SUMMER FUN: Kids Ride Free on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City, NC

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The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad has an awesome summertime deal for riding the rails through the Smokies in North Carolina. Kids ride free on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad in Bryson City, NC this summer! Bryson City, NC is about two hours from Greenville, SC and you can stay overnight or do a day trip!

I always thought there was something oh-so-romantic about riding an old steam locomotive train. Maybe it’s just because it’s not something we do often in today’s modern world or that the old photos of these trains often had women with beautiful, full dresses and lace umbrellas and boots – something I always thought was pretty cool.

While I don’t have a hoop skirt – and won’t anytime soon – luckily you don’t need one to ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. This is the same train that does the Polar Express during the Christmas season. We’ve got all the details on a pretty awesome deal they have for families over the summer though!

Smoky Mountain Railroad

Kids Ride Free on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

During the summertime, they are offering a pretty amazing deal: they are offering a free child’s ticket (ages 2-12) with every Adult ticket purchased all summer on trains that run Monday – Friday.

Tickets are valid on one of the two scenic general excursions in Standard Coach – either the Diesel locomotive power on Tuckasegee River or Nantahala Gorge. Tickets must be purchased to ride May 1, 2022 – August 31, 2022 and they can’t be combined with other discounts, subject to blackout dates, and aren’t available for specialty event trains.

To take advantage of this deal, you need to use this promo code: KIDSRIDEFREE

The Train Ride

The Great Smoky Mountain rail has 53 miles of railroad to traverse but not every excursion uses all of those miles. There are also two tunnels and 25 bridges. Train rides roll through the majestic mountains and river gorges in an unforgettable trip.

The Nantahala Gorge Excursion takes guests over 44 miles to the Nantahala Gorge and back. Scenic views are plenty on this trip. You’ll see the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers and travel across Fontana Lake surrounded by the mountains. This trip is 4.5 hours long and a Standard Coach Adult ticket is $56.

The Tuckasegee River Excursion is a little shorter at 32 miles round trip and four hours total. Guests will see vast meadows and old railroad towns as they travel along the Tuckasegee River. Plus, you’ll pass by the set of The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford during this train ride. A Standard Coach Adult ticket is $56.

To purchase your tickets, call 800.872.4681 or book Great Smoky Mountain Railroad tickets online.

Where to Stay Near the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Use the map below to find the perfect place to stay near the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

Through an affiliate relationship with Stay22, Kidding Around earns when you book through this map.

More places to stay

There are plenty of cool places to stay in the area but we recommend Sky Ridge Yurts, a beautiful little village of comfortable and spacious yurts about 20 minutes from the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad and on the edge of the Nantahala forest.

Sky Ridge Yurt interior pictures

Or if you really want a memorable experience, stay in a renovated 1960s caboose – on a bison farm! It sleeps five people and has a full bathroom, kitchen and living area. Plus, it has bison that freely roam the property.

Other Things to do in Bryson City

Bryson City, NC is a beautiful spot with lots to do but during the summer, there is almost an endless number of things to do with your family.

The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) is fantastic for families. You can go whitewater rafting there (kids need to be at least 7 years old and 60 pounds), which is quite the adventure and something the NOC is known for. But if you have smaller kids, you can also go tubing and enjoy the area. Next to the restaurant is a shallow area of the river perfect for wading as well. You can also pick up part of the Appalachian Trail there if you want to try it out.

Nantahalla outdoor center water fun

You can also go tubing at Deep Creek which is at the entrance on the North Carolina side of the Smoky Mountains. There are several outfitters that offer cheap options for tubing. Or you could bring your own tubes and drive into the park and follow the crowd to where most people put their tubes in. There aren’t really any rapids so it’s great for smaller kids but it’s really cold!

Another great tubing spot is in nearby Cherokee, NC at Smoky Mountain Tube & Raft. Ages 5 and up are able to tube.

You can also hike the Deep Creek Loop at the same entrance to the park, a trail that has three waterfalls. It’s an easy hike about two miles long.

If you love animals, history, and natural beauty, you may get a glimpse of the elk at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, about a 30 minute drive from Bryson City. There is an interesting homestead you can tour there and be sure to do the Junior Ranger Program at the visitor’s center. Elk are there usually in the mornings and late afternoon.

Also in nearby Cherokee, NC, Mingo Falls is a beautiful waterfall to see. It’s a really short hike, just a third of a mile, but it does have a lot of steps. The falls are worth it!

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
45 Mitchell Street, Bryson City, NC 28713

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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