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
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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. 


Categories: Day Trips, Family, Outdoors, Seasonal Food + Fun, Seasonal Fun, Things To Do, Travel