The Polar Express Train Ride


Where is the North Carolina Transportation Museum?

The museum is located in Spencer, North Carolina off Interstate 85 (Exit 79) between Charlotte and Greensboro. 

The physical address is 411 S. Salisbury Avenue, Spencer, NC 28159.  

GPS Address: 1 Samuel Spencer Driver, Spencer, NC.

Are face masks required?

Given the continued threat of COVID-19 and variants of the virus, face masks are required for indoor areas of the N.C. Transportation Museum.

TSA currently requires proper wearing of face masks on the train and shuttles, per federal law. Failure to comply will result in denial of boarding or removal and may result in penalties under federal law. Children under the age of two and individuals with disabilities who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, because of the disability as defined by the Americans with Disability Act are exempt. 

The N.C. Transportation Museum requires guests to comply with COVID-19 protocols in effect at the time of the event. We will update requirements as they change.

When do THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride tickets go on sale?

Tickets go on sale:

  • June 30 at 9:00 a.m. EST for Lifetime, Family Platinum, and Family Premium level members 
  • July 1 at 9:00 a.m. EST for all N.C. Transportation Museum members.
  • July 2 at 9:00 a.m. EST for the general public 

Tickets can be purchased online through this website, or by calling (704) 469-5231.

Are there different classes of service?

Yes, there are different classes of service. Please note, whatever class you are in, the show is the same.  The difference between classes are the amenities and seating options.  

Standard: Passengers receive hot cocoa (served in a quality paper cup), a cookie, a silver sleigh bell, and a golden ticket.

Deluxe: Passengers receive hot cocoa served in a keepsake tumbler, a treat bag, a cookie, a silver sleigh bell, and a golden ticket.

First Class: Tables available in 2-top, 4-top, and very limited 6-top.  Passengers receive hot cocoa served in a keepsake ceramic mug, a treat bag, a cookie, a silver sleigh bell, and a golden ticket.

Parlor: 4-top tables. Passengers receive hot cocoa served in a keepsake ceramic mug, a treat bag, a cookie, a silver sleigh bell, a golden ticket, and a hard-bound copy of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express book signed by Santa Claus (one per table).

When are THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Rides times?

THE POLAR EXPRESS ™ Train Ride runs on selected late afternoons and evenings from Friday, November 12 through Thursday, December 23. Please check the N.C. Transportation Museum website for detailed information on performance times and different classes of service by using this link.

Train A has the following classes of service: 

  • Parlor (most exclusive class) 
  • First Class: Holly, Clarice and Comet 
  • Deluxe: Donner and Blitzen
  • Standard: Jingle 

Train B has the following classes of service: 

  • First Class: Cupid
  • Deluxe: Dasher and Rudolph 
  • Standard: Vixen, Prancer, Dancer and Peppermint



Guests are encouraged to arrive 45-minutes prior to the performance, allowing ample time for parking and to locate their respective boarding line. Guests may also arrive early for pictures with Santa in Candy Cane Lane near the Gift Station.

Where will I be seated?

All seating is assigned.  You will choose your seating on the train at the time of ticket purchase.  Please refer to the seating charts as to which way the seats face and keep this in mind, especially when buying for three or more people. 

The train car you selected will be listed on your tickets. You will use your printed confirmation as your ticket when you arrive on site or show the confirmation on your cell phone to our stewards. When you arrive at the Barber Junction Visitor Center, there will be queue lines set-up with the train car names. 

What can I expect?

THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride offers the unique experience of live theater and train ride all in one.  Our performances begin with the train’s arrival in the station at the Barber Junction Visitor Center.  After watching a short live production taken from Chris Van Allsburg’s book, The Polar Express, all guests are invited aboard the train.  During THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride, passengers are served hot cocoa and a cookie, delight in lively songs and dance, and enjoy a reading of the holiday classic, The Polar Express.  Upon arrival at the North Pole, passengers deboard to watch Santa present the first gift of Christmas.  After re-boarding the train at the North Pole, each passenger on the train receives a silver sleigh bell before exiting at Candy Cane Lane.  The entire journey takes place on the 60-acre grounds of the N.C. Transportation Museum and lasts approximately 70 minutes.

How long is THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride event?

THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride event, including two stage performances and the train ride, will last approximately 70 minutes and will take place entirely on the grounds of the N.C. Transportation Museum.

How do I purchase tickets (once they go on sale starting June 30 for members)?

Tickets can be purchased online at this link. If you need assistance with your purchase, please call (704) 469-5231. NC state sales tax and convenience fees are required for all tickets and will be added in the final step of your ticket purchase (but before you are charged).

How soon should I book tickets?

For best seating, we recommend you book your seats as soon as you are able to finalize your date. Certain departure times and cars sell-out quickly!

Do I have to buy a ticket for a child sitting in my lap?

One lap child, under the age of 2, per adult is allowed. They may ride for free provided they are not occupying a seat. Children ages 2 and up are counted as paying passengers and therefore a seat must be purchased for them. This includes Standard Coach, Deluxe Coach, First Class table seating, and Parlor Class table seating. A small child age 2 and up may be able to ride in a lap but a seat must be purchased for that child. The comfort and safety of all passengers, including other parties around you, may determine whether we allow a child age 2 or up to ride in a lap.

How many people can sit at a table, and can I add anyone if our party is larger?

Seating at tables in First Class and Parlor Class is limited to the number of seats shown at the table. Two-top tables (First Class Only) are limited to two passengers ages 2 and up. Four-top tables (First Class and Parlor Class) are limited to four passengers ages 2 and up. Six-top tables have sold out. One lap child, under the age of 2, per adult is allowed at each of these tables and may ride for free provided they are not occupying a seat. A child age 2 and up must be included in the seat count when ordering tickets. All seats at a table must be purchased, whether they are occupied or not. Additional seats cannot be added to tables and tables cannot be moved. Parties larger than the allowed number of seated passengers will need to purchase additional tables to accommodate other members of the party. The “Holly” and “Comet” cars on Train A have the most number of four-top and two-top table combinations, which are often used to accommodate parties of five. Tables across the aisle from each other or next to each other sell rapidly and availability is limited. We encourage purchasing as early as possible to ensure getting the tables that you need.

How do I receive my tickets after purchasing?

Our system offers “Print at Home” or “Mobile Ticket” options, which allow you to either print your tickets from your home printer or have them sent to your phone.  You will use your printed confirmation as your ticket when you arrive on site or show the confirmation on your cell phone to our stewards.

Does my ticket include museum admission?

Since this event is offered after the museum’s regular operating hours, museum admission is not included in THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride ticket purchase.  

You are welcome to visit the museum earlier in the day and tour the exhibits with the additional purchase of regular admission tickets. You may purchase tickets online or the day of your visit at the Barber Junction Visitor Center.   

Please note that the museum has shorted hours on days when THE POLAR EXPRESS Train Ride is offered. Museum Hours on Polar Express™ days: Tuesdays-Saturdays 9:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and Sundays 12:00-2:30 p.m. The regular train ride on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays runs at 1:00 p.m.

Members may visit the museum free of charge, but still need to check in at the Barber Junction Visitor Center to receive their wristband. 

Highlights of the museum’s exhibits include: 

  • Largest operational Roundhouse in the country, featuring an assortment of authentic locomotives and railcars
  • Aviation exhibits, including a life-size replica of the Wright Brothers Flyer
  • Bumper to Bumper exhibit, chronicling automotive history from horseless carriages through the 20th century. 
Do groups receive a discounted rate?

Groups purchasing 15 or more tickets, in one transaction, will receive a $3/ticket discount on Standard or Deluxe tickets.  

For group reservations, please call (704) 469-5231.

Is the train wheelchair accessible?

A limited number of seats are wheelchair accessible and our staff will assist those in wheelchairs with boarding.  Our wheelchair accessible rail cars feature a combination of traditional coach seats and spaces to accommodate a wheelchair, and a wheelchair lift.  This seating is ideal for wheelchair-bound passengers, as they can stay seated in their chair and not have to transfer to a seat. 

When making your ticket purchase please reserve Wheelchair Seating only for the members of your group who will actually be in a wheelchair and ADA and Companion Seating – Standard or Deluxe Coach for up to four members of the rest of your party.  We will ensure everyone is seated together. Limited wheelchair spaces are available only on Train A’s “Jingle” car (standard coach) and Train B’s “Dasher” car (deluxe coach.)  First Class, Parlor Class, and all other standard and deluxe coach cars are not wheelchair accessible and will require boarding and deboarding by climbing stairs and walking through rail cars to and from seating locations.

Please note that we cannot unload wheelchairs at the North Pole.  However, we will position the train in such a way to provide the best view of the North Pole performance as possible. 

IMPORTANT NOTES: Wheelchairs should not exceed 30” in width.  Some rail cars in use for this event are not wheelchair accessible due to the use of historic and antiquated rail passenger equipment, which is exempt from ADA regulations under US Code:  Title 42:  Section 12184.

TO RESERVE WHEELCHAIR AND COMPANION SEATS:  Please purchase by phone (not online) at (704) 469-5231.

Do you sell official Polar Express merchandise?

THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride features a variety of themed merchandise available for purchase when you buy your tickets. Your purchases will be available for pick-up at the Barber Junction Visitor Center before you board the train. 

Child’s Conductor Hat ($13.99 plus tax and fees)|
All aboard THE POLAR EXPRESS ™ Train Ride! This hat is a must-have for your little conductor!

The Polar Express Book ($20.00 plus tax and fees)
A Special Edition of Chris Van Allsburg’s holiday classic, The Polar Express, straight from the library of the North Pole and signed by Santa Claus himself!  Comes with an ornament and free audio download of the story, read by actor Liam Neeson.

Conductor’s Pocket Watch ($27.50 plus tax and fees)
Keep the train on time with this authentic working conductor’s pocket watch! The watch’s diameter is 1.75 inches/4.5 cm. and has a 12” chain attached. Battery included. 

Santa’s Reindeer ($12.00 plus tax and fees)
Take along one of Santa’s reindeer!  This 13-inch plush reindeer is sure to be a favorite with your child.  If pre-purchased, it comes with a collar to attach your commemorative bell received on THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride!

 Jingle Bell Display Frame ($17.99 plus tax and fees)
Cherish your Polar Express memories with this unique photo frame! It holds a 4×6 picture and has a special place to show off your commemorative bell from your ride on THE POLAR EXPRESS. 

Additional POLAR EXPRESS merchandise and an extensive selection of railroad and transportation related merchandise is available at the N.C. Transportation Museum’s Gift Station and through our online store. The Gift Station will be open throughout THE POLAR EXPRESS event.

Are there refunds or exchanges?
  • Refunds will be given for requests submitted up to 4 weeks prior to day of departure.  The ticket handling fee will not be refunded.
  • Exchanges will be given up to 4 weeks prior to day of departure.  Exchanges are subject to a $5 per seat exchange fee. (Table exchange fee will be $10 for a  2-person table, $20 for a 4-person table, or $30 for a 6-person table.) 
  • Exchanges are based on availability.
  • Only one exchange per ticket will be allowed.
  • No refunds or exchanges will be given for requests made less than 4 weeks prior to departure.
What if I go to the wrong railroad venue for my Polar Express ride?

See the answer to, “Are there refunds or exchanges?”

If you arrive with tickets for another venue, your tickets will NOT be honored at the N.C. Transportation Museum.

Please check the location carefully before purchasing. It is the sole responsibility of the purchaser to ensure the tickets are purchased for the correct location prior to completing the order. 

What are the appropriate ages for THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride?

THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is a family event that welcomes visitors of all ages.

Can I bring my dog or pet?

Animals are not allowed in visitor centers, museums or historic structures, unless the animal qualifies as a service animal under federal or State law. Therefore, only registered service animals are allowed on board the train.

Is the train heated?

Yes, all passenger cars are heated.

Can I take photos during the event?

Yes, you can take photos. There are several opportunities for photo-ops during the train ride and at Candy Cane Lane.  Cameras are certainly welcome. 

Professional pictures with Santa will be available in Candy Cane Lane before and after THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Rides. Carolina Portrait Designs will provide photography and several different photo packages.  You are under no obligation to purchase. During these photos, one guest is allowed to take pictures using a single device (phone or camera). 

Can we wear pajamas and bring our own copies of The Polar Express?

Of course, that’s part of the fun!  We encourage the whole family to dress in their warmest pajamas and bring their book to read along. Be sure to dress warmly enough to walk comfortably to and from your car, to wait for boarding, and to watch the two outdoor live performances. We suggest you wear closed-toe shoes with non-slick bottoms.  Please make sure you (and your little ones) are dressed appropriately for the weather.

Are there restrooms and diaper changing facilities?

Restrooms with changing stations are available adjacent to the Barber Junction Visitor Center and on the train. The restrooms are limited on the train and there are no facilities at the North Pole, so we highly suggest you use the restrooms before boarding.  

Are strollers allowed on the train?

Neither strollers nor car seats are allowed on the train; however, there will be a designated area for stroller parking. We advise leaving car seats in your vehicle. Please make sure that you keep all valuables with you.  

Please note that the train will load at the Barber Junction Visitor Center, but the ride will end at Candy Cane Lane, behind the Gift Station at the Master Mechanic’s Office.  Returning to the parking lot will require walking or you may ride our trolley shuttle.

Will food be available at the event?

Hot cocoa and a chocolate chip cookie are served onboard the train.  Additionally, food vendors may be available, schedule dependent, with kettle corn, snacks, hot dogs, hamburgers, and the like. Fire pits are set-up in multiple locations with s’more kits available for purchase. 

There are also a variety of restaurants in our local area, including Salisbury (3 miles south).  Check out the listing of area establishments by clicking here.

What if my child has food allergies?

We cannot ensure our special hot cocoa and cookies do not contain ingredients your family member may be allergic to.  Guests are welcome to bring their own snack options.  Please give this to your chef when you board the train. For a link to the cookie, hot cocoa, and whipped cream ingredients click here.  Please note that only First Class and Parlor will receive whipped cream on their hot cocoa.

What happens if weather conditions are bad?

Winter wind, rain and other adverse conditions are possible.  Please check weather conditions prior to your visit and dress accordingly.  Portions of the event will take place outside, so if it is raining, please bring appropriate rain gear. THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride will operate as scheduled unless noted on our website: www.nctransportationmuseum.org

How do I get to the N.C. Transportation Museum?

Your GPS will pick up 1 Samuel Spencer Drive Spencer, NC better than our physical address.

The N.C. Transportation Museum is located at 411 S. Salisbury Avenue, Spencer, NC, just a few minutes from I-85 in Spencer, N.C., within an hour’s drive from Charlotte, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem.  From I-85 take exit 79 and travel north along Andrews St. for 1.5 miles, to the second stoplight.  Turn left onto Hwy. 29 (Salisbury Avenue).  The museum entrance will be about 1/3 mile on your left.

From Statesville, take I-40 to I-77 South (Exit 152).  From I-77, take exit 49A (G. Bagnal Blvd.) which is Highway 70.  Travel Hwy. 70 for 23 miles to the West End Plaza in Salisbury.  Continue straight past West End Plaza, drive about 2.5 miles and you will pass Novant Health Rowan Medical Center on the right.  About 2 blocks beyond the Medical Center, turn right onto Clubhouse Drive (at the “To Main Street” sign).  Follow Clubhouse Drive, veering left at the curve. Clubhouse Drive becomes 11th Street. At the light, turn left onto Main Street and travel for 2 miles, passing through downtown Spencer.  You will pass downtown shops on the left, and the museum entrance will be on the right, just beyond 1st Street.  (Approximate drive time from Statesville: 45 minutes)

Is parking available on site?

The N.C. Transportation Museum has free on-site parking. Follow the entrance drive all the way up to the main lot near the Barber Junction Visitor Center. If the main lot is full, there is an overflow lot, which you will have passed on your way to the main lot. You may circle back and find a space there.  There is also parking in town, across the street from the museum.

Where can I stay overnight?

Information about lodging in Salisbury and Rowan County, as well as other area attractions, is available at www.visitsalisburync.com.  The Rowan County Convention & Visitor Bureau will also be happy to mail you a local Visitor Guide.  

Special packages are available providing free tickets or gift certificates for those who take advantage of lodging in Salisbury or Rowan County.  CLICK HERE for more information or call 800-332-2343.

What engine will be pulling THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride?

A diesel locomotive will pull each train.

Can I bring alcohol to the event?

The POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is a family friendly event.  NO alcohol is sold or allowed on the train.  Intoxicated passengers or those found possessing alcohol will be asked to leave the event with no refund.

What if the event is cancelled? Is ticket insurance available or will refunds be processed?

Ticket insurance is not offered as a part of the ticket purchasing process.  If the event is cancelled by the North Carolina Transportation Museum as a result of weather, health-related concerns including those related to COVID-19, equipment failure, or any other reason that would prevent it from operating, customers will be contacted regarding their options for refunds or rescheduling. 

What if the event is not cancelled, but we want to cancel our tickets?

For refund requests initiated by the customer, please see our printed refund and exchange policy associated with the event, which must be agreed to before completing an order through the ticketing system.