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.
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. 18, 2023-Jan. 14, 2024.
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.
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. Santa will also be riding along checking his list! Dates: December 1, 2 and 7, 2023
- 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. Date: November 25, 2023
- 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, 15, and 16, 2023
PINE MOUNTAIN GOLD MUSEUM WINTER WONDERLAND TRAIN
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: TBD (The following info is from 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: Select dates Nov. 24-Dec. 23, 2023
Did you know the coastal town of St. Mary’s, GA, has a fun Santa Train?! It does! The Georgia Coastal Railway offers the Santa Special holiday-themed train ride during the season.
Take a magical 70-minute journey by rail with Santa and his delightful friends. Make memories and celebrate the season with a train ride full of fun, laughter and Christmas spirit. There will be holiday characters visiting your passenger coach throughout the train ride including Santa & Ms. Claus, Santa’s Elves, Frosty the Snowman and many more.
GEORGIA STATE RAILROAD MUSEUM
DATE: TBD (The following info is from 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.
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 9, 2023
The Southern Museum in Kennesaw doesn’t offer an actual train ride, but they do offer plenty of holiday train fun.
Join the museum for an all-day extravaganza of exciting activities including antique toy displays, a reading of the Polar Express, a bell choir performance, and a visit from Santa form 10 AM – 1 PM!
A SHORT DRIVE FROM HOME
THE POLAR EXPRESS ON THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS RAILROAD (BRYSON CITY, NC)
DATES: Nov. 9-Dec. 31, 2023
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!
THE NORTH POLE LIMITED AND MORE ON THE TVR (CHATTANOOGA, TN)
North Pole Limited: Select dates November 17 – December 23, 2023
Christmas Dinner Train: Currently Sold Out for 2023
Holiday Lights Train: Select dates December 26, 2023 – January 14, 2024
The Tennessee Valley Railroad in Chattanooga, TN, offers some great holiday train rides each year!
- North Pole Limited train rides take riders on an imaginary journey to the North Pole. Along the way, you’ll be treated to refreshments and storytelling while you enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. 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.
- Christmas Dinner train trips include a four-course dining experience onboard restored dining and pullman cars. The excursion trains 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 a complete meal on a vintage dining car. Note: Current dates for 2023 Christmas Dinner Train Trips are Sold Out.
- 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. 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. 2-23, 2023
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is also hosting a Hiwassee Holiday Train ride in 2023, 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)
Christmas at the Station: December 2, 9, & 16, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
North Pole Express: Weekends Nov. 19 – Dec. 17, 2023
‘Tis the season to be jolly at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum in Calera, AL.
- 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!
- 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.
THE POLAR EXPRESS ON THE BRANSON SCENIC RAILWAY (BRANSON, MO)
DATES: Select dates Nov. 3-Dec. 22, 2023
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!
SANTA TRAIN AT NORTH ALABAMA RAILROAD MUSEUM (CHASE, AL)
North Star Limited: Dec. 1, 2, 8 and 9, 2023 at 5:45 and 7:45pm
Santa Train: Dec. 2 and 9, 2023 at Noon, 1:30 and 3pm
The North Alabama Railroad Museum offers two holiday -themed rides!
- On the North Star Limited ride, Santa will visit each child. Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas, and every coach is First-Class. All passengers receive a treat and beverage to enjoy. VIP guests receive warm cookies and hot chocolate, along with a souvenir glass! All children receive a present from the Santa. Children can visit with Santa on the loading platform and give him their wish list. (About 45 minutes in length. All coaches are enclosed and heated.)
- 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 2, 3, 9, 10 & 16, 2023
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. 18, 25, Dec. 2, 9, 16, 2023 (Note: Currently all Sold Out for 2023)
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. 24-26; Dec. 1–3; 7–10; 14-17, 20-23, 26 & 27, 2023
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. 10-Dec. 23, 2023
“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. 24-Dec. 30, 2023
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.
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. 2, 9, and 16, 2023
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)
Dates: Select dates Nov. 24-Dec. 23, 2023
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.
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
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