Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum in Downtown

Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum in Downtown Bryson City.Photo by Brandon Montgomery


Experience a true holiday wonderland in Bryson City, North Carolina. THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride comes to life as the train departs the Bryson City depot for a journey through the quiet wilderness for a special visit at the North Pole. Thousands of twinkling lights come to life on the downtown streets of this enchanting mountain town. Holiday hayrides, a Christmas Parade, Letters to Santa, Christmas Caroling, and a whole lot more await you in Bryson City!



The 1¼ hour round-trip passenger excursion comes to life as the train departs the Bryson City depot for a journey through the quiet wilderness for a special visit at the North Pole. Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, guests on board will enjoy warm cocoa and a treat while listening and reading along with the magical story. Children’s faces show the magic of the season when the train arrives at the North Pole to find Santa Claus waiting. Santa will board THE POLAR EXPRESS™, greeting each child and presenting them with a special gift as in the story, their own silver sleigh bell. Christmas carols will be sung as they return back to the Bryson City Depot. Tickets and information.


Letters to Santa

Letters to Santa


Write your letter to Santa and mail it at the Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum. All materials provided. Safety procedures include sanitization of pencils and writing tables. Complimentary. Letters to Santa runs from November 12th through Christmas Eve. Hours are Monday-Saturday 9-5 and Sundays 10-4.


Hot Cocoa and Cookies

Hot Cocoa and Cookies


Complimentary cocoa and cookies are available at the Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum from November 12 - January 2. Cookies and hot cocoa will be "to go," and self-serve, and have been pre-packaged. Cookies and Hot Cocoa runs through January 2, 2022.Hours are Monday-Saturday 9-5 and Sundays 10-4.


Holiday Market

Holiday Market

Local artisans and crafters will be selling their wares for your holiday shopping. Location: Aquarium Park, 117 Island Street in downtown Bryson City, in the old barn.

When: 17th & 18th, from 10:00 am - 3:00 pm.


Christmas Wonderland Hayride

Christmas Wonderland Hayride


Visit Darnell Farms for an outdoor hayride through a majestic Christmas light forest, the lit reindeer barn. Amazing Christmas photo ops, farm playground, as well as their fruit stand full of Christmas gifts to bring back the taste of the mountain. Hayrides through the lights (approximately 20 min) is $12 per person and includes your choice of hot coffee, hot cocoa, hot apple cider or a bottled water. Under two years of age are free to ride as a lap rider only, but no hot drink will be provided. Limited Seating available; reservations are given priority with limited walk-ins. Order tickets at www.darnellfarms.com and click on "Book Hayride".

Location: Darnell Farms, 2300 Governors Island Rd, Bryson City, NC

Dates: December 1st - 4th, 8th - 11th, and 15th-18th, 2021.

Time: 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm.


Escape to a Cozy Cabin this Winter


Cozy Cabin

A cozy cabin rental in the Smoky Mountains is an idyllic place for you to unwind and relax for a quick weekend trip or a more extended week-long vacation. They look great on the ‘gram and have plenty of amenities to make sure you have an extra special retreat. Cabins with hot tubs and fireplaces or fire pits are especially popular in the winter months.


Take an Easy Family-Friendly Waterfall Hike


Waterfall Hike

The Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just outside of downtown Bryson City. During the summer, this area is bustling with creek tubing, picnicking, biking, and hiking. But during the winter, it is the trail less traveled; a quieter respite that leads you to 3 tranquil waterfalls: Tom Branch Falls, Juneywhank Falls, and Indian Creek Falls.


Museum Scavenger Hunt

Swain County Heritage Museum

Visit the Swain County Heritage Museum for a Scavenger Hunt for the whole family! Explore the history of Bryson City and Swain County including life size replicas. Ask about the scavenger hunt at the first floor visitor center. Not only will you learn more about our county heritage and its people, but there is a prize for finding every item on the scavenger hunt list! Complimentary. Hours are Monday-Saturday 9-5 and Sundays 10-4. Featured displays include:

  • One Room School

  • Restored log cabin

  • 1887 church organ

  • Children's activity

  • Video room, featuring a 15-minute film about Swain County history

  • Picture room, featuring photos of the North Shore area of Fontana Lake.

  • Quilts

  • Military

  • Memorabilia and tools from early settlers in Swain County

Appalachian Rivers Aquarium

Appalachian Rivers Aquarium

Bryson City's newest attraction is the Appalachian Rivers Aquarium! Observe fish species native to the region. Explore regional species of non-game and game fish among its fourteen tanks, two terrariums and a hellbender exhibit to showcase the variety of amphibians and reptiles in the Southern Appalachians. Complimentary. Hours are Thursday through Saturday from 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM. Location: 117 Island Street in downtown Bryson City.


Live Music

Live Music

During the Christmas season, you can enjoy the sounds of authentic mountain music at two venues downtown: Mountain Layers Brewing and Unplugged Pub. Check their Facebook Pages for current music schedule. Pictured above are local musicians, Frank and Allie Lee.