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Posts Tagged ‘Bryson City NC’

Visit Bryson City, NC for the Holidays

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Are you searching for Bryson City holiday things to do? 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. Bryson City, NC also has a drive-thru light show, outdoor ice skating, delicious food, and much more! 

Looking for more holiday day trip ideas? Be sure to check out our festive guide!

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 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! 

Tree farms in Bryson City, NC

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! 

Bryson City Polar Express

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. 

Smoky Mountain Train Museum

Smoky Mountain Rail

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 beginning November 17th, 2023
  • Saturdays and Sundays from 1 pm to 8 pm beginning November 19th, 2023

The Yard Ice Skating

Bryson City shops

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!  

Christmas Tree Farm

Have you ever been to Bryson City during the holidays? What is your favorite thing to do?

Get Tickets Now! Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Polar Express in Bryson City, NC

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Wondering about the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Polar Express? Bryson City offers one of the most magical experiences of a kid’s life on this themed train ride based on the book The Polar Express. Whether you love an early beginning to the holiday season or wish you could put it off, this North Carolina attraction is one very good reason to start your own planning early this year. KAG Contributor Liene has all the information you need to know about this very popular holiday attraction.

The Polar Express in Bryson City, North Carolina

The Polar Express: Bryson City, NC

Bryson City is a gateway city to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but is it also home to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad depot, with scenic rail excursions through the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. Beginning November 9th, 2023, a very special train will be departing from the historic Bryson City depot: The Polar Express. This is one of two very popular train rides on the Polar Express near Greenville, SC, so get your tickets soon!

Based on the popular children’s book written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, this magical train ride recreates the journey to the North Pole complete with hot cocoa and a warm cookie.  At the end of the train ride, Santa Claus himself will be waiting at Santa’s Village to board the train and present each child with their very own silver sleigh bell.

Things to Know About the Ride on the Polar Express

You’ll want to arrive in Bryson City at least an hour before your departure time. This will give you time to park, which is not an easy task in this little town that brings upwards of 90,000 passengers through for the Polar Express. Parking charges are already added when purchasing tickets ($6) and parking attendants are on hand to direct traffic.

Once you’ve walked to the depot you might want to explore the GSMR train museum, and you’ll find a dozen little souvenir and snack shops lining the street to explore while waiting for your train’s boarding time. Hint; the Smoky Mountain trains museum is free with tickets, but you can purchase pictures with Santa if you arrive early.

When it is time to climb on board, passengers join the queue at their assigned boarding station, which correlates to the train car in which you will be riding.   The beautifully restored vintage coaches date from the 1920s to the 1940s, and the interior has been festively decorated in the holiday spirit. Friendly employees are on hand to help the boarding process and get everyone situated, and before you know it, the whistle blows, and the Polar Express is off, headed for the North Pole!

While music plays in the background (from the motion picture The Polar Express), the conductor comes through to stamp the ‘golden train tickets.’  These tickets, based on the book, make a cherished souvenir for the children. Hint: make sure to bring your copy of “The Polar Express” on the trip so that you can read along while enjoying the hot chocolate brought to you by the singing and dancing chef.  

Like most parents, we had changed the kids into their pajamas so that they would be cozy and comfortable on the journey.  And, the singing of Christmas carols and antics of the Polar Express characters kept them mesmerized the entire trip.

Bryson City, North Carolina Great Smoky Mountain Train view

Tips to Make the Most of Your Trip

With three different ticket options (First, Crown, and Coach), families have a variety of choices concerning seating, snacks, and memorabilia – only reserve your tickets soon, as the tickets for the weekends approaching Christmas tend to sell out by the end of October. We opted for Coach and were completely satisfied with the seating, the service, and the benefits that came with our package.

We purchased tickets on the 5 pm train, meaning it would still be light out for the first 1/2 hour of the journey (and we could watch the gorgeous mountain scenery roll by). The sun had set and darkness descended just before our arrival at the North Pole, and so the Christmas lights adorning ‘Santa’s Village’ twinkled in the darkness, helping convince reluctant believers… On our return trip, lights from homes along the route sparkled in the distance, adding a magical dimension to the ride.

When selecting seats, you might want to choose to be on the left side of the train (that would be the opposite side where you board the Polar Express), as the river and the majority of North Pole lights will be on that side. Also, Santa boards on the front of the train, so be prepared for him to come through rather soon after stopping if you’re in Coach; have your copy of “The Polar Express” ready for him to sign, and the kids ready to tell him what they would like for Christmas.  He even makes some time to ask some disbelieving adults about what they would like under the tree – so make that list and check it twice!

More information on the Polar Express: Bryson City, NC

The first Polar Express departure is on November 9, 2023, and the train operates through December 31, 2023, with the exception of certain weekdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas day. They do have a Christmas Eve ride if you want a truly memorable night. Most days, there are three departures a day and tickets sell out quickly.

For detailed information on the different seating available, visit the Polar Express website.

Bryson City is about 2 ½ hours by car from both Greenville and Spartanburg, optimally a weekend destination, but doable in a day (since the kids will sleep on the way home!).

There are several classes to choose from with Coach Class being the cheapest of the tickets starting at $29 for kids ages 2-12 and $44 for adults up to First Class, which is $47 for kids and $68 for adults. Crown and Premium Crown Class are in between those prices. Depending on what ticket class you choose, you’ll receive a cookie, hot chocolate, and a souvenir of some type for a full Polar Express experience.

You can book tickets by calling 800.872.4681 or you can book them online.

Where to Stay Near the Polar Express in Bryson City, NC

This Stay22 Affiliate links map will help you find the perfect place to stay during your visit!

Sky Ridge Yurts

If you want to enhance your Polar Express experience with a super cool place to stay in town, try Sky Ridge Yurts, only about 20 minutes away from the city center and the railroad. The yurts are spacious, clean, and very comfortable. We tried them out over the summer and fell in love with the unique structures. Enjoy some warm cocoa and the mountain views during your trip!

Sky Ridge Yurt exterior

For other Great Smoky Mountains Railroad family-friendly adventures, check out the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad website.

“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

From The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg

Would a ride on The Polar Express be a trip your kids would cherish?


Tree farms in Bryson City, NC

Bryson City has a lot to offer during the holidays! Read more about the town’s holiday offerings while you plan your winter getaway.


See our list of Western NC Day Trips and our list of Holiday Day Trips for even more suggestions for fun around the holidays.

This post was originally published on Femme au foyer and is republished with permission.

Tube All Day for Less Than $30 for a Family of Four on Deep Creek

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Planning a tubing day trip? Bryson City, NC is home to Deep Creek, a popular river tubing destination. With several places to rent tubes, plus local campgrounds, Deep Creek tubing is a great choice for a tubing adventure.

KAG’s Kristina Hernandez spent a day tubing with her kids. Here’s how her day went tubing at Deep Creek, plus some tips for planning your own tubing adventure.

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Bryson City, NC: Things to Do and Places to Stay in the Great Smoky Mountains

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Are you looking for a place to visit with mountain town charm? Bryson City, NC, located in Western North Carolina, fits that description perfectly. The downtown area offers unique shopping, rich history, and access to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.  There are also some pretty spectacular things to do in the surrounding nature areas that will get your kids excited to explore, including hiking, river tubing, and camping. Below, you will find some of the best things to do with your family while visiting Bryson City, NC.

bryson city, nc

Things to do in Bryson City, NC

Bryson City, NC has lots to do, especially since it is situated in the WNC portion of the Great Smoky Mountains. We gathered reviews of some of the adventures we have had in Bryson City, including river tubing, hiking, and riding the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.

Go River Tubing on Deep Creek

If you’re looking for some fun riding the river through the mountain, then rent some tubes to go tubing on Deep Creek. This popular river tubing destination in Western North Carolina is affordable, fun, and a great choice to add to your summer bucket list! You will find places to rent tubes, what to expect, how to pack, and more in our KA review of river tubing on Deep Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Explore the Nantahala Outdoor Center

If you are yearning to leave the city and take a day trip to Bryson City, then the Nantahala Outdoor Center should absolutely be on the itinerary. This outdoor center has things to do with kids, whitewater rafting, riverfront dining options, hiking, ziplining, and more! Read more about the Great Smoky Mountain’s Nantahala Outdoor Center in our KA review.

Nantahala Outdoor Center
 13077 U.S. 19 West, Bryson City, NC

The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is a historical train with its depot station located in the heart of downtown Bryson City. The train is family-friendly and offers train rides through the Great Smoky Mountains, Nantahala National Forest, along the Nantahala and Tuckasegee Rivers, and is the place to be when fall foliage arrives. During the summer, the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad offers deals for Kids Ride Free from May through August. Learn about the Kids Ride Free promotion in our KA review of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.

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

Seasonal Things to Do

There is something magical about being in a cozy mountain town during winter and the holiday season. We have some ideas of things to do that your entire family will love!

Visit Bryson City for the Holidays

The holiday season is full of magic, light displays, Christmas tree farms, and more! They even have ice skating to really bring the charm to the season. Check out our KA guide to Bryson City during the Holidays to plan your adventure into a real-life Christmas wonderful.

Ride the Polar Express on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

There is almost nothing greater than creating magical memories for children. Riding the Polar Express on the Great Smoky Railroad is one of the most magical things you can do during the holidays! PJs, hot chocolate, magical bells. Sound familiar? The train leaves out of the historic Bryson City Depot and begins in early November each year. Tickets sell fast, so keep an eye out. Learn everything you need to know, including ticket information and what to expect, in our KA review of the Great Smoky Mountain’s Polar Express.

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad: Polar Express
45 Mitchell Street, Bryson City, NC

Unique Lodging Near Bryson City, NC

Being in the Great Smoky Mountains in Bryson City offers some unique places to lodge. With mountains, streams, and tons of trees, it’s the perfect place to stay if you love the outdoors. We have some lodging ideas below.

The map below contains Stay22 affiliate links.

Sky Ridge Yurts: Bryson City, NC

If you’re wanting a unique lodging experience outside of hotels, then Sky Ridge Yurts in Bryson City may just be it! This yurt village offers gorgeous, cozy yurts to spend the night in before you head out for a hike or adventure during your trip. You can learn all about Sky Ridge Yurts in our KA review, including rates, what it is like, and how much your kids will love it!

KA Review:
Sky Ridge Yurts
in Bryson City, NC

Sky Ridge Yurt interior pictures

Sky Ridge Yurts
200 Sky Ridge Drive, Bryson City, NC 

Make It a Day Trip!

KA Guide to Cherokee, NC,
20 minutes from Bryson City.

Street view of Cherokee, NC