Tickets for the 2023 Great Smokey Mountain Polar Express Train Ride are on sale now
The Great Smokey Mountains Railroad 2023 Polar Express tickets are on sale

2023 Tickets Are Sold Out! Book Your 2024 Tickets Today!

Experience the magic this holiday season! Join us for a truly magical recreation of the classic holiday story, THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride. Climb aboard one of our powerful locomotives and historic train cars as it departs our Bryson City Depot for the North Pole to pick up Santa Claus himself. Upon arriving at our depot, you’ll be immersed in the story as our chefs serve you hot chocolate and sweet treats while singing and dancing all the way to the Pole! On the return trip to Bryson City, Santa will visit each coach and hand out the first gift of Christmas to each child.

What is THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride?

First told in the award-winning book by Chris Van Allsburg, this is the story of a child’s Christmas Eve journey. It was adapted to the big screen in 2003. And now it comes alive each year with THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride! All ages can enjoy the experience, warmth, and fun of the Christmas season on a special steam train trip to the North Pole! Certain dates and car types will sell quickly so you’ll want to book soon to reserve your preferred seating!

What to Expect on THE POLAR EXPRESS™

THE POLAR EXPRESS™ with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is back in 2023! The 1¼ hour round-trip passenger excursion comes to life as the train departs the Bryson City depot for a journey through the quiet wilderness for a special visit at the North Pole. Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, guests on board will enjoy warm cocoa and a treat while listening and reading along with the magical story. Children’s faces show the magic of the season when the train arrives at the North Pole to find Santa Claus waiting. Santa will board THE POLAR EXPRESS™, greeting each child and presenting them with a special gift as in the story, their own silver sleigh bell. Christmas carols will be sung as they return back to the Bryson City Depot.

  • Polar Express Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
The Polar Express Train Ride 2023 available dates Calendar. On sale now in Bryson City, North Carolina. Santa is waiting.

Classes of Service

The amazing first class seats of the Polar Express Train Ride 2023

First Class

First Class features interior carpet and plush furniture along with new exterior paint and detailing to highlight the cars authenticity. Large windows and climate control for comfort. Table tops of 4 and 2 are available. You may be seated at a table of 4 if your party is 2. All guests will receive a specialty treat, a cookie, and warm cocoa served in a THE POLAR EXPRESS™ souvenir mug! Also guests will receive one souvenir tote per reservation. Make your reservation now!

Come experience Premium Class seats on the 2023 Great Polar Express Train Ride 2023. Tickets on sale today!

Premium Crown Class

Premium Crown Class features windows that are able to open for fresh-air, ceiling fans and heat for cooler evenings. These classic cars will transport you into the movie with their restored wooden interiors resembling the train from the film. Booth seats are arranged in sets of four with two facing each other. All guests will receive a specialty treat, a cookie, and warm cocoa served in a souvenir THE POLAR EXPRESS™ tumbler by the car’s friendly POLAR EXPRESS staff! Make your reservation now!

Ride the 2023 Great Polar Express Train in comfort in Crown Class

Crown Class

Crown Class features climate control for comfort, large picture windows for optimal viewing, and easily accessible restrooms. Seats are arranged in sets of four with two facing each other. This is wonderful for families or parties who wish to stay grouped together throughout the duration of their ride. All guests receive a cookie and warm cocoa served in a souvenir THE POLAR EXPRESS™ tumbler. Make your reservation now!

Experience the 2023 Polar Express Train Ride with the Great Smokey Mountains Railroad. Tickets are on sale.

Coach Class

Coach Class features windows that are able to open for fresh-air, ceiling fans and heat for cooler evenings. Seats are arranged in sets of four with two facing each other. A cookie and warm cocoa is served to guests by the car’s friendly POLAR EXPRESS chef! Make your reservation now!

Official THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Gifts of 2023

Make sure to bring the experience home and keep a reminder for years to come.

Our exclusive line of THE POLAR EXPRESS ™ products has been meticulously developed to insure the highest quality. These products are only available through our official THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride hosts or on

  • Polar Express Blanket

    Polar Express fleece blanket

    Exclusive Pre-Sale Blanket! Only available through purchase online during ticket reservation process. 

    100% Polyester, Blanket Size: 50″ x 60″ 

  • The Polar Express (Hardcover)

    Pick up your very own copy of the classic novel that started it all, The Polar Express. Your special gift will be gift wrapped and signed by Santa Claus.

  • Polar Bear Plush


    The Polar Bear Plush will delight all ages and comes wrapped up in their very own scarf and beanie set. 12” of pure cuddliness.

  • Beanie Bear & Blanket Combo


    This bundle includes our Polar Express blanket and the softest little blue bear to cuddle up with.

    100% Polyester, Blanket Size: 50″ x 60″

  • The Polar Bundle


    This bundle comes with an exclusive blanket only available when purchased in advance. This bundle also includes a 7” Snowman Plush and an 8oz souvenir tumbler that can be filled with FREE COCOA at our café located on the depot deck on the day of your ride!



    Grab hold of your ticket and don’t let go! This fun souvenir will be a reminder all year long of the kid in all of us and the power of belief.

Relive the 2023 Polar Express magic using the tag #SmokiesMagic

Christmas spirit is the gift that keeps on giving! Share your holiday cheer by tagging us with #SmokiesMagic and @greatsmokymtnsrr on your favorite social media channels for a chance to be featured on our page.

Meet real life Santa only on the 2023 GSMR Polar Express Train Ride
Live the Polar Express movie on the Polar Express Train Ride. Tickets are on sale now.
An experience your family will never forget with the 2023 Polar Express train conductors
Make sure to get your 2023 Polar Express tickets and meet Santa at the Bryson City, North Carolina depot
Experience the real life Polar Express Train Ride Story from the movie.
An experience you'll always remember on the 2023 Polar Express Train Ride. Tickets on sale.
Experience the magic of the 2023 Polar Express real life train ride and meet Santa. Tickets available now.
Watch the characters come to life on the real life Polar Express Train Ride
Live performances only at the Polar Express Bryson City depot. Get your tickets now.
Watch the Polar Express story come to life at Bryson City depot. Tickets available
Santa Claus visits with all the Children on Polar Express Train Ride
Meet the real life characters from the 2023 Polar Express Train Ride leaving Bryson City Depot, North Carolina

Frequently Asked Questions About Polar Express

Where do your trains depart from?

All of our general passenger excursions, special event trains, and activities depart from the historic Bryson City Depot in Bryson City, North Carolina. Various destinations depend on your route selection. All trains are round-trip and will return to the Bryson City depot.

Are restrooms available on the train?

Yes, we have restrooms available to everyone throughout the train.

What about Winter Weather?

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is not afraid of a little winter weather! All trains, including special event trains, operate through winter weather. Of course, we want all of our guests to remain safe on their travels. In the event that the North Carolina Highway Patrol or Department of Motor Vehicles deems travel unsafe on Interstate 40 or Highway 74 resulting in a closure, please call our reservations staff at 1-800-872-4681 for further details and instructions. The option of rescheduling is always available at a nominal fee as well as the option for overnight accommodations. For information regarding US 441 please click this link for the most up-to-date information:

Does the train have ADA accommodations?

On vintage rail cars, accommodations for passengers with special needs are limited. We ask that the passengers desiring to ride on a special event train contact reservations personally so that other arrangements can be made. Boarding assistance with golf carts is available to accommodate guests who have limited walking or standing capabilities. Please call 800-872-4681 to speak with a GSMR representative who can assist in arranging and making reservations for your visit.

Is alcohol served on the train?

THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is a family-friendly event and no alcohol is sold or allowed on board the train or on the event grounds. Intoxicated passengers or those found in possession of alcohol will be removed from the event without a refund. This is a zero-tolerance policy.

Any specific dress code?

Passengers riding THE POLAR EXPRESS™ are encouraged to dress warm for weather. Pajamas can be worn but closed toe shoes are required.

How can I find out if a trip is available?

You can check availability and get a quote without purchasing tickets through the online reservation system, or you can call our Reservations Office and they will be glad to check on available seating at 1-800-872-4681.

Do I absolutely need advanced reservations?

We highly recommend booking reservations in advance as tickets do sell out quickly. To check times and availability click here or call our reservations office 800-872-4681.

How long does The Polar Express last?

This round-trip journey to the North Pole and back to Bryson City, NC is a 1 1/4 hour experience. We ask that guests arrive 1 hour prior to excursion time to pick up train tickets.

What hotel accommodations are near your depot?

You can click here for information regarding area lodging that we recommend or call us for details about our packages with convenient lodging establishments in the area. For information on area lodging you can call the Smoky Mountain Host for a guide book 800.432.4678, or call the respective Chambers of Commerce; Jackson County (Dillsboro) 800.962.1911 and Swain County (Bryson City) 800.867.9246.

What are the ages for a child’s ticket?

Child tickets are available to those between the ages of 2 and 12 years old, and infant tickets are available to those 23 months and younger. Anyone 13 years or older are considered adults, for ticket pricing purposes only.

When tickets are purchased online or over the phone, how do I pick up the tickets?

At GSMR, we utilize e-Ticketing software and with the email address provided on the reservation, tickets will be sent via email.

How far is it from Gatlinburg to the Bryson City Depot?

Normal travel time from Gatlinburg to our Bryson City Depot is 2 to 2.5 hours via US 441. Travel time during peak periods (usually July, October, and holiday weekends) may be significantly longer. For US 441 weather updates please use this link:

Where do we park?

Parking is conveniently located across the street from the Bryson City Depot at: 45 Mitchell Street, Bryson City, NC. Parking fees are already charged to your reservation. For RVs a $16.00 cash parking fee is required per RV. Limited handicap parking is available. There is two-hour street parking around Bryson City, but please keep in mind that your train adventure may take more than two hours. We encourage all passengers to take advantage of our convenient all-day parking.

Do you permit smoking on the train?

Smoking is not permitted onboard any train at any time. We have designated smoking areas at all depots and layover locations.

What ingredients are in the cookies for the Polar Express?

Passengers with gluten or dairy allergies can substitute the cookie for either a gluten free Rice Krispie treat or dairy free Veggie Straws (Sea Salt).

Rice Krispie ingredients: Marshmallow (Glucose Syrup, Sugar, Modified Food Starch [Corn], Gelatin, Water, Vanilla Flavor), Gluten Free Crisp Rice (Rice, Brown Sugar, Salt) Sugar, Brown Butter (Cream, Salt), Sea Salt, Vanilla Flavor.

Veggie Straw ingredients: Potato Starch, Potato Flour, Expeller Pressed Canola oil and/or Safflower Oil and/or Sunflower Oil, Spinach Powder, Tomato Paste, salt, Cane Sugar, Corn Starch, Potassium Chloride, Turmeric (color), Beetroot Powder (color), Sea Salt.

What ingredients are in the hot chocolate for the Polar Express?

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Whey, Dutch Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Sodium Caseinate, ( milk derivative), Salt, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Aluminosilicate, Natural Flavor. CONTAINS MILK.

Do you have a gift shop?

A full range of exclusive THE POLAR EXPRESS™ gifts and keepsakes will be available for purchase at the event. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Gift Shop is located just feet away from the welcome tent and boarding area.

Is seating assigned?

Yes. In order to offer the best experience for all guests, seating is assigned on board THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride. You will select your own seats during the online checkout process as you would on an airline.

In order to ensure that our guests can have the most enjoyable the experience together, our seating policy requires that all guests in a single party may only reserve tickets in adjacent seats. Reservations not in adjacent seats may be cancelled at GSMR’s discretion.

Are tickets refundable?

You may cancel your reservation in full or in part and receive a refund less a $14.00 fee per adult ticket and $6.00 fee per child ticket as late as 60 days before departure. Within 60 days of the departure the reservation becomes nonrefundable. You may reschedule any time prior to your originally scheduled departure with a $7.00 fee per ticket for another date within the same calendar year. You may not reschedule a reservation after the scheduled departure.

Live the real life magic and meet Santa. Book the 2023 Polar Express Train Ride today. Now leaving Bryson City Depot, North Carolina
Click here for rules and disclaimer

Ticket fares subject to 7% Historic Preservation Fee. Schedules, fares, motive power, equipment, seat selection, and meals are subject to change without notice. We guarantee the class of service you select. You will be notified if a change in schedule or motive power affects your reservation. Payment in full at booking by major credit card is required to finalize a reservation. You may cancel your reservation in full or in part and receive a refund less a $14.00 fee per adult ticket and $7.00 fee per child ticket as late as 60 days before departure. Within 60 days of the departure the reservation becomes nonrefundable. You may reschedule any time prior to your originally scheduled departure with a $7.00 fee per ticket for another date within the same calendar year. You may not reschedule a reservation after the scheduled departure. No exceptions are made for weather, illness, or road closures.

Whipped Topping Ingredients – Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Palm, Palm Kernel, Coconut, and/or Cottonseed) Contains less than 2% of the following; Sodium Caseinate (A milk derivative, not a source of lactose) Destrose, Artificial Flavor, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Monosterate, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Colored with Turmeric and Annatoo Extract. CONTAINS: MILK.

Hot Cocoa Mix Ingredients: Sugar, Whey, Corn Syrup Solids, Non-Dairy Creamer [Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Coconut and/or Soybean Oils), Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Caseinate (a Milk Derivataive), Dipotassium Phosphate, Sugar, Mono-and Diglycerides, Silicon Dioxide, Sodium Steroyl Lactylate, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Flavors, Colored with (Annatto, Turmeric)]. Cocoa processed with Alkali, Maltodextrin, Creamer [Whey, Nonfat Dry Milk, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Dipotassium Phosphate, Monoglycerides], Cocoa Salt, Sodium Aluminosilicate (to prevent caking). Tri Calcium Phosphate, Cellulose Gum, Natural and Artificial Flavor, CONTAINS: Milk and Soy

Based on THE POLAR EXPRESS book and characters trademarked and copyright 1985 by Chris Van Allsburg. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. THE POLAR EXPRESS and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.(s20)

You agree that THE POLAR EXPRESS™ event (the “Event”) for which you purchased tickets and/or attended is a public event, that your appearance and actions inside and outside the venue where the Event occurs are public in nature, and that you have no expectation of privacy with regard to your actions or conduct at the Event. You hereby irrevocably grant permission to the Event’s host railroad, licensor, sponsor(s) and/or their assigns to use, copy, display, distribute, exhibit and utilize your name, image, digital image, likeness, acts, poses, voice, appearance, movements and statements in any live or recorded audio, video or photographic display or other transmission, exhibition, publication or reproduction of same, including at the Event (regardless of whether before, during or after the Event) for any purpose, in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed without further authorization from or any compensation to you or anyone acting or entitled to act on your behalf.

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