27704
2021 dates: Dates from December 1st, 2021 to January 2nd, 2022
Ticket price: $16 for admission only. $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.
Hubb’s Express and Santa Too at Hubb’s Farm
Hubb’s Express and Santa Too!
10276 US Hwy 421 North
56 miles from Raleigh
2021 date: November 27th, 2021
Admission includes Hubb’s Express train ride (it’s not really a train that runs on tracks), the Polar Express movie, hot chocolate, photo visit with Santa, “I Believe” commemorative bell, photo ops, stroll through the lights, 1 Elf Express (barrel train) ride around Hubb’s Christmas in the Pines.
The Polar Express Train Ride at North Carolina Transportation Museum
The Polar Express Train Ride
North Carolina Transportation Museum
1 Samuel Spencer Drive, Spencer
123 miles from Raleigh
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.
Kannapolis Christmas–Winterland Express
700 W. C Street
Kannapolis, NC 28081
141 miles from Raleigh
2021 dates: November 20th to December 30th, 2021.
Cost: Free to enter and walk through the light display. The train ride is $2. Tickets must be purchased 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, Santa will be available for visits, and families can ride the carousel.
300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
192 miles from Raleigh
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.
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
309 miles from Raleigh
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
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
32 miles from Raleigh
More Holiday Events in the Triangle
Check out our big list of holiday events in the Triangle, or look at a few of them here: