[Updated 12/2/2022] One of the most popular Western NC Christmas events, Tweetsie Railroad Christmas is a must-see for residents and holiday visitors who spend Christmas in Blowing Rock.
Tweetsie Railroad history dates back to 1866, when the Tennessee legislature granted the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad company permission to construct a railroad stretching from Johnson City TN to mining operations in Cranberry NC.
The line extended passenger service into Boone NC in 1919, and the train was nicknamed “Tweetsie” due to the sound of its shrill whistle echoing through the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Modern roads and autos brought the demise of railroads to these North Carolina mountains.
Locomotive No. 12– a.k.a. Tweetsie– was the only one of the original Boone trains not sold for scrap after the ET&WNC Railroad closed up shop in 1950.
Blowing Rock legend Grover Robbins Jr. (who also developed the Beech Mountain ski resort) bought the train from film icon Gene Autry six years later.
And in 1957 Tweetsie returned home to North Carolina, where a 3-mile train loop was constructed.
Once a few other historic trains were added, Tweetsie Railroad became North Carolina’s first theme park, with an authentic western town built up around the station.
Today the Wild West theme park offers live shows, amusement rides, the Deer Park Zoo, a gem mine, and numerous annual events.
Tweetsie Christmas is easily our favorite, so we’ve created this in-depth guide to all the attractions this joyous holiday event has to offer.
Read on for info on Tweetsie Railroad prices, hours, dates, directions, and the best things to do during your visit!
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Tweetsie Railroad Christmas Info
ADDRESS: 300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane, Blowing Rock NC 28605
TWEETSIE RAILROAD CHRISTMAS HOURS & DATES: Christmas at Tweetsie runs November 25-27 30; December 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 20-23 & 26-30. Tweetsie Railroad Hours are from 5:00 to 10:00PM.
PARKING AT TWEETSIE: There is no fee for parking at Tweetsie Railroad, and the lot has plenty of space even for the busiest of nights.
TWEETSIE RAILROAD CHRISTMAS TICKETS: Adults $52; Children ages 3-12, $35; Kids ages 2 and under free. Note that all Tweetsie Christmas tickets are for a specific date and train ride time. Advance Tweetsie railroad tickets are required: make reservations at the official Tweetsie website linked above.
HOTELS NEAR TWEETSIE RAILROAD
Meadowbrook Inn – Upscale downtown Blowing Rock Inn with 62 individually decorated rooms & cozy lobby fireplace.
Bob Timberlake Inn at Chetola Resort – elegant Bed & Breakfast located in Chetola’s Manor House Estate Home.
TownePlace Suites Boone – Marriot-affiliated, pet-friendly modern suites with full kitchen and free breakfast buffet.
Holiday Inn Express Boone, an IHG Hotel – Clean, comfortable Boone Hotel, with a complimentary buffet breakfast.
Sleep Inn Boone University Area – Affordable Choice Hotel with complimentary breakfast buffet.
DIRECTIONS TO TWEETSIE RAILROAD
From downtown Blowing Rock, head northeast on Main St toward Hill St, then take a left onto US-321 N/Valley Blvd. Follow US-321 N for 3.1 miles, then turn left onto Tweetsie Railroad Ln. The total distance is approximately 3.9 miles.
From downtown Boone NC, head south on Hardin St for 0.3 miles, where it turns into US-321 S/Blowing Rock Rd. Follow US-321 S for 3.9 miles, then turn right onto Tweetsie Railroad Ln. The total distance is approximately 4.4 miles.
From Banner Elk NC, head south on Shawneehaw Ave S for 2.8 miles, where it turns into NC-184 S. In 1.4 miles, turn left onto NC-105 N and follow it for 12.6 miles. Turn right onto Wilson Dr, then a quick right onto Winklers Creek Rd, which turns into Greenway Rd in 0.2 miles.
Make a slight left at 0.4 miles to stay on Greenway, then turn right onto Meadowview Dr in 0.7 miles. Turn right onto US-221 S/US-321 S/Blowing Rock Rd and follow it for 2.1 miles, then turn right onto Tweetsie Railroad Ln. Total distance is 20.6 miles.
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Tweetsie Railroad Christmas Attractions
1. Tweetsie Railroad Rides
As the shining crown jewel of Tweetsie Railroad, a visit to the Blowing Rock park isn’t complete without taking a ride on the century-old narrow gauge steam locomotive No. 12!
This classic North Carolina train was built in 1917 for the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railway.
The engine once hauled passengers and freight trains alike on a 66-mile line running from Johnson City TN over the Appalachian Mountains to Boone NC.
Today, the 20-minute Tweetsie train ride will take you through a dazzling display consisting of thousands of Christmas lights and scenic Blue Ridge Mountains vistas, all over the course of 3 miles.
Along the way, the open-air cars of the theme park train are filled with classic holiday sing-alongs sure to put you in the Christmas spirit!
Make sure you bundle up for those early winter Western NC nights, as the journey can really get frigid.
It’s a great excuse to get close to loved ones and give the crowds a friendly wave as the Tweetsie train enters and exits the station.
The Christmas train ride is a fun-filled experience that’s perfect for all ages. But we strongly encourage you to purchase your Tweetsie Railroad Christmas tickets far in advance, as they often sell out.
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2. Santa’s Gingerbread House
Just a short two-minute stroll from Main Street, you’ll find Santa’s Gingerbread House, where the jolly ol’ elf himself greets visitors and poses for pictures.
Filled with joyous Christmas lights, countless Christmas trees, and enough space for even the largest of gingerbread men, Santa’s house is truly a sight to behold.
As you wind your way through the entrance, guided by helpful elves, the air is filled with Christmas cheer and a buzz of excitement for the chance to meet Mr & Mrs Claus in the flesh.
When it’s your family’s turn, make sure the kids get a chance to tell Santa Claus their holiday wishes before the photo ops begin.
Also, note that Santa’s Gingerbread House can get crowded at times, so we recommend visiting early on your Tweetsie Christmas evening in order to avoid long lines.
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3. Live Christmas Shows
In the mood for a hearty laugh and some infectious holiday cheer?
If you love classic song-and-dance numbers, attending one of the live Christmas shows at Tweetsie Palace has to be on your to-do list during your visit to the park.
Featuring light-hearted music, belly laugh-inducing skits, and even “The Twelve Days of Christmas” brought to life, we found the live Tweetsie Christmas shows to be the perfect way to rest your legs and escape the frigid cold for a bit.
We also recommend grabbing yourself a cup of hot chocolate and some popcorn at the counter to add to your viewing pleasure.
The shows run nightly at 5:45, 6:30, 7:15, 8:00 and 8:45 PM, and no tickets are needed. On busy nights, we do recommend finding seats a few minutes early, as the room can fill up quickly.
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4. Classic Amusement Rides
After taking time to meet Santa and enjoy a live show, we found ourselves ready to head outside and enjoy some classic amusement rides.
Tweetsie Railroad features four classic rides that have stood the test of time, including The Little Drummer Boy (a Tweetsie Christmas exclusive), Bikes & Buggies, F-80s, and the Himalaya.
During our visit, we had an absolute blast spinning around on these rides. Each one is unique in its own way, but The Little Drummer Boy teacup ride was our absolute favorite.
If you try it, make sure you’re ready to get really dizzy, and perhaps wait a while if you’ve had a big meal.
As we said about the amusement park train, it can get cold quickly on these rides, so be sure to bundle up in layers in order to stay warm!
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5. Tweetsie Christmas Memory Makers
While the Christmas lights, rides, and shows are amazing, there are also plenty of other memory-making opportunities during your time at Tweetsie Railroad’s Christmas celebration.
If you find yourself hankering for some tasty treats, there are multiple large fire pit areas, and more than enough marshmallows to satisfy even the most devoted S’mores fans.
On your way to and from each attraction, you’ll also encounter towering Christmas trees that are perfect for photo ops, a petting zoo with some gentle fuzzy animal friends.
We loved the larger-than-life walking gingerbread man, who was paired with his baker (naturally).
But no matter where decide to go in the park, you’re bound to find something worth remembering!
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6. Tweetsie Railroad Souvenirs & Shops
If you’d like to take something home with you to remember the night, or perhaps do some Christmas shopping for family and friends, there are plenty of opportunities throughout the park.
Inside the General Store you’ll find a wide variety of gifts, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, toys, jewelry, and other Tweetsie Railroad souvenirs for the whole family.
If you’re looking for something a little more personal, go see “Stan the Sign Man” at the Sign & Glass Shop.
Stan can create a custom-carved wood sign for you and your family, and he also offers a unique selection of glassware that can be engraved on-site.
If you still haven’t found the perfect holiday gift, stop by the Happy Trails Toy Shop and Western Mercantile for more options. –text & photos by Dawson Tozier, with additional reporting by Bret Love