Deep in the Smoky Mountains, nestled in the little town of Bryson City, North Carolina is more family fun and fall foliage than you can imagine. The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, built in 1881, gave residents of the Smoky Mountains access to the Western outside world. Originally, a very primitive railroad (even for the times), this track was built to last. Almost 140 years since its construction the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is now open for most of the year (April through New Year’s Eve) for scenic rides, themed adventures, and huge amounts of fun!
About the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
If you have never been to the Smoky Mountain Range you are in for a treat. Fall is done best in the Smoky Mountains, the scenery is superb. As “out in the middle of nowhere” as Bryson City might seem, you are in the most quaint, picturesque town in North Carolina. If riding the train is not your cup of tea, then strolling the downtown area and perusing the beautiful shop windows is a great way to spend a day as well. But…missing out on the train ride would be a shame.
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad winds alongside the majestic Tuckasegee River, with views from every window. On some of the railroad’s journeys, it also crosses the Nantahala Gorge depending on which riding experience you choose.
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Seasonal Events at the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad
The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad runs for the better part of the year (actively from April through the New Year) offering a wide arrange of event options to appeal of people of any age! The fall is a stunning time to visit the mountains and their scenery gifts, but the spring and summer months would definitely be more affordable for lodging. Every year the schedule and events offered changes, but there are a few annual events that bring people from all over the state.
Peanuts Gang The Great Pumpkin Patch
Throughout the month of October, you can take a train ride to Linus’ Great Pumpkin Patch set up alongside the train tracks. After a short ride, you get to explore the Peanuts Gang village, go trick-or-treating from area to area, eat smores, make crafts, enjoy a hayride, and take pictures with the Peanuts Gang. This event is only offered in October and the number of weekly runs is limited so book your tickets in advance.
There are also many photo opportunities on the property, restrooms, and a “free” pumpkin included for each child. After about an hour and forty-five minutes, everyone boards the train again and you return to the station. The entire event is approximately 3 hours long.
The Polar Express
The event of the year, that you need to book tickets for now, is The Polar Express! This event is a show stopper. Set up very similarly to The Great Pumpkin event, you take a short ride to the North Pole. During this event, they stay as true to the film as possible, which means being served Hot Chocolate by singing waiters along the way. Once you arrive there is a winter wonderland to explore and more than likely a real dusting of mountain snow. This event runs from November 1 through Christmas Eve. A very magical experience that is best enjoyed in the train cars with heating, so book accordingly.
Other Seasonal Events
The special train ride events geared more towards adults are the Uncorked Train Ride, which acts as a wine and dine with spectacular views. With a four-course meal and a mandatory age minimum, it is sure to be a great time for the romantic couple or the girl’s on weekend getaway.
The Tuckasegee River train ride is a 4-hour excursion that takes you along 32 miles of the beautiful river. Midway through the journey, you are dropped off in the historic town of Dillsboro to enjoy a brief break for shopping and dining. Then you board the train again for your return trip to Bryson City’s Train Depot.
Potentially the most beautiful train ride available is that of the Nantahala Gorge. This beautiful journey is 4.5 hours long crossing the historic Fontana Trestle Bridge along the way. Stunning water and mountain views make this a nature lovers’ favorite ride. Made the most beautiful in late September, early October due to the fall foliage.
Between the local atmosphere and the wonderful scenery seen from the train, you cannot go wrong in booking a weekend getaway to the Smoky Mountains. The children in your life will love it and the adults will want to come back time and time again to try all the different events offered. Why don’t you put a little more magic into your holiday season and give the gift of experiences that last a lifetime?
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Photo Credit: Lydia Bradbury