Didn't Get Tickets to the Pullen Park Holiday Express? Here are 13 Other Options

Pullen Park's Holiday Express isn't the only train in town


Published:

PHOTO FROM THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS RAILROAD FACEBOOK PAGE

Every year, tickets for the Pullen Park Holiday Express sell out quickly. This year all tickets sold out within minutes of going on sale at 5:30 a.m., July 30, 2019. 

Matthew Wright, operations manager of historic attractions for the City of Raleigh, has said previously, "If people did not get tickets this morning, they can keep an eye out online this fall," he says. "It is very common for people to have gotten tickets expecting extended family to come, and then find out closer to December that they can’t make it."

There's even a Holiday Express Tickets Exchange/Selling Facebook group.

And remember, there's more than one holiday train in town — and plenty of other holiday activities to be found. Carolina Parent's popular holiday roundup lists more than 90 events for the 2019 holiday season alone — including some the holiday train rides listed below. 

 

Santa Train

Photo from Museum of Life and Science


Museum of Life and Science, Durham
Dec. 4-8, Dec. 11-5, Dec. 18-22;| $15-$25, under 2 ride free in the lap of a paid adult

Thousands of twinkling lights will shine throughout the museum campus, guiding the way to all the fun! Hop on board the train for a moonlit ride to the North Pole, where Santa and his elves will greet guests. You can also check out the "ice" skating rink for skate-in-your-socks excitement, sip complimentary hot chocolate, have your face painted, explore the crafts and activities tent where you can make-and-take special treats, and learn about the science of Santa. The Santa Train goes sensory-friendly typically on Wednesday, Dec. 4 for guests with autism spectrum disorder and other similar needs. 


Santa’s Reindeer Roundup Express

Photo By Jimmy Sumerell 


New Hope Valley Railway, New Hill
Dec. 7 and 8, Dec. 14 and 15, Dec. 21 | $11-$13, under 2 free

Passengers not only get to meet Santa and pose for photos with him during their train ride on New Hope Valley Railway’s Holiday Santa Trains, they can also help him find his reindeer. Before your ride, drop by the reindeer stables in the rail yard to see how you can help Santa locate Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. Remember to dress warmly; the cars have open windows. Trains depart at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. 


Trackless Train Rides

Photo from the North Hills Facebook page


North Hills Commons, Raleigh
Nov. 23, 3:30-7:30 p.m. | Free

Hop aboard a trackless train ride at North Hill's annual Christmas tree lighting celebration. This year's event will also feature snow slopes, kids crafts and activities, a bounce house, a vendor village and visits with Santa. As Santa Claus arrives at 6 p.m., the 41-foot Christmas tree will be lit amidst a joyous chorus of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”


Twelve Days of Christmas Holiday Express

Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill
Dec. 1, 2-4 p.m. | $35

As part of Carolina Inn’s annual Twelve Days of Christmas event series, get on board and join holiday elves for a special reading of "The Polar Express." There will be cookie decorating, ornament making, an afternoon snack and of course a train ride around the Inn. Five percent of all proceeds from this event will be donated to Toys for Tots.


Morrisville’s Lighting of the Tree

Photo from the Town of Morrisville, NC Facebook page


Indian Creek Greenway Trailhead, Morrisville
Dec. 6, 6-7 p.m. | Free

Enjoy a tree-lighting ceremony at 7 p.m., followed by musical entertainment, trackless train rides, crafts and visits with Santa until 9 p.m.


Festival of Lights Train Rides

Photo from the Hill Ridge Farms Facebook page


Hill Ridge Farms, Youngsville
Nov. 28-Dec. 29, nightly | $9-12 and under 2 are free; train rides are $3 extra per person

Enjoy a train ride around holiday light displays. After your ride, take a covered wagon hayride through the holiday lights, enjoy all of the play areas, including the giant slide, corn house, jumping pillow, pipe swings and more.


Raleigh Santa Train — Sold Out

Photo from NC By Train


Departs from Raleigh, Cary, Durham or Burlington
Dec. 7

Update: The 2019 event is sold out. For one day only, make holiday memories on this fun-filled NC By Train trip featuring Mrs. Claus, carolers, refreshments and Santa Claus. Tickets are limited and sell out quickly, so book early to reserve your seats. Passengers can board the Santa Train at any of the stops listed: Raleigh Union Station (station code RGH), Cary (CYN), Durham (DNC) or Burlington (BNC). Book your round-trip ticket on Train #75 to Greensboro (GRO), returning on Train #74.

 

Further Afield

Christmas in the Park

Photo from Burlington Recreation and Parks


City Park, Burlington
Dec. 22, 5-8 p.m. | Free unless otherwise indicated

Enjoy photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus; crafts, hot cocoa and cookies inside Thataways; live music; City Park train rides; live nativity scene with real animals; hayrides around City Park ($3/rider or $5/two riders)


Tweetsie Christmas

Photo from the Tweetsie Railroad


Tweetsie Railroad, Blowing Rock
Nov. 22-23 and 29-30, Dec. 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28; The train runs every half hour beginning at 5:30 p.m. | Adults: $44, children (age 3-12): $38, children 2 and under are free

Take a night-time train ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains on a crisp winter’s night as you enjoy Christmas carols and the tracks dazzlingly lit for the holidays during Tweetsie Railroad's seasonal Christmas celebration. Remember to dress warmly; the cars have open windows. You can also select your Christmas tree, sing with carolers and take in the dazzling light displays and holiday decorations throughout the park. Tickets are for a specific date and train ride time. A limited number of guests are admitted nightly, so advance tickets are strongly recommended. 


Country Christmas Train

Photo from Denton FarmPark


Denton FarmPark, Denton
Nov. 29-30, Dec.1, 6,-8, 12-15, 19,-23, 26-27 | Adults: $16, children (ages 5-11): $5, children 4 and under are free

Ride the Handy Dandy Railroad through beautiful light displays, watch the Nativity story come to life, stroll through lighted pathways to visit the General Store, church, and Coca-Cola Museum, take a tour of the Reid Plantation, stop by the Gingerbread house for homemade cookies and cocoa, ride in a horse-drawn carriage through the lighted woods, and visit with Santa.


Great Smoky Mountain Railway's Polar Express

Photo from the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Facebook Page


Bryson City Depot, Bryson City
Nov. 8-Dec. 31 | Ticket prices vary by class of service

The 1¼-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 Polar Express" soundtrack, guests on board will enjoy warm cocoa and a treat while listening and reading along with the magical story. Children’s faces show the magic of the season when the train arrives at the North Pole to find Santa Claus waiting. Santa will board THE POLAR EXPRESS train, greeting each child and presenting them with a special gift of their own silver sleigh bell, like in the story. Christmas carols will be sung as guests return back to the Bryson City Depot.


The Hubb’s Express and Santa Too!

Photo from the Hubb's Farm NC Facebook Page


Hubb's Farm, Clinton
Nov. 30; Trains depart every 15 minutes from 5:15-6:45 p.m. | $20 per person for ages 2 to adult, under 2 free

Ticket includes time with Santa, a movie screening, hot chocolate, Hubb's Express train ride and a jingle bell for all attendees. Campfires are available for making s’mores. S’mores kits (one kit makes four s’mores) are available for order at the time of ticket purchase. Limited tickets are available to preserve the intimate, small-theater atmosphere and must be purchased online in advance.


The Polar Express Train Ride

Photo from the North Carolina Transportation Museum


North Carolina Transportation Museum, Spencer
Nov. 15-17, Nov. 22-24, Nov. 29-Dec.1, Dec. 6-8, Dec. 12-22 | various seating pacakges are available from $32-$48, under 2 free on the lap of a paid adult

The Polar Express Train Ride offers the unique experience of a live theater performance and train ride in one. The performance begins with the train's arrival in the station at the Barber Junction Visitor Center. After watching a short production, guests are invited aboard to enjoy hot chocolate and a sweet treat; delight in lively songs; dance; and hear a reading of "The Polar Express." Upon arrival at the North Pole, passengers deboard to watch Santa present the first gift of Christmas. Santa then joins passengers on the train and provides each believer with a silver sleigh bell before exiting the train at Candy Cane Lane. The entire event lasts about 70 minutes and will take place entirely on the 60-acre grounds of the North Carolina Transportation Museum. The whole family is encouraged to dress in their warmest pajamas and to bring their "The Polar Express" book to read along, if they wish. Dress warmly enough to walk comfortably to and from your car, to wait for boarding and to watch the two outdoor performances. 

 

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Calendar

December 2019

Wear your favorite holiday attire and dine with Santa Claus. Enjoy a delicious brunch, stories and crafts, and take pictures with the jolly man from the North Pole. 

Cost: $10/child. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
Joyner Park Community Center
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Telephone: 919-676-6368
Website »

More information

See dancers and a guitarist from Flamenco Carolina perform a Spanish style of music and dance.

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Ebeneezer Scrooge was visited by three spirits, but what about the next Christmas? With heartwarming excitement, discover how the Cratchit family has fared in the year that has passed since old...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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The Durham Medical Orchestra performs with special guest Joseph Alessi, principal trombone, New York Philharmonic.

Cost: Free

Where:
Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University
1336 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Website »

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As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
Website »

More information

Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
Website »

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The choir presents its 49th performance on Handel's "Messiah."

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

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The first day of winter is right around the corner! Help us welcome the season by making a snow globe to take home. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult...

Cost: For all ages (adult accompaniment required for all children); FREE. Registration

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850

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Children will enjoy this wonderful book written by John Denver reminding us not to forget about the wildlife this holiday season. We will make a craft then take a walk to look for our wildlife...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

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Join RTOOT as it performs the music of great Italian composers as well as beloved Christmas classics. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $9/adult, $3 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

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Dan the Animal Man brings some of his animals from his vast collection to entertain all ages. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

Help find candy canes hidden in Bond Park before the Grinch turns them green. Ages 6-12. Registration required online. Choose course #127871. 

Cost: $10/child

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

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Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Get into the holiday spirit by decorating cooking, making a craft and enjoying a holiday children's show.

Cost: Free

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
View map »


Website »

More information

The Wake Forest Abilities Choir will present an evening of holiday music under the direction of director.

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

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Celebrate pecans at the State Farmers Market.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Website »

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Join us to learn about how Habitat for Humanity helps build houses, hear a Christmas tale and then build a graham cracker house of your own. Call to, 919-245-2532. Best for ages 4 and up with a...

Cost: free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Is there a man in the moon, and is the moon made of cheese? Sip on some hot cocoa and listen to some of the stories people have told about the moon and find out if there is truth to them. Then...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone, and adult accompanime

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Discover family traditions from North Carolina and around the globe. Create art, enjoy free access to Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, and have a special visit with Santa.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art East Building and Museum Plaza
Raleigh, NC


Website »

More information

Bundle up and enjoy an evening around the campfire learning about creatures of the night and listen to Native American tales about some of our favorite nocturnal animals. Roast marshmallows and go...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Kids ages 5-12 enjoy indoor activities while parents enjoy a night out. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Wear white clothing and play games, tumble and dance. Enjoy pizza, drinks and more. Ages 5-10. Registration required online. Choose course #127487.

Cost: $18/child; $28 for two children per family

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
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Website »

More information

Friday, December 13, 6:00pm, at both the Millbrook and Wake Forest Campuses. Put on your Christmas jammies, grab a blanket and come out for a  festive night to watch the classic animated...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossroads Fellowship
2721 E Millbrook Road
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Crossroads Fellowship
Telephone: 919-981-0222
Contact Name: Lorraine Entwisle
Website »

More information

Have some fun and make something great at the Clay studio (and parents can sneak away and grab a bite or do some shopping at Northgate Mall). Each kid will complete and paint a piece of pottery...

Cost: $18 per child per workshop

Where:
1058 West Club Blvd
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Telephone: 919-560-2726
Contact Name: Lauren Tannenbaum
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Sing along with the band as they perform holiday favorites of Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
, NC  27513
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Website »

More information

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Celebrate the love and joy that this season brings by creating art inspired by a Christmas tree. Register online. Choose course #126761.

Cost: $32/resident, $42/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
Website »

More information

Our Reindeer Romp is open to the entire community and our Girls on the Run families. So join us! Celebrate as nearly 1,000 girls reach their end-of-season goals – the finish line is only the...

Cost: $30 - $35

Where:
Koka Booth Amphitheater
8003 Regency Pkwy
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Girls on the Run of the Triangle
Telephone: 919-401-6307
Contact Name: Jamie Botta
Website »

More information

Ages 5-12 make a picture frame for the holidays. Snack provided. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Travel with us to Puerto Rico with books, games and arts and crafts!  Join the staff of ISLA (Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition) for a fun filled hour! Best for ages 3 and up with a...

Cost: Free Gratis

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

One ticket admits the entire family to decorate a special gingerbread house. Supplies provided. Workshops available at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Allergy-free workshop available at 11 a.m....

Cost: $40

Where:
Family Preschool
4907 Garrett Rd
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Family Preschool
Telephone: 919-402-1500
Contact Name: Sue Henson
Website »

More information

Family Wildlife Series: Holiday Habitat Helpers Saturday, December 14, 2-3 Attract winter wildlife to your backyard by providing or improving their habitat.  Create simple outdoor decorations...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us as we watch for meteors during the Gemenids Meteor Shower. Local astronomers will help us observe these shooting stars and other phenomena in the night sky. As a bonus we may see or hear...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Favorite Christmas songs are presented in authentic Nashville country style with dazzling guitars and fiddles along with soaring harmonies. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $25/person

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

See the choir perform beloved Christmas songs with guest vocal group AVANTE. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

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