I know it's not even Halloween yet. But judging from my email, many of you have Christmas on the mind.
And if a train ride with Santa is on your list this year, you need to start making plans now. Tickets are on sale now or will go on sale shortly for these very popular activities.
But first, before I list the region's Santa trains, there's some news. The N.C. Amtrak Santa Train has been canceled because of scheduling issues. The ride has run from Raleigh to Greensboro for about 15 years and often sold out by September. It featured a visit with Santa and more. But there's hope for next year.
"We hope to bring it back next year as the train schedule changes," said Joan Bagherpour, marketing and communications manager for North Carolina's Amtrak.
Here are the Santa trains that are scheduled for this year:
- The Museum of Life and Science's very popular Santa Train runs Nov. 30 to Dec. 4; Dec. 7 to 11; and Dec. 14 to Dec. 20. Tickets are $16 per rider for ages 3 and up. Kids under 3 ride for free in an adult lap. The event includes a ride on the Ellerbe Creek Railway, plus crafts, face painting, hot chocolate and more. This event can sell out fast. If you want to go, you need to buy tickets as soon as you are able. Tickets go on sale for supporting members at 9 a.m., Oct. 31; general members at midnight, Monday, Nov. 7; and the general public at midnight, Monday, Nov. 14. For details about the event and how to get tickets, click here. The museum also will have a holiday model train exhibit, which opens Nov. 5.
- Pullen Park, which will celebrate its grand opening after a massive renovation on Nov. 19, will hold its popular Holiday Express event. It's 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Dec. 8 to Dec. 11. Enjoy holiday lights and displays, a lighted train ride, local entertainment, a carousel ride, crafts, visit with Santa and more. Tickets are on sale now. Advanced tickets can be purchased online for $7 per person through Dec. 6. They can be purchased on the day of the event for $10 per person. Kids under 2 are free with a paying adult. This event has been very popular in past years and I suspect it will be really popular now since Pullen has been closed for so long. I recommend getting tickets in advance. Click here for more information and to buy tickets.
- New Hope Valley Railway's Santa Trains are Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 and Dec. 10 and Dec. 11 at the railway in southwestern Wake County. Rides on the diesel or steam engines start at 11 a.m. each day. Tickets, which are $10 for adults and $7 for kids 2 to 12, are on sale now. Click here for more information and to get tickets. Again, these rides are very popular. Advance ticket purchase is recommended, especially if you need to lock in a particular departure time.
- The N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer, about two hours from Raleigh, has a slew of Christmas-related rides which start in late November. Click here for details and tickets, which are on sale now.
- And if you're up for a weekend trip, the Great Smoky Mountains Railway in Bryson City has a Polar Express, which starts Nov. 4 and runs through Dec. 24. Tickets start at $39 for adults and $26 for children ages 2 to 12. Kids are encouraged to wear their pajamas. The ride recreates the classic story with a stop at the North Pole, a visit with Santa, hot chocolate, treats and more. Bryson City is about five hours from Raleigh. Click here for details. Tickets are on sale now.