Ride the Rails: 5 Holiday Train Rides Near Atlanta

The holidays are chugging down the track, and a festive train ride may be just the thing that’ll blow everyone’s whistle. Check out these holiday train treks—all within striking distance from Atlanta—with everything from Santa to hot-chocolate. From short train trips to all-day treks, scroll down for all you need to know about holiday train rides near you.

The Polar Express Train Ride

This 1¼ hour round-trip excursion departs the Bryson City depot for a journey to North Pole. Guests on board will enjoy warm cocoa and a treat while listening and reading along with story of The Polar Express, arriving just in time to find Santa Claus waiting for them.  

Covid Update: GSMR will be taking every precaution to properly sanitize and clean during and in between this magical journey. All trains will be socially distanced, filled with reduced capacity, and all employees will be wearing proper PPE during the ride. We ask that guests be prepared to wear a mask or facial covering, socially distance, and follow all safety signage and direction while on GSMR property. 

Details: The Polar Express departs from Bryson City from Nov. 6 through Dec. 31 on select days (see schedule for details). Tickets range from $42-$91 per passenger. 

45 Mitchell Street
Bryson City, NC 28713
Online: gsmr.com

Blue Ridge Scenic Express Santa Express

If you’re looking for a day trip out of the city, check out The Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad’s collection of antique trains that run between Blue Ridge and McCaysville, Georgia. The Santa Express is a short, one-hour daytime trip with Christmas stories, songs and characters—including Santa, of course, as the main event. Or, opt for the 4-hour Santa Pavillion trip, which takes riders to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Santa Pavillion. 

Covid Update: Train cars will have a limited capacity to 50% of the maximum occupancy per car, where possible, “social distancing” is encouraged throughout the property, hand sanitizing stations will be available for guest and employee use, signs, PA announcements, and staff instruction both onboard and while on BRSR property will provide reminders to guests and employees alike of the importance of “social distancing,” frequent hand washing, and mask-wearing. Cashless transactions are available and strongly encouraged throughout all purchasing locations, including the Gift Shop, frequent sanitizing of all public areas including commonly used surfaces in the Ticket Office/Gift Shop/Concession such as door handles, countertops, seating areas, and clear protective barriers are in place at all front-facing service counters – Ticket Office, Gift Shops, and Concessions Sales.

Details: The Santa Express runs from Nov. to Dec. on select dates, and the Santa Pavillion trip runs on Dec. 5, 12, and 19. Tickets are $52/adults, $35/kids under 13 and free for kids under 2 for the Santa Express, and $42-$59 for guests on the Santa Pavillion. 

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
241 Depot St.
Blue Ridge, Ga
Online: brscenic.com

SAM Shortline Candy Cane Express

A ride on this 1949 vintage train that runs from Georgia Veterans State Park to Archery, Georgia is well worth the 2 hour drive from Atlanta, especially if your holiday travel plans take you south. SAM offers multiple Christmas-themed trips, including the Mistletoe Express, Candy Cane Express and the North Pole Express. The Candy Cane express makes a stop at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site Museum, as well as Main Street in Plains, where peanut butter treats await. 

Covid Update: The train is not being sold to capacity in order to maintain staggered seating and prescribed social distancing. Seats and cars are assigned on the train to keep passengers a minimum of six feet apart. The commissary car is limited to six people, and protective barriers are in place in the commissary car to help protect everyone. The train and restrooms are cleaned regularly throughout the trip and during layovers. Masks are not required but are strongly encouraged.

Details: While prices vary by coach selection and package options, the standard fare for a ride on one of SAM’s holiday trains is $39.99/adult and $29.99/child. Each trip has its own timetable and dates of travel until Dec. 20. Check here for the schedule.

SAM Shortline Excursion Train
105 East 9th Ave.
Cordele, Ga
Online: samshortline.com

North Pole Limited

North Pole Limited train rides leave from Chattanooga on an imaginary journey to the North Pole. Along the way, you’ll be treated to refreshments and storytelling while you write your own personal letter to Santa. As the North Pole Limited train gently rolls down the rails, a number of lighted displays can be seen outside. Once the train pulls into the “North Pole,” Santa will greet the train and the car hosts will deliver your personal messages to Santa himself. Before leaving the Elves will deliver their famous North Pole hot chocolate for your journey back to Grand Junction.NOTE: Santa will NOT board the train due to COVID-19.

Covid Update: All foot traffic will be one-way; arrows and signage are posted along all pathways, and guests are asked to wear face masks while on the train. Hand Sanitizing stations are located throughout the property, on board trains, and where commonly used fixtures are handled. Staff will sanitize facilities throughout the day, and after each train ride, and social distancing reminders are posted throughout the property. All employees are wearing face masks and are screened at the beginning of each day, indoor exhibits remain closed, and walkup ticket sales will close 15 minutes prior to each departure. 

Details: Evening trains depart at 5:30 & 7:15 p.m. (see calendar for details), and are $35 for all ages.

4119 Cromwell Rd.
Chattanooga, Tn 37421
Online: tvrail.com

Stone Mountain

For little ones with a short attention span, the Stone Mountain Scenic Railway is the perfect opportunity to get a taste of the tracks before nap time. The five-mile, 40-minute trip takes a tour through the park and includes Christmas music, lights, and appearances by holiday characters. 

Covid Update: Guests are encouraged to purchase Attractions Passes in advance as daily capacity will be limited in order to provide safe outdoor entertainment and maintain social distancing guidelines. Masks are encouraged on all attractions.

Details: Trains depart throughout the day through Jan. 3. Visit during Stone Mountain Christmas, and take a peek inside Santa's office window, enjoy the lights, and watch Santa's nightly arrival by sleigh. Be sure to check the calendar for dates and hours of operation prior to your visit. From $31.95 per person.

Stone Mountain Park
1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd. 
Stone Mountain, Ga
Online: stonemountainpark.com

—Shelley Massey



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