Are you searching for a family-friendly place to have a small getaway this winter? Have you ever been to Bryson City, NC? Most known for the Polar Express, there is so much more than just the train ride to do and explore in this friendly mountain town. They’ve got a drive-thru light show, outdoor ice skating, delicious food, and much more!
Bryson City: A Real-Life Christmas Wonderland
Bryson City is a quaint, peaceful mountain town along the Great Smoky Mountains. Just a quick 3 to 4-hour drive from Columbia, SC, this makes for the perfect weekend getaway. During winter each year, Bryson City transforms into a real-life Christmas wonderland with beautiful decor, twinkling lights, and Christmas magic all around. My family recently took a quick 1-night trip to the mountains and we spent one of our evenings exploring Bryson City. I left wishing we would have had more time to spend and know we will definitely be returning!
Things to do in Bryson City, NC for the Holidays
Take a Ride on the Polar Express
One of the most popular things to do in Bryson City over the holidays is the Polar Express Train Ride! My family recently got to experience this magical event and both of my kids (ages 4 and 1) absolutely loved it. Be sure to check out the Kidding Around Pplar Express review for more tips and info!
Explore the Smoky Mountain Train Museum
The train museum sits right next to the railroad tracks and is a great place to pass the time while waiting to board a train ride! Inside the museum, there is a huge display of model trains that are so fascinating to watch! My son loved pointing out all of the detailed features he saw. With a train ticket, entrance into the museum is free!
Along with the model train display, the museum also offers a large gift shop area with plenty of trinkets and souvenirs.
Go Outdoor Ice Skating
Outdoor ice skating is such a fun, classic winter activity! Unfortunately, on the evening we were there, the ice rink was not open, but now that I know it’s there we will be sure to plan accordingly for future visits. Along with ice skating, there is also a food truck and full-time bar. For $20 per person you will get 1 hour of skating time, skate rentals (smallest size is youth size 9), and 1 hot chocolate! Hours are as follows:
- Thursdays and Fridays from 4 pm to 8 pm
- Saturdays and Sundays from 1 pm to 8 pm
Drive-Thru the Smoky Mountain Christmas Light Show
If you’re looking to do something fun with the kids in the evenings, this drive-thru light show would be perfect for you! There will be several wintery, magical scenes to drive-thru and you’ll be able to listen to festive music along your route. A great way to get the whole family into the Christmas spirit!
They will be open from 6 pm to 10 pm, daily throughout December with the exception of being closed on Christmas Day.
Visit the Local Shops
With so many locally-owned shops and businesses to choose from, picking a favorite would be hard! We popped into a few and really enjoyed all of the Christmas shops. We purchased an ornament from Uncle Bunky’s Christmas Cottage where they also had tons of holiday decor, small toys, sweet treats, etc. Loose Moose is another great gift store with lots of unique items to choose from.
Madison’s on Main and Humanite Boutique are both great options for trendy women’s clothing! There are also several antique stores around that are always fun to browse through – you never know what you might find!
Enjoy a Tasty Sweet Treat
If you’re anything like me, the sweet tooth is at an all-time high throughout the holidays. The good news is, Bryson City has so many opportunities for delicious treats! After our ride on the Polar Express we stopped into the Heavenly Fudge Depot and let me just say, it lived up to its name! The peanut butter fudge from here was divine. They also had several festive sweet treats for kids – chocolate “believe” tickets and trains, cookies, bite-sized sweets, and more!
The Chocolate Shoppe, Soda Pop’s Ice Cream, and Pop-N-Jacks Gourmet Popcorn are also great options to cure the sweet tooth! The popcorn from Pop-N-Jacks can even be brought onto the Polar Express with you and smells so good. I’m a little upset we didn’t stop in and give them a try, too!
Take Festive Pictures
Still need a family pic for this year’s Christmas card? There are tons of great holiday photo-ops everywhere you look in Bryson City! From the large, lit-up Christmas tree in the middle of the plaza to stationary train carts, a tractor, and more, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for family photos.
Get Your Live Christmas Tree
While there are no Christmas tree farms in Bryson City, there are several to choose from nearby. During our trip, we chose to get our tree at Smoky Mountain Tree Farm. They had a large variety of trees to choose from and even some that you could cut down yourself. The big red barn and beautiful Smoky Mountain scenery made for great pictures as well!
There are two other tree farms within a few minutes of Smoky Mountain Tree Farm: Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm and Mehaffey Tree Farm. Boyd Mountain Farm has several log cabins available for families to stay in as well as stocked fishing ponds, 4 miles of hiking trails, biking, and more!
Have you ever been to Bryson City during the holidays? What is your favorite thing to do?