15 Polar Express Train Rides and Christmas Trains Near Atlanta

Climb aboard and experience this Christmas season in a brand new way on the Polar Express on the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad. Photo courtesy of the railroad
Climb aboard and experience this Christmas season in a brand new way on the Polar Express on the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad. Photo courtesy of the railroad
10/23/22 - By Rebecca Ruffin Leffler

In the hit holiday classic The Polar Express, a pajama-clad boy embarks on a magical journey aboard a holiday train to the North Pole, complete with hot cocoa and holiday singing. What child (or parent for that matter) wouldn't want to do the same?

Fortunately, you can reserve a spot on a Polar Express or holiday train near Atlanta to usher your family into the season of wonderment. Although some holiday trains are located in neighboring states, most are within three hours of metro Atlanta. Consider combining your visit with one of these day trips to the north Georgia mountains, Chattanooga, or surrounding areas. Note: Buy tickets early as these holiday train rides sell out fast.

And before the season gets too busy, refer to our Atlanta Christmas Activities and Holiday Guide for craft activities to make with your children and gift ideas for everyone on your list. You'll also want to subscribe to our free newsletter to stay in the know of all the exciting activities in Atlanta. 


Hop on the Holiday Express at Blue Ridge to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus. Photo courtesy of the railroad

Christmas and Holiday Train Rides Near Atlanta for 2022

Holiday Express - Blue Ridge, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 1.5 hours 
Dates: November 25-December 23, 2022
Cost: $40.99 children 2-12; $52.99 adults; Free 0-23 months on a lap 

Families head north to the mountains for this one-hour holiday train ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, featuring the story, The Night Before Christmas. Riders are also treated to holiday music, an activity packet, a candy cane, and a jingle bell. Parents can purchase snacks and hot chocolate while on board. 

Holiday Pavilion - Blue Ridge, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 1.5 hours
Dates: December 3, 10, 17, 21, 22 & 23, 2022
Cost: $47.99 children 2-12; $62.99 adults

Families with older kids might prefer the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway's four-hour Holiday Pavilion train ride. Offering the same perks as the Holiday Express, riders get off the train for a two-hour stopover in the bordering towns of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN. 

The Polar Express in Bryson City is a holiday train that takes kids to the North Pole. Photo courtesy of Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

The Polar Express - Bryson City, North Carolina 

Distance from Atlanta: 3 hours
Dates: November 10-December 31, 2022
Cost: Starting at $29 per ticket, price varies by section of the train and date. 

Children ride through the wilderness on The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad for this 1.25-hour round trip to the North Pole. Along the way, passengers listen to the story and music from The Polar Express and enjoy hot cocoa and a treat. Santa makes an appearance on this holiday train and gives children a sleigh bell on each holiday train ride. 

Candy Cane Express - Cordele, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 2.5 hours
Dates: December 3 & 7, 2022
Cost: Starting at $29.99 per ticket; price varies by section of train

This excursion on the Historic SAM Shortline Railroad in south Georgia runs for just two days in December so interested families should book quickly. Passengers take the holiday train for a two-hour stopover in Plains to explore the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site Museum, shop, and sample peanut butter ice cream. Kids will love seeing Santa on this holiday train ride. The higher-priced tickets include more options such as snacks, drinks, and lunch. 

Cordele Holiday Train - Cordele, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 2.5 hours
Dates: December 9, 10 & 17, 2022
Cost: $15 children 2-12; $25 adults; $35 deluxe class for all ages

Offering hot chocolate and cookies, the one-hour Cordele Holiday Train (also offered on the Historic Sam Shortline Railroad), will delight younger kids who won't sit still for too long. Sing along to holiday music and see what Santa gives each passenger! Reserve tickets soon as the train only operates three nights this season.

North Pole Limited Christmas Train - Chattanooga, Tennessee

Distance from Atlanta: 2 hours 
Dates: November 18-December 23, 2022
Cost: $29 (daytime rides); $39 (evening rides) 

Atlanta families can travel to Chattanooga for this holiday ride to the North Pole on the Tennessee Valley Railroad. Passengers enjoy refreshments (including cookies and hot chocolate), listen to stories, write their own letters to Santa, and take home an ornament on the hour-long ride. At the North Pole, Santa comes aboard to give presents to all the children.

RELATED: Chattanooga with Kids: 25 Best Things to Do in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Santa's Hiwassee Holiday Train - Delano, Tennessee

Distance from Atlanta: 2 hours
Dates: December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 & 18, 2022
Cost: Starting at $24 per ticket for ages 1 and up; price varies by section of train

Kids can write a letter to Santa while enjoying gingerbread cookies and chocolate milk during the 1+ hour ride along the Hiwassee River Gorge. Santa Claus rides along and gives a sleigh bell to all passengers. Those in Holly Class will receive a holiday ornament.

Take a Christmas Sing-a-Long Scenic ride on the Stone Mountain Railroad.  Photo courtesy the railroad 

Sing-along Scenic Railroad - Stone Mountain, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 30 minutes
Dates: November 12, 2022-January 1, 2023
Cost: Included with attraction pass: $34.95 (ages 3-11); $39.95 (12+); free (2 and under) 

Enjoy Christmas magic aboard this Atlanta holiday train ride at Stone Mountain Park. Guests purchase attraction passes and enjoy all that the park has to offer (including Summit Skyride and the interactive dinosaur exhibit) plus the seasonal Christmas activities, holiday light displays, and fireworks. The train ride is a five-mile trip around the mountain; at night the excursion turns more festive with Christmas carols.  

Winter Wonderland Train Ride
Take a Winter Wonderland Train Ride out of the Pine Mountain Gold Museum. Photo courtesy of the Pine Mountain Gold Museum

Winter Wonderland Train Ride - Villa Rica, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 35 minutes 
Dates: December 1-30, 2022
Cost: $13; ages 2 and under free

As far as bang for your buck, this Atlanta holiday train out of the Pine Mountain Gold Museum is number one. At only $13 per ticket, passengers experience plenty of Christmas magic with music, lights, and characters. 

North Pole Express - Calera, Alabama

Distance from Atlanta: 3 hours
Dates: Weekends, November 18-December 18, 2022
Cost: Starting at $30 ages 2 and up, price varies by section of train

Just south of Birmingham, families will find the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum. Kids are encouraged to wear pajamas to enjoy the 90-minute holiday train ride with singing, storytime, sweets, and a chocolate drink. At the North Pole, Santa and Mrs. Claus climb aboard to pose for photos.

Christmas at the Station - Calera, Alabama

Distance from Atlanta: 3 hours
Dates: December 3, 10 & 17, 2022
Cost: $20 ages 2 and up.

For a daytime option, climb aboard the Shelby and Southern Steam Railroad for a 30-minute trip with pre-recorded holiday music. While no refreshments are served, food trucks will be at the depot, in addition to holiday gift vendors. You can also pose for pictures with Santa at the museum.

Santa Train – Huntsville, Alabama

Distance from Atlanta: 3 hours
Dates: December 3 & 10, 2022
Cost: Starting at $20, price varies by section of train

If families find themselves visiting NASA’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, combine it with a holiday train ride at the North Alabama Railroad Museum. The Santa Train offers holiday sing-alongs and a gift for children on the 30-minute daytime ride. First-class passengers enjoy refreshments and a larger gift.

North Star Limited – Huntsville, Alabama

Distance from Atlanta: 3 hours
Dates: December 2, 3, 9 & 10, 2022
Cost: Starting at $35, price varies by section of train

For an evening ride in Huntsville, wear pajamas on the 45-minute North Star Limited, complete with a Christmas story, sing-alongs, and refreshments. While all children receive a gift, those in the VIP Sleeper Coach Suites will receive a visit from Santa.

The Santa Special - Kingsland, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 5 hours
Dates: November 25-December 24, 2022
Cost: Starting at $29.50 for ages 3 and up; price varies by section of train

This holiday train may not be as close to Atlanta, but if your family plans to head to the beach this holiday season, consider adding the Georgia Coastal Railway to your agenda. Frosty the Snowman, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and all the elves visit each coach on the 70-minute journey. Purchase snacks and beverages at the station to bring on board.

RELATED: Best Beaches for Georgia Families to Enjoy the Sand and Surf

Operation: Save Christmas Express - Kingsland, Georgia

Distance from Atlanta: 5 hours
Dates: November 25-December 24, 2022
Cost: $24.50 for ages 3 and up

During this daytime excursion from the Georgia Coastal Railway, families travel in open-air cars for 70 minutes on an exciting journey to save Christmas. Santa is stranded somewhere in Georgia and it's up to train passengers to find him in time to deliver gifts! Bundle up for winter weather and bring a blanket for added warmth. Snacks may be purchased at the station to enjoy during the ride.

Additional reporting by Elsa Simcik

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