All Aboard the Polar Express

Originally published at The Western Carolinian here

Tim the Toymaker

Bryson City may be a small town, but it is the perfect place to spend the holidays this season. With a plethora of events, activities and places to visit within its heart, a favorite is the Polar Express sponsored by The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.

According to website, the railroad will take you and your family on a memorable journey on the Polar Express if you believe in the magic of Christmas!

Based on the popular Christmas book and animated film “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg, the 75-minute, round-trip train ride is designed to be the perfect family Christmas outing. Set to the soundtrack from movie soundtrack, with a mug of hot cocoa and some Christmas treats, “The Polar Express” will be read to all of the children on the way to the “North Pole” through the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains.

Once travelers reach the “North Pole,” Santa will greet each and every child who rides the train with their very own sleigh bell, just like in “The Polar Express” movie. On the return trip, train riders are welcomed to join in singing Christmas carols and to be enveloped in the Christmas spirit.

The Polar Express train ride operates from Nov. 8 until after Christmas, with a few days off for holidays. All ticket prices have a range depending on what class of seating is booked as well as what day they are booked for.

Children’s tickets are for kids aged 2 to 12 years and range from $26 to $50 each.  Infants are children under the age of 2 years and ticket prices range from $10 to $20 each. Adult tickets cover everyone else and range from $40 to $74 each.

To book tickets and find more information about the Polar Express, visit the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad website, call 800-872-4681 or visit the train depot at 45 Mitchell St., Bryson City.

Both before and after the trip, everyone with a ticket gets free admission into the Smoky Mountain Train Museum that is located at the Bryson City train station, which has “something for everyone,” according to their website.

The Smoky Mountain Train Museum’s mission is “to share the spirit of model railroading with individuals of all ages.” It has a collection of 7,000 Lionel engines, cars and accessories as well as a children’s activity center and a gift shop. Their collection dates back to 1918 and features both classic train sets and more modern sets. For more information about the Smoky Mountain Train Museum, you can visit their website at or call 828-488-5200.

Even if visitors do not purchase tickets for the Polar Express or the train museum, they can also visit The Storytelling Center of the Southern Appalachians completely for free. The store is located directly across from the train depot. There you can watch the toy maker handcraft wooden toys and learn traditional Appalachian Christmas stories. Each child who visits The Storytelling Center in Appalachian tradition gets the gift of an orange, in true Appalachian tradition.

Visitors to the store will learn the story of why Appalachian children get an orange in their Christmas stocking, as well as get to see, touch, and smell frankincense and myrrh.

However, Hall runs everything entirely out of the goodness of his heart. He makes toys for children “from one to 92” for nothing except the donations that people leave over the course of the season.

Those who want to learn more about the shop can visit the store at 166 Everett Street, Bryson City, can call 828-488-5705 or visit the website

There are also many other events that will take place throughout the holiday season in Bryson City.

The Smoky Mountain Community Theater will present performances of “A Laura Ingles Wilder Christmas” at 7:30 p.m. on the evenings of December 6, 7, 9, 13 and 14, with 2:30 p.m. matinees on December 8 and 15. Adult tickets are $8, and children’s tickets are $5 for all performances.

At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, the 39th annual Christmas parade. “The Biggest Little Christmas Parade in the Smokies” features a mix of floats, fire trucks, bands, classic cars and more.

For more information about all of these events, prospective visitors can visit

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