We just got back from our trip to North Carolina and I’m both relaxed and exhausted at the same time. Funny how a family trip can do that do you!
The original purpose of the trip was to take a ride on the Polar Express. I’ve been dreaming of doing this since I discovered it a couple of years ago! It was part of our Christmas gift from my in laws and we are so grateful to them for spoiling us!
We left our house an hour early, however we did stop for gas and to grab a quick bite to eat. Turns out an hour wasn’t enough! We got caught up in traffic on the Blue Ridge Expressway and didn’t pull in until 5:20. Our train took off at 5! We used the Waze app and were able to get there at 5:20 but my in laws are still using their old GPS and didn’t get there until about 6pm. Seriously, if you don’t have Waze, you need it!
We are huge extended rear facing advocates, but we turned Leopold around for this trip. The drive was about four hours (without the ridiculous traffic) and we wanted him to enjoy it and get to watch DVDs. It worked out so beautifully and I’m struggling with turning him back now. It’s legal…he’s two…and this is so much easier!
I ran into the ticket office and they said we could get on the 6:35 train but we would have to downgrade from middle class to the lowest class which was open seating. My husband said “let’s just try again next year”. However, we were already there and had promised Leopold a train ride so we decided to take the bump. They kindly gave us store credit for the monetary difference and we snagged a sweet Polar Express fleece blanket.
It was chilly when we got there (around 50 degrees or so) and easily went down 20 more degrees by the time we got off. Glad we had his jacket and our new blanket!
Now, I don’t know any different because this was my first year (probably a good thing). The lower class really wasn’t all that bad! We were on one of the last cars and didn’t have an issue sitting all together in a cluster of four seats that faced each other. Sure, our knees were touching but it wasn’t bad!
We still got the experience! The users sang and danced, we listened to the story and read the book, and on the way there they served us hot chocolate and cookies. My mother in law knew we had wanted the souvenir mugs they give you in First Class so she had pre-ordered us our very own mugs from Amazon that she gave us the next day. That’s thinking ahead!
After about 35 minutes of riding through the mountains, we slowed down at the North Pole and passed Santa waving at us in his sleigh. I had expected to be getting out here but it makes sense why we didn’t.
Once the train started moving back toward the station, we got a visit from Santa! He came through and took photos with everyone and gave each of us a silver bell engraved with “The Polar Express Train Ride, 2017”. The whole way back we sang Christmas carols!
Santa gave Leopold a silver bell (and his elves gave all of us our own too) and Leopold was really taken with it the rest of the train ride!
Leopold wore the cutest polar bear pajamas from Target 🙂
The town the train took off from was adorable and I wish we had gotten there a couple hours earlier! I would’ve loved to look around the shops and maybe eat dinner there. Maybe next time! They had a big gift shop with a train museum that we were able to look around in too. There was also a tent with Santa Claus if you wanted some more photos. Those ended up costing around 30$ and no one told us this until after we got the photo! We dipped out of there pretty quick but it was good practice! The next time he sat on Santa’s lap he was a little more comfortable with the experience. Plus, we got lots of good photos for only 5$!
If you have never taken the Polar Express I highly recommend it!
You can order tickets on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad website. I would order well before the holiday season so they don’t get sold out! This same train also has a Peanuts themed pumpkin patch ride in October if that is more your style.