North Carolina By Train: A Guide for the Fall

Plus: The special seasonal events from each service


Published:

From Thomas the Tank Engine and The Little Engine That Could, to Platform 9¾ and “Murder on The Orient Express,” trains captivate our imaginations. Journey and destination are so deeply interwoven within the massive steel body of a locomotive, that it has long been a favorite trope for storytellers, as well as a favorite toy for children. 

In North Carolina, we can choose from an abundance of enchanting train options. Go with a functional, carefree way to travel via NC By Train, or delight in pure whimsy at Tweetsie Railroad. Here are some options for the train lover in all of us. 

 

Tweetsie Railroad

300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane, Blowing Rock

Tucked in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Tweetsie Railroad, located in Blowing Rock, is the oldest theme park in North Carolina. From its traditional Wild West theme to rotating special events, this park has something for everyone. 

Locomotive No. 12, dubbed “Tweetsie,” debuted July 4, 1957, as a family fun activity that gave passengers a 1-mile ride to a picnic site. Since then, the park has added Engine No. 190, the “Yukon Queen,” and expanded the track to a 3-mile loop.

In addition to trains, Tweetsie Railroad consists of hundreds of acres filled with rides, shops, eateries, live entertainment and an animal park. 

Through Oct. 27, Tweetsie is open on Friday through Sunday 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is $50 for ages 13 and older, $32 for ages 3-12, and free for ages 2 and younger.

Photo courtesy of Tweetsie Railroad


SPECIAL EVENTS
Ghost Train

Through Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
Admission to the Ghost Train, which is separate from park admission, is $44 for adults, $38 for children ages 3-12 and free for ages 2 and younger. The Ghost Train ride takes 20 minutes. Admission includes a haunted house, Halloween shows, trick-or-treating and other “ghastly attractions.” 

Tweetsie Christmas
Starting Nov. 22, Tweetsie Railroad transforms from spooky to merry for its annual Tweetsie Christmas event. Thousands of Christmas lights twinkle during the nighttime train ride. Passengers sing Christmas carols, roast s’mores and get pictures with Santa. 

 

The North Carolina Transportation Museum 

1 Samuel Spencer Drive, Spencer

Billed as “the museum that moves you,” the North Carolina Transportation Museum offers visitors 60 acres of historic artifacts and immersive exhibits. 

Four historic buildings are filled with items and stories that will transport visitors to the time of the Southern Railway’s Spencer Shops. The site was once home of the Southern Railway Company’s largest steam locomotive servicing facility. 

Over the years, exhibits have been added to encompass all forms of transportation history. Explore steam and diesel locomotives, railroad passenger cars, antique automobiles and aviation exhibits, including a full size Wright Flyer and a Piedmont Airlines DC-3. 

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Admission is $6 for ages 13 and older, $5 for seniors (ages not specified) and members of the military, and $4 for ages 3-12. Train rides are available Thursday through Sunday as an add-on to the admission price. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTH CAROLINA TRANSPORTATION MUSEUM


SPECIAL EVENTS
Day Out With Thomas

Sept. 27-29, Oct. 4-6
Tickets cost $16-32, depending on age, for specific time periods. You can purchase an all-day pass for $32 (for all ages).

Trick or Train
Oct. 26
Kids in costumes receive free admission and a train ride with a paying adult. Conductors will be handing out candy aboard the train and at stations throughout the museum. Additional activities include face painting, temporary tattoos, games, coloring, crafts, photo opportunities, costume contests for different age groups, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, hayrides trolley rides and more. Check the website for train ride times, the costume contest schedule and other details. 

The Polar Express Train Ride
Nov. 15-17, Nov. 22-24, Nov. 29-Dec. 1, Dec. 6-8, Dec. 12-22
Weekends in November and December, all who believe have the opportunity to ride the Polar Express and hear Santa’s magic sleigh bells. Hot chocolate and cookies are served on board. Passengers enjoy singing and dancing during the train ride, as well as a reading of “The Polar Express.” Upon arrival at the North Pole, Santa presents the first gift of Christmas. All passengers receive a silver sleigh bell during the return trip. Tickets range from $32 for a single children’s ticket in standard coach to $325 for a table for four in parlor class. 


Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

45 Mitchell St., Bryson City

If a classic train ride with breathtaking scenery is your goal, look no further than the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Based in Bryson City, this railroad line offers two daily train routes on both steam- and diesel-powered locomotives.

The Tuckasegee River Excursion is a four-hour trip to Dillsboro and passes by the famous movie set of “The Fugitive” (1993). The Nantahala Gorge Excursion is a four-and-a-half hour excursion that carries passengers to the beautiful Nantahala Gorge. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTH CAROLINA TRANSPORTATION MUSEUM


SPECIAL EVENTS
PEANUTS The Great Pumpkin Patch Express

Saturdays and Sundays throughout October
Enjoy a train ride themed on the classic PEANUTS story, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” at select times Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout October. Don your costume and visit Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the PEANUTS gang in the mountains.

The half-hour ride to the pumpkin patch is accompanied by the narration of Charles Schulz’ classic Halloween tale. Purchase tickets online or the day of your ride. Depending on which class of service you choose, prices range from complimentary to $10 for children under age 2; $32-$39 for ages 2-12; and $56-$68 for ages 13 and older. 

THE POLAR EXPRESS Train Ride
Nov. 8 to Dec. 31 (with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day).
Experience Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s “The Polar Express” themed train ride. Once you arrive at the North Pole, Santa boards the train, greets each child and gives him or her a silver bell to keep the magic of Christmas alive. Passengers sing Christmas carols on the return trip.

Tickets quickly sell out. Purchase online in advance. Prices range from $17-$24 for children under age 2; $45-$67 for ages 2-12; and $65-$91 for ages 13 and older. 


New Hope Valley Trains

3900 Bonsal Road, New Hill

Located southwest of Raleigh, New Hope Valley Railway calls itself the Triangle’s Train, and caters to true train lovers. Though the railway does not provide daily train rides, volunteers schedule and promote a number of special events during which visitors can go on an approximate one-hour long train ride along 8 miles of track.

It’s also home to the North Carolina Railway Museum, which features antique train cars, memorabilia and a gift shop. In addition to the trains and museum, visitors can view railroad equipment from the 1920s and a model railroad, which features 1,000 feet of miniature track and several model trains, including Thomas the Tank Engine. 

Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Transportation Museum


SPECIAL EVENTS
Track or Treat Halloween Express
Oct. 12, 19 and 26

Slow Down Sunday
Nov. 10

Santa’s Reindeer
Roundup Express

Dec. 7, 8, 14, 15 and 21
Tickets range from $7-$14 depending on the event.


NC By Train

Stations located in cities across the state

The North Carolina Department of Transportation owns and operates the Piedmont and Carolinian Amtrak train lines, as well as 16 stations to serve families throughout the state.

A family of four can hop a train from Raleigh to Charlotte for the day for less than $120. Ticket prices cost $11.50-$27 one way for transportation within North Carolina; $103 for a one-way train from Raleigh to New York City; and $123 for a one-way train from Charlotte to New York City. In addition to offering train travel, NC By Train often partners with local busses and transit systems to make your entire journey hassle-free. Visit the website for deals and specials, and information on everyday and group travel discounts. 

Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Transportation


Trains have a special place in U.S. history. They transformed the way we communicate, manufacture and explore the world. And though we now have access to more modernized modes of transportation, there is still something magical about feeling the rolling rumble of rails underneath you as the countryside sails by. 

Mandy Howard is a freelance writer and mother of three in Raleigh. 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Weekend Family Fun Across the Triangle

Dec. 6-8: Community Day at the Museum, Teen Science Café, Live Raptors and Pop-Up Art

Holiday Gifts That Foster Motor Development

The latest 'Oh, Baby!' column

Helping Children Through Winter Holiday Routine Changes

The latest 'Understanding Kids' column
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2019

Come by the Finley Center any time during the day to participate in a collaborative community art project celebrating what you are thankful for! Play a game of “Roll a Turkey” and take home...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
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

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 »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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 »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Did you know bucks or male deer can grow a new set of antlers each year? Explore pelts, skulls, tracks, and scat of white-tailed deer through hands-on discovery stations. Then learn about the...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone

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


Telephone: 919-662-2854
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 »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Please join Admissions, Division Directors and our Head of School as they talk about Duke School’s unique program, specifically for incoming kindergarten through fourth grade students for the...

Cost: $0

Where:
Duke School
3716 Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Duke School
Telephone: 919-416-9420
Contact Name: Logan Blaylock

More information

Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #127198.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Have you ever wondered what happens to our wildlife during the winter? They have a variety of adaptations to help them get through the cold months. Come explore some of their techniques then take a...

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

There are a lot of dangers in the woods for deer and rabbits! Read a story about these mammals and practice hiding from predators during a fun game, then make a deer-themed craft. For ages 3-5...

Cost: FREE. Registration is required.

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


Telephone: 919-662-2850

More information

Design and create a keepsake apron with vibrant markers and other fun decorations. After completing your apron, enjoy baking and decorating your own individual cake. Ages 6-10. 

Cost: $35/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
View map »


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 »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Come talk about books and eat pizza. No assigned reading prior to the meeting. Call or stop by to register: 919-245-2532.

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Parents of children learn age-appropriate social skills for children ages 3-6. Register online by Nov. 28.

Cost: $22/person or $33/couple

Where:
Project Enlightenment
501 S. Boylan Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


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 »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Please visit the Homeschoolers of Holly Springs 4th Annual Holiday Market Day. Student entrepreneurs will be showcasing their products while learning about running their own businesses. All...

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Hope Community Church
2080 E Williams St
Apex, NC  27539
View map »

More information

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

Want a fun arty Friday night activity for your teen? We've got the Teen Art Takeover just for them. Once a month we open up the community clay studio just for the 11-17 set. We have art...

Cost: $5 Resident/$6 nonresident

Where:
Chapel Hill Community Clay Studio
200 Plant Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Sponsor: Community Clay Studio and Chapel Hill Teen Center
Telephone: 919-968-2878
Contact Name: Robena Meek
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 »

More information

Join the three ensembles of the Cary Youth Voices for choral music. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Greenwood Forest Baptist Church
110 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

On season 6 of American Idol, Melinda Doolittle stunned both the audience and the judges with her powerhouse vocals and her personal charm. She placed third in the voting, and has since gone on to...

Cost: $28 + taxes and fees

Where:
The Clayton Center
111 E. Second Street
Clayton, NC  27520
View map »


Sponsor: The Clayton Center
Telephone: 919-553-1737
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Meet at the Waterwise Garden (first parking lot on right) No preregistration required.Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends....

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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

See award-winning houses from the Town of Cary's 9th Annual Gingerbread House Competition on display. 

Cost: Free

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


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

Ages 4-12 enjoy free arts and crafts. Registration not required. Children must have adult accompaniment. 

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Take your American Girl to enjoy crafts, games, tea etiquette and more. Registration required online. Ages 5-10. Choose course #127007 for the 11 a.m. tea or #127008 for the 1 p.m. tea. 

Cost: $21/child

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


Website »

More information

Get ready for the holidays with festive activities, shopping, a holiday concert at 5 p.m. and much more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Lafayette Village
8450 Honeycutt Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Website »

More information

Make an angel out of polymer clay to hang on a tree. Register online. Choose course #127353.

Cost: $19/resident, $25/nonresident

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


Website »

More information

Kick off your holiday season with horse-drawn carriage rides, hot apple cider, live music, handmade crafts, holiday activities, and a visit with Ol' Saint Nick.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Drive
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Oak View County Park
Telephone: 919-250-1013
Website »

More information

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

Ages 3-12 and their fathers enjoy a night of dancing, light refreshments, photos and more. Registration required at Rolesville Community Center.

Cost: $25.00 per couple, non-resident $30.00 per couple, $10.00 per additional child

Where:
Rolesville Community Center
514 Southtown Circle
Rolesville, NC  27571
View map »


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 »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags