Ever since The Polar Express movie made its debut, children (and adults) everywhere know that nothing says “festive” like a trip aboard one of these Christmas train rides.
We’ve gathered up all the fun Christmas train rides in Georgia and our favorites across the Southeast. These holiday rides are sure to get you and your crew in the holiday spirit!
All aboard! Here are 23 Christmas train rides you’re going to love.
CHRISTMAS TRAIN RIDES IN GEORGIA
BLUE RIDGE SCENIC RAILWAY
Blue Ridge is my favorite mountain town in Georgia, and the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is a can’t-miss attraction for those visiting. We’ve whizzed through the mountains on this nostalgic vintage train in spring and fall…but winter brings an entirely different experience.
Whether you (like us) celebrate the arrival of St. Nick – or you are simply looking for some cold-weather excitement – you need to hop aboard one of their four winter rides, repeatedly named among the best in the country.
Take a Christmas-themed ride aboard the BRSR by booking the 1-hour Holiday Express Ride. Once aboard this train of lights, you’ll listen to holiday music, hear the story “The Night Before Christmas,” and enjoy delicious hot chocolate or other snacks available for sale inside the concession car. Every child will get a traditional bell, a candy cane, and an activity packet on this fun ride.
The Holiday Pavilion Ride takes you on a magical train ride to the sister towns of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Santa Pavilion! The Holiday Pavilion Ride is 4 hours round-trip, which includes the 2-hour layover in McCaysville and Copperhill.
The 4-hour Winter Excursion offers you the chance to skip Santa, but still bundle up and sip on a cup of hot chocolate as the train calmly rolls along the Toccoa River and through the scenic Appalachian foothills. Finally, the 2-hour Winter Express ride takes you on the same roundtrip journey through the countryside, but without the layover.
You can find tickets for all of their amazing winter offerings here.
Read More: YOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO SPRING AND FALL ON THE BLUE RIDGE SCENIC RAILWAY
ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDEN HOLIDAY RIDE-ON TRAIN
DATES: Select Saturdays and Sundays, November-January
Young kids will love taking a short ride around the Atlanta Botanical Gardens on the Holiday Ride-on Train! The Botanical Express takes your kids for a trip around the Great Lawn. $5 per passenger, $3 for members. It’s offered on select Saturdays & Sundays, November – January. General admission to the gardens is required.
And if you’re looking for more train fun at the gardens, kids of all ages will dig the Holiday Model Trains, running day and night on the Alston Overlook from Nov. 12, 2022-Jan. 13, 2023.
Read More: ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDEN LIGHTS: BRILLIANT HOLIDAY FUN
STONE MOUNTAIN SING-A-LONG TRAIN
DATE: Select Days Nov. 12, 2022 – Jan. 1, 2023
The train at Stone Mountain Park is fun during every season — but during their Stone Mountain Christmas festivities, it becomes a fun, sing-along experience at night.
Riding the Stone Mountain Train at night during the holiday season is one of my son’s favorite things to do during Stone Mountain Park Christmas. We like to sit on the left side of the train, so we have the best view of the lights along the way.
And just a note — sometimes this open-air train can get chilly, so make sure you’ve got your jacket and hat ready.
Read More: STONE MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS: YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO ALL THE HOLIDAY FUN
SAM SHORTLINE EXCURSION TRAIN
With three great holiday-themed train rides to choose from, a ride on the SAM Shortline Train in central Georgia is a fun, must-do.
Enjoy the popular Candy Cane Express excursion, where you’ll travel from Georgia Veterans State Park over Lake Blackshear and through the rolling farm lands of southern Georgia to President Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains, Georgia. You can explore the town of Plains before riding back. And you better watch out — Santa will also be riding along checking his list! December 3 and 7, 2022
Or, hop on the train and enjoy a relaxing ride to Plains for the annual Christmas Lighting ceremony. You will have time to explore the shops and sample the peanut butter ice cream. A special guest will also be on board this train ride checking his list. November 26, 2022
And finally, the Cordele Holiday Train is guaranteed to be a grand time for everyone! Hop on this 1-hour holiday train for kids of all ages. Santa will be onboard giving out a gift for each passenger. Enjoy holiday music with you hot chocolate and cookies. December 9, 10, and 17, 2022
Read More: 7 REASONS TO TAKE A RIDE ON THE SAM SHORTLINE TRAIN
PINE MOUNTAIN GOLD MUSEUM WINTER WONDERLAND TRAIN
DATE: Wednesday-Saturday nights, Dec. 1-30, 2022
See thousands of Christmas lights on the Winter Wonderland Train at Pine Mountain Gold Museum in historic Villa Rica, and meet characters, see lights, and enjoy music along the way.
The Winter Wonderland Train will leave the station Wednesday-Saturday nights, December 1-30, 2022. Children ages 2 and under ride FREE.
SOUTHEASTERN RAILWAY MUSEUM
DATE: November 19, 2022
Santa loves the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth!
It is a little-known fact that Santa’s reindeer get to take the month of November off to prepare for hard work in December. This means that Santa Claus travels by train and he will be at the Southeastern Railway Museum.
Museum doors open at 9:00am and the holiday festivities will last from 11:00am to 4:00pm. Santa arrives promptly at 1:00 pm. There will be plenty of opportunities for photos with friends and family with Santa and around the museum so do not forget to bring your camera!
We strongly suggest that you purchase advanced tickets to avoid the line at the gatehouse – Santa always brings a crowd and you do not want to miss his arrival!!
ST. MARY’S RAILROAD SANTA SPECIAL
DATES: Weekends, Nov. 25-Dec. 24, 2022
Did you know the coastal town of St. Mary’s, GA had a fun Santa Train?! It does!
The Georgia Coastal Railway offers two holiday-themed train rides during the season — the Santa Special and Operation: Save Christmas Express.
On the Santa Special, you’ll take a magical 70-minute journey by rail with Santa and his friends. Celebrate Christmas with a train ride full of fun, laughter and Christmas spirit. There will be Christmas characters visiting your passenger coach throughout the train ride including; Santa & Ms. Claus, Santa’s Elves, Frosty the Snowman and many more.
All passenger coaches on the Santa Special 2022 are climate controlled for maximum comfort. Restrooms are available on the train.
On the Operation: Save Christmas Express, you have been recruited to save Christmas! Santa has crash landed with his sled in the remote southern Georgia woods. The only way the site may be reached is by train. Will you arrive in time to save Christmas? Join them on this 70-minute adventure.
This excursion takes place on their open-air rail cars. Seating is bench-style and is first come first serve. There will be plenty of space for everyone. Toddlers age 2 and under ride free in the lap of an adult.
GEORGIA STATE RAILROAD MUSEUM
DATE: December 10, 2022
Located at the old Central of Georgia Railway Savannah Shops and Terminal Facilities, the Georgia State Railroad Museum is a stunning National Historic Landmark that is part of a National Historic Landmark District.
Savannah Santa Train, an annual favorite holiday family event, returns on Saturday, December 10, 2022 from 9 am to 5 pm at Georgia State Railroad Museum, located at 655 Louisville Rd., Savannah, GA.
Festive activities and entertainment include a holiday-themed diesel locomotive train ride experience, live demonstrations by Lowcountry Turners artfully hand-crafting spinning tops available for purchase, Christmas tree activities with Savannah Tree Foundation, merry dancing with Minick Family Music, and decorate a holiday card to send to families at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Lowcountry.
Enjoy complimentary donuts and coffee provided by The Salvation Army’s Mobile Canteen. Santa Claus will visit with all the children and hear their Christmas wishes.
MACY’S PINK PIG
The Pink Pig closed permanently in 2021. We sure miss this one!
THE SOUTHERN MUSEUM
DATE: December 10, 2022
The Southern Museum in Kennesaw doesn’t offer an actual train ride, but they do offer plenty of holiday train fun.
Join The Southern Museum for an all-day extravaganza of exciting activities, including model train displays, screenings of Polar Express, bell choir performances by The Golden Bells of Atlanta, artisan demonstrations, ornament making craft, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus!
THE POLAR EXPRESS™ at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad from Great Smoky Mountains Railroad on Vimeo.
A SHORT DRIVE FROM HOME
THE POLAR EXPRESS ON THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS RAILROAD (BRYSON CITY, NC)
DATES: Nov. 10-Dec. 31, 2022
The Polar Express on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in genuinely one of the best Christmas train rides in the Southeast! The 1+ hour round-trip excursion comes to life as the train departs the Bryson City Depot for a journey through the quiet wilderness for a special visit at the North Pole.
Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, guests on board will enjoy hot chocolate and a treat while listening and reading along with the magical story. Children’s faces show the magic of the season when the train take a journey to the North Pole to find Santa Claus waiting. Santa will board the train cars, greeting each kiddo and presenting them with a special gift as in the story, their own silver sleigh bell. Christmas carols are sung as you return back to the Bryson City Depot.
It’s a great way to enjoy the holiday season!
Read More: 9 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN BRYSON CITY NC FOR OUTDOOR LOVERS
THE NORTH POLE LIMITED AND MORE ON THE TVR (CHATTANOOGA, TN)
DATES: North Pole Limited – Weekends, Nov. 18-Dec. 23, 2022, plus Dec. 20-22, 2022
Christmas Dinner Train – Select dates Nov. 11-Dec. 28
Holiday Lights Train: Select dates December 26, 2022 – January 8, 2023
Another of our favorites is the North Pole Limited Christmas Train with the Tennessee Valley Railroad in Chattanooga!
During the magical holiday season, trains take riders on an imaginary journey to the North Pole. Along the way, you’ll be treated to refreshments and storytelling while you write your own personal letter to Santa.
As the North Pole Limited train gently rolls down the rails, a number of lighted displays can be seen outside. When you arrive at the North Pole, Santa will come on board for a special visit with all the passengers.
Looking for a more romantic Christmas train experience? Try the Christmas Dinner Train. The trip includes a four-course dining experience on board a restored 1924 dining car. The excursion trains will depart from Chattanooga’s Grand Junction Station, traveling at a leisurely pace through portions of urban East Chattanooga before reversing direction and returning to Grand Junction. The travel time is just right for the complete meal on a vintage dining car.
A fun way to keep the holiday spirit going after Christmas ends is a ride with TVR on the Holiday Lights Train Ride. The Holiday Lights Train Ride is a festive way to enjoy the holiday season starting after Christmas Day.
The train ride takes you through a variety of light displays, from twinkling snowflakes to towering Christmas trees. You can also enjoy holiday music and hot cocoa during the ride. The Holiday Lights Train Ride is a great activity for families or groups of friends. It’s a fun and unique way to see the holiday lights and get into the spirit of the season.
HIWASSEE HOLIDAY TRAIN (DELANO, TN)
DATES: Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 3-18, 2022
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is also hosting a Hiwassee Holiday Train ride in 2022, that departs from Delano, TN.
Santa’s Hiwassee Holiday Train is a round-trip one-hour and 15-minute ride along the beautiful Hiwassee River Gorge. Features of this ride include: writing a letter to Santa, a gingerbread cookie, chocolate milk, and a special visit from Santa!
A keepsake boarding pass and holiday bell will be given to every passenger.
CHRISTMAS AT THE STATION AND MORE AT THE HEART OF DIXIE RAILROAD MUSEUM (CALERA, AL)
‘Tis the season to be jolly!
Get your tickets to Christmas at the Station and bring the whole family to celebrate the holiday together with a 30-minute daytime ride on the seasonally decorated Calera & Shelby train; visit Santa for a festive photo opportunity on the museum grounds; board the narrow-gauge steam train for a quick trip down Candy Cane Lane on the Shelby & Southern Railroad; and enjoy all the activities on the museum grounds. It’s all included with your Christmas Experience tickets!
Or, take a ride on the North Pole Express!
“All Aboard!”, calls the conductor, and your family’s magical journey to the beautiful North Pole begins!
Through the dark night, the North Pole Express makes its way by starlight to the top of the world. On the way, you’ll listen to a whimsical Christmas story, sing your favorite holiday carols, and watch out the windows for the bright lights of the North Pole to appear.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will all board the train to visit your family and to take photos with every child. After your special visit with the Christmas couple, passengers ages two and up will be served chocolate drinks and a yummy treat – delivered by the North Pole Express chefs.
You can dance with the elves, receive a lovely Christmas keepsake, and relax for the music-filled ride back to the Depot.
THE POLAR EXPRESS ON THE BRANSON SCENIC RAILWAY (BRANSON, MO)
DATES: Select dates Nov. 10-Dec. 23, 2022
Take a ride to the North Pole to pick up Santa Claus on The Polar Express train with the Branson Scenic Railway in Branson, MO.
During the trip the book, The Polar Express, is read aloud, and hot chocolate and cookies are served by the Chefs. Santa joins the ride at the North Pole and visits each car and gives each passenger a special gift. Christmas Carolers and the Hobo are also on board the train ride, which lasts about 1.25 hours.
Children (and adults!) are encouraged to wear their pajamas!
Read More: 10 GREAT WAYS TO PARTAKE IN THE BRANSON CHRISTMAS MAGIC
SANTA TRAIN AT NORTH ALABAMA RAILROAD MUSEUM (CHASE, AL)
DATES: North Star Limited – Select days beginning Dec. 2, 2022
Santa Train – Dec. 3 and 10, 2022
The North Alabama Railroad Museum offers two holiday -themed rides!
On the North Star Limited ride, Santa will visit each child.
The medium length ride lasts approximately 45 minutes, allowing each child to tell Santa everything he or she wants for Christmas. All children on board the North Star Limited will receive a gift from Santa, and every passenger on board, both adults and children, will have a snack waiting for them when they arrive. Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas, too.
During the Santa Train ride, you and your kids can talk and visit with Santa on the train and take pictures with him. All the good youngsters will get a special treat from Santa before the day is done. These shorter, leisurely Santa Train rides last approximately 30 minutes.
NEW HOPE VALLEY RAILWAY (BONSOL, NC)
DATES: December 3, 4, 10, 11 & 17, 2022
Take a train ride through the woods of New Hill on Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express in Bonsol, NC.
Santa Claus will once again be in the rail yard to take photos with families (using your own camera) and young railfans can search for Santa’s nine missing reindeer (including Rudolph) during the 50-minute ride. Children will also receive one individually wrapped candy cane.
NOTE: These train rides sell out fast, so make sure to get your ASAP.
NORTH POLE EXPRESS AT THE TENNESSEE CENTRAL RAILWAY MUSEUM (NASHVILLE, TN)
DATES: Nov. 19-Dec. 17, 2022
Come ride on a restored classic streamlined stainless steel passenger train with Santa and his Elves on the North Pole Express Santa Excursion Train! Make sure to bring your cameras for some great photo opportunities.
They’ve got 2-hour morning and afternoon rides, and one 6.5-hour all day ride available in December. Snacks are available for purchase on the train for trips that do not have a layover.
COUNTRY CHRISTMAS TRAIN AT DENTON FARMPARK (DENTON, NC)
DATES: Nov. 25-27; Dec. 2 – 4; 8 – 11; Dec. 16 – 23, 26 – 27, 2022
When you arrive to the Denton FarmPark for the Country Christmas Train, you get to walk down the lighted candy cane path to the train station where Santa will be for families to take pictures. You can then get on the Handy Dandy Railroad and take a ride around the mile-and-a-half track to see some Christmas lights and see a short movie about the True meaning of Christmas.
Along the ride you will also see a live nativity scene, dedication to the military, and even elves for the children. When you finish the train ride, stop by the Gingerbread house for some baked goods and gingerbread cookies.
You’ll also see a grist mill, a petting zoo, horse-drawn carriage rides, and much more.
THE POLAR EXPRESS AT THE NORTH CAROLINA TRANSPORTATION MUSEUM (SPENCER, NC)
DATES: Select dates Nov. 11-Dec. 23, 2022
“Well, are you coming?” Inspired by the hit movie, this holiday favorite comes to life as you and your family take a magical trip on THE POLAR EXPRESS train ride!
Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, families are sure to enjoy their trip to the North Pole, complete with hot chocolate and cookies served on board the train.
Passengers are entertained by a reading of Chris Van Allsburg’s classic, The Polar Express. Upon arrival at the North Pole, passengers deboard to watch Santa present the first gift of Christmas. Before exiting the train at Candy Cane Lane, all passengers who BELIEVE will receive their own sleigh bell.
Experience the joy of caroling and holiday entertainment that will surely become an annual family tradition. Children of all ages are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride and join in on the magic of Christmas!
TWEETSIE CHRISTMAS ON THE TWEETSIE RAILROAD (BLOWING ROCK, NC)
DATES: Select days Nov. 25-Dec. 30, 2022
Celebrate the holiday season as Tweetsie Railroad transforms into a winter wonderland for Tweetsie Christmas! Enjoy thousands of dazzling Christmas lights and scenes, as you ride in an open-air train car pulled by one of our historic narrow-gauge steam locomotives. The train runs every 30 minutes beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Meet Santa Claus in his magical house – filled with candied furnishings. Download their Dear Santa Letter Template to place in the mailbox during your visit. Audiences of all ages will enjoy the heartwarming, toe-tapping, live Christmas Show in the Tweetsie Palace.
You’ll also find classic amusement park rides. Spin through the night on four classic amusement rides – the Little Drummer Boy, (a Tweetsie Christmas exclusive) Bikes & Buggies, F-80s, and the Himalaya.
Read More: 21 FUN & AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN BLOWING ROCK NC
HOLIDAYS IN THE PARK AT THE MUSEUM OF LIFE + SCIENCE (DURHAM, NC)
DATES: Select nights in December
Holidays in the Park at the Museum of Life + Science in Durham, NC is an awesome way to welcome the holidays.
Join the museum as they light up the park in celebration of the holiday season! Enjoy a memorable stroll with your loved ones through some of our outdoor and indoor spaces on evenings in December.
Follow shimmering pathways and glowing trees from their gardens to the Dinosaur Trail. Enjoy the tropical temperatures inside our Magic Wings Butterfly House or stop by Sprout Café for a night-time snack. Take an illuminating train ride on the Ellerbe Creek Railway, passing colorful light displays along the way!
SOUTH CAROLINA RAILRAOD MUSEUM (WINNSBORO, SC)
DATES: Dec. 3, 10, and 17, 2022
Ride the train with our favorite visitor from the North Pole at the South Carolina Railroad Museum in Winnsboro, SC.
Come visit Santa on this annual holiday ride. Santa walks through the train and comes to you. No lines! The ride lasts about an hour and forty minutes, or until Santa talks to EVERY child on the train. Pajamas are welcome.
THREE RIVERS RAMBLER (KNOXVILLE, TN)
Climb onboard the Christmas Lantern Express and be a part of a beloved Knoxville tradition.
Enjoy festive decorations, holiday treats, storytime with celebrity readers and a special visit with Santa.
Trips last roughly 2 hours and boarding starts 20 minutes before departure time.
Read More: 30+ AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN KNOXVILLE TN THAT YOU’VE GOT TO TRY
MORE INFORMATION FOR HOLIDAY FUN IN GEORGIA
- CHRISTMAS EVENTS: Your Festive Guide To Only The Very Best Atlanta Christmas Events
- PICTURES WITH SANTA: 25+ Of The Best Places To Take Pictures With Santa In Atlanta
- HELEN: 13 Reasons You Should Visit This Holiday Season
- ICE SKATING: The Best Rinks For Kids, Teens, & Adults In Atlanta
- GEORGIA AQUARIUM: 7 Exciting Ways To Celebrate Christmas At The Georgia Aquarium
Follow us here: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | YouTube | MSN | TripAdvisor | Flipboard
We make no guarantees of any price listed on our site. We are not responsible for content on external web sites linked from ours, including linked resources, an external blog post, any partner site, hotel property sites, or affiliate sites. We only write about places we love in an attempt to help you in your adventures, but we can’t guarantee you will love them, too.
Posts may contain affiliate links at no cost to you. Several of our trips are also compensated by the respective tourism boards for the city or state we are visiting. This never impacts how we share the destination with you – opinions are always our own and we pride ourselves on that. We do not sell links or accept unsolicited guest posts under any circumstances. Don’t even ask.
United States Copyright, 365 Atlanta Family, LLC