Tickets for Pullen Park’s Holiday Express went on sale July 30th, 2019, at 5:30 a.m., and unless you are a (really) Early Bird and got a little lucky you might have left empty-handed. Some Triangle on the Cheap readers are saying that they sold out within 30 minutes.
However, Pullen Park is not hosting the only Christmas train in the area. Here’s a list of some of the other places you can take the kids to this holiday season around the state of North Carolina.
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.
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.
And at the end of this post, soon there will be a day-by-day list of holiday events in the Triangle. Right now there’s a list of upcoming free and cheap events the next few days (but not holiday events.) As the holiday season approaches, the list will be jam-packed with fun things to do to celebrate the holidays.
Santa Train at Museum of Life + Science
Museum of Life + Science
433 W. Murray Avenue
Durham, NC 27704
The event runs selected dates in December (check back soon), and, please note that the price goes up as we get closer to Christmas, so if you want to do this a little less expensively, make your plans accordingly.
Tickets generally go on sale to the general public in November, and earlier for Museum members.
Climb aboard the Ellerbe Creek Railway for a journey to the North Pole. Enjoy a ride through thousands of twinkling lights as you make our way to meet Santa and his elves.
In 2018, activities back at the station explore included:
- Face painting by Paint Savvy
- Holiday crafts
- “Science of Santa” activities including hands-on snow polymer, simple circuits, and more Holiday music and light displays
- “Skate in your socks” synthetic ice rink
- Complimentary hot chocolate
- Pop-up Museum gift shop
- Sprout Cafe will be open for light snacks and coffee
North Carolina Transportation Museum: The Polar Express
The Polar Express
North Carolina Transportation Museum
411 South Salisbury Avenue
Spencer, NC 28159 (124 miles from Raleigh)
2019 dates: November 15-17, November 22-24, November 29-December 1, December 6-8, December 12-22
Standard coach: Adult: $38, Child (2-12): $32
Deluxe coach: Adult: $48, Child (2-12): $32
First class: Table for two: $120; Table for four: $240
Parlor class: Table for four: $325
Children under 2 ride free, on a parent’s or guardian’s lap
Ticket sale date: Tickets are on sale now
Note: November 15th, 2019, is a dress rehearsal, and tickets are less expensive.
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.
Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express at New Hope Valley Railway
Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express
New Hope Valley Railway
3900 Bonsal Road (25 miles from Raleigh)
New Hill, North Carolina 27562
2019 dates: December 7-8, December 14-15
Cost: Adults: $13, Kids age 2-12: $11, Seniors age 60+: $12
Tickets 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.
Country Christmas Train at Denton Farmpark
Country Christmas Train
4259 Handy Road
Denton, NC 27239 (90 miles from Raleigh)
2019 dates: November: 29, 30. December: 1, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27
Cost: Adults: $16; Children (5-11): $5; Children 4 and under: Free. Additional price for various activities.
Tickets on sale: TBA
Tickets include a lighted walking tour through the park, a visit to the church to hear a Christmas story and to join in with some Christmas carols, a ride on the Handy Dandy Railroad, with a brief nativity movie along the way. Visit the general store and doll museum. Ride on a horse drawn wagon and take a tram down to visit the Reid Plantation. Food, souvenir, craft purchases are extra. Santa pictures are available for purchase too.
Hubb’s Express and Santa Too at Hubb’s Farm
Hubb’s Express and Santa Too!
10276 US Hwy 421 North
Clinton, NC (56 miles from Raleigh)
2019 date: November 30
Cost: $20 (under age 2 free)
Tickets on sale: TBA
This one-night-only features the movie “Polar Express,” a train ride, hot chocolate, s’mores and campfires. Santa is available before and after the movie.
300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane
Blowing Rock, NC 28605 (192 miles from Raleigh)
2019 Dates: November 22-23, 29-30, December 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28
Cost: $44 for adults, and $38 for children (children 2 and under free)
Tickets on sale: Now
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)
2019 dates: November 8, 19, 15-27, 29-30; December 1-31, with the exception of Christmas Day
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 on 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.
Kannapolis Christmas–Winterland Express
700 W. C Street
Kannapolis, NC 28081 (141 miles from Raleigh)
2019 dates: Every evening from November 24th to December 30th, 2019, with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Cost: $2 for train ride and $2 for carousel
Tickets on sale: 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 Christsmas 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.
Selma Santa Train
Selma Santa Train
Selma Train Depot
500 E. Railroad Street
Saturday, December 14, 2019
Adults: $55, Children 1 to 12: $45
Santa will be on board this train ride. Juice and cookies will be served, and there will be caroling.
Free and cheap events in the Triangle
Looking for some holiday fun a little closer to home? Keep checking back for a list of holiday events in the Triangle. Events are being added to Triangle on the Cheap every day as they’re announced. But in the meantime, here are some free and cheap events coming up now.