The Magic of the Polar Express


Do you believe in magic? When you were little you probably did, especially when it came to the story of Santa and the North Pole. You may have grown up reading another Christmas classic, filled with the magic of the season—a popular book for children called The Polar Express.


Thirty-two years ago, Chris Van Allsburg wrote and illustrated The Polar Express, which tells the story of a young boy listening for the sound of Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. Instead, he hears a very different sound—a train whistle—and discovers that a train is waiting to take him to the North Pole. He gets on board and finds the train filled with Christmas treats and lots of other children, all dressed in their pajamas.


When they reach the North Pole, Santa asks the boy what he wants for Christmas. He chooses a bell from Santa’s reindeer’s harness. Santa grants his wish, but later the boy discovers the bell has fallen from his pocket and is gone. On Christmas morning there is a special gift for him under the tree; his Christmas bell, delivered from Santa. When he rings the bell, he and his sister can hear it, but his parents cannot. The book ends with the line, “Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”


The Polar Express and the Fryemont Inn

Every year the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which is in the heart of Bryson City, (about a 2-minute drive from the Fryemont Inn), recreates the magic of that story. The train is decorated for Christmas, the staff become actors in the story, and the tiny town of Whittier, NC, is transformed into the North Pole. Children and even some adults board the train in Bryson City wearing their PJs and are welcomed aboard with hot chocolate and Christmas treats. The story is told as the train heads to the North Pole, and when it arrives, Santa and his elves board and give a Christmas bell to each child. On the way home, carols are sung by all.


For the most magical experience on The Polar Express, we recommend an after-dark trip. And when it comes time to rest your heads for the night, our fireplace suites and cabin offer the perfect accommodations for your family. Although the historic lodge and dining room are closed, our fireplace suites and cabin are open in December. All the suites have king beds for Mom and Dad, and some have sofa beds for the kids. The cabin has two bedrooms, with a queen bed in each. You can reserve accommodations at the Fryemont Inn at For more information about the Polar Express, and to purchase tickets, visit



Francis, Charlotte, Betsy and Davis

Ready to ride the Polar Express!