Tweetsie Railroad: Top 5 Reasons To Visit

If you have kids and live within driving distance, Tweetsie Railroad is a must-visit attraction in North Carolina’s high country. As you drive by, it might not seem that impressive, but appearances can be deceiving.

In this case, the fact that Tweetsie Railroad is built on a mountainside makes it look small from the road. Just don’t let that fool you. Your kids will love it, and you will likely have a good time too.

Reasons To Visit Tweetsie Railroad

Tweetsie Railroad is a mainstay for those that grew up in North Carolina. Still, most of us Charlotte transplants hadn’t heard of it before moving to town. We were intrigued for years but only recently made the effort to take a trip.

Our only regret is that we waited so long. We should have visited years ago and can’t wait to return soon.

1. Ride A Historic Steam Locomotive

Tweetsie Railroad Steam Locomotive

The Tweetsie Railroad team owns two old steam locomotives which serve as the main attraction. The interactive train ride takes you through the North Carolina mountainside in a one-of-a-kind experience.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much more than a train ride when we visited; however, the ride is actually an interactive show. There are cowboys and an old-school sheriff. You might even get to help take the desperados up to Fort Boone.

My son was completely engaged throughout the entire experience, and we can’t wait to go back with his little sister. I will warn you that the train whistle and cap guns are surprisingly loud, so you might consider bringing ear coverings for the smallest kids.

Tweetsie Railroad operates two narrow-gauge steam locomotives. Engine No. 12 is nicknamed “Tweetsie,” and it is the park’s pride. It was constructed in 1917 and is the last surviving steam engine from East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (ET&WNC). That’s a mouthful. At the time, locals referred to ET&WNC as “Every Time & With No Complaint” as a nod to the railroad’s reliability.

Engine No. 190 was built in 1943 and is known as the “Yukon Queen” in reference to the locomotive’s original home as part of Alaska’s White Pass & Yukon Railway. Today, the Yukon Queen adds reliability to Tweetsie Railroad’s operation.

2. Chair Lift, Ferris Wheel, & Rides For All Ages

Chair Lift to Miners Mountain

While riding a train through the mountains and experiencing the “Wild West” is fun, the train ride doesn’t last all that long. You can ride multiple times, but it would be hard to justify a trip from out of town without additional activities.

Tweetsie Railroad has expanded over the years and now features rides and attractions across a three-tiered set-up on the side of a mountain. The first tier features access to the train and various shops and food stalls. The second tier features a small food hall, and carnival-type rides, while the third tier features a gem mine and more rides for kids.

It is quite a steep hike from the lower tier to the top tier. The park runs a transit bus to the top, but we recommend getting to the top on the Chair Lift. Sure, it’s designed for transportation, but riding as you rise about the trees and see into the distance is still fun.

There is more to do than you might expect, and there is something for all ages. The various rides include:

  • Carousel
  • Chair Lift to Miner’s Mountain
  • Ferris Wheel
  • Tilt-A-Whirl
  • Planes & Helicopters
  • Round-Up
  • Free Fall
  • Tornado
  • Turnpike Cruisers
  • Mouse Mine Ride
  • Tweetsie Twister

There are a few other rides, too, but this is a good list to start with. Each ride features its own height and age restrictions, so we recommend checking those out before making the trip.

Tweetsie Railroad offers hours (days even) of fun. It is much more than just a train ride; it is worth checking out.

3. Special Holiday Events

Carnival Rides

Tweetsie Railroad is also a popular holiday destination. The most popular time to visit is during Tweetsie Christmas. The locomotive and surrounding Tweetsie village shine brightly under countless Christmas lights. It’s as festive as festive gets.

In addition to the Christmas-themed train ride, you can also meet Santa Claus at Santa’s Gingerbread House. Then stop by the theater to watch live Christmas shows. It’s a winter wonderland experience that will be the source of great memories for years to come.

If you can’t visit at Christmas time, you might also consider stopping by to ride the Ghost Train during the Halloween season. October might be the perfect time of year to visit North Carolina’s mountains. The Ghost Train is just one more reason to make the trip.

The Halloween event features trick-or-treat opportunities, costumes, decorations, music, and a fully spooktacular experience. Don’t change your plans if you’re not interested in the Halloween ride. The Ghost Train only runs at night. During the day, the normal Wild West-themed train ride is still available.

4. Affordable Family Fun

Kids Rides at Tweetsie Railroad in North Carolina

Sure, the food is overpriced, but the overall cost is nothing compared to larger resorts like Disney. Plus, Tweetsie Railroad is right in our backyard. The park is also within a few hours’ drive for most people in the largest North Carolina cities, so you won’t necessarily need to get a hotel.

Family activities get very expensive quickly, but Tweetsie Railroad is a great value overall. Honestly, the steam locomotive is worth the price of admission. The shows, shops, chair lifts, and carnival-type rides are all icing on top.

There is enough to do that you can spend all day at the park if you want to do so, but it isn’t so expensive that you will feel guilty leaving when everyone gets tired. We live in a day in and age where everything is more expensive than it used to be. Still, Tweetsie lands right in that sweet spot of value.

It’s not so cheap that it undercuts the experience, but it isn’t cost-prohibitive either. You will likely still be able to check out other high-country attractions while you are in the area. For Those that live near Boone and Blowing Rock, you might consider an annual pass, which is an even better value.

5. Near Blowing Rock and Boone, North Carolina

App State Football Stadium in Boone

The high country is full of nearby activities, from skiing and snow tubing to an alpine roller coaster. Naturally, there are fantastic hiking trails nearby too. The Moses Cone Manor and accompanying carriage trails offer an incredibly picturesque setting.

And everything is within 30 minutes or so of Tweetsie Railroad.

While Blowing Rock and Boone, North Carolina, are only a few miles apart, they are very different towns. Blowing Rock is a small tourist town with cute shops and walkable streets. Boone is a college town serving as home to Appalachian State.

Boone is the larger of the two towns and is the anchor for all the high country. In other words, you might rent a short-term rental in Blowing Rock, but you will likely find your way down to Boone to go to the grocery store and less-touristy restaurants.

And even though the two towns are very different, you really need to think of the high country as one collective region. There is a ton to do in the area, but not much of it is actually in Boone or Blowing Rock.

Tweetsie Railroad sits about halfway between the two towns and isn’t far from the many other attractions. Visit Hawksnest for the largest snow tubing park on the East Coast. Then, not far from Hawksnest, the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster is quite a fun experience.

The Moses Cone Manor is also worth visiting to hike on the beautiful carriage trails.

More About Tweetsie Railroad

We haven’t even mentioned yet that there is a Deer Park Zoo. You might initially visit because of the train, but the steam locomotive is just the start. There is a little something for everyone, with live entertainment, rides, dining, shops, and more.

Wild West Live Entertainment (Saloon) - Tweetsie Railroad

How Long Does It Take To Go Through Tweetsie Railroad?

We spent about 4 hours at Tweetsie Railroad, which worked out well with a younger child. You should be able to do everything you want (and more) in about 6 hours. You can stay all day at Tweetsie, but we recommend finishing in time to grab dinner in nearby Boone or Blowing Rock.

There are plenty of food options on-site, but they are expensive and, if we are being honest, not great. Surprisingly, guests are allowed to bring food inside the park. Check to make sure they haven’t changed that rule before you visit, but it is worth keeping in mind.

We made a purposely quick trip to Tweetsie to visit the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster on the same day. It was a fantastic day for us and allowed my little guy time to take a nap on the car ride between the two destinations. You may prefer to go slow and enjoy Tweetsie. If so, there is plenty to do to keep you busy.

Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster

How Long Is The Train Ride at Tweetsie Railroad?

The train ride is only about 20 minutes long, but it is tons of fun, so you might want to ride multiple times. They allow a few minutes in between rides for passengers to unload and new passengers to hop on, so a new ride starts every 40 or 45 minutes.

The train ride would actually be faster if it weren’t for the Wild West show. After leaving the main park and entering the forest, you will stop at small clearing where desperados have a run in with the law at the local saloon. Naturally, the Marshall then takes the outlaws up to Fort Boone.

The acting isn’t on par with what you might see at Disney or a larger theme park, but it is still loads of fun. My son was enthralled with the whole experience.

Loud Tain Whistle

Why Is It Called Tweetsie Railroad?

The shrill of the train whistle echos through the mountaintops with a “tweet” like sound. When the railroad was an operational part of the ET&WNC system, the locals fondly referred to the train as Tweetsie in reference to the echoing whistle. The name stuck, and today the park bears the name Tweetsie Railroad.

In all seriousness, the train whistle is louder than you might expect. Still, the whistle and coal-powered smoke add to the authenticity of the experience.

What City Is Tweetsie Railroad In?

The address for the park is 300 Tweetsie Railroad Ln, Blowing Rock, NC. While the park bears a Blowing Rock address, it sits about halfway across a state highway that connects Blowing Rock to Boone.

Visiting Tweetsie Railroad is one of the best day trips from Charlotte, especially if you have kids. If you don’t live within a day’s driving distance, stay in nearby Boone or Blowing Rock and enjoy all that the high country has to offer.

Is Tweetsie Railroad Just For Kids?

Tweetsie Railroad might have the most to offer for kids, but all ages are welcome and bound to have a good time. While I went to the park to spend time with my son, I thoroughly enjoyed the train ride, the chair lift, and the overall experience.

There is no reason to feel out of place if you visit without kids. It would actually be a fun, low-key date spot.

Gem Mine on Miners Mountain

Discounts for Tweetsie Railroad (AAA & More)

The park offers discounts for AAA members, active military members, and North Carolina state employees. Discounts are available for normal admission tickets. Unfortunately, discounts are not available for special events, such as the Ghost Train and Tweetsie Christmas. You must purchase discounted tickets in person with a valid ID.

We are all for saving as much money as you can. Doing so will enable you to have even more fun in the high country. Visit Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, Hawksnest Snow Tubing, or at least enjoy a good meal when you leave Tweetsie.

Hotels Near Tweetsie Railraod

Most of the hotels near Tweetsie Railroad are in Boone, North Carolina. Of course, you will find short-term rentals, like those featured on Airbnb and VRBO, all throughout the mountains. While short-term rentals are all the rage, we still enjoy a nice, well-maintained hotel room for short stays.

On the other hand, we enjoy Airbnbs or VRBOs when we have pets or are traveling with family. You might also check out the Lovill House Inn, which is a bed and breakfast in Boone.

Train Ride At Tweetsie Railroad

Is Tweetsie Railroad Worth Visiting?

Tweetsie Railroad is worth making the effort to visit. The unique amusement park features everything kids love. The steam locomotive is captivating, the chair lift is both functional and fun, and the other rides will keep you busy all day.

And the great thing is that Tweetsie Railroad is close to Boone, Blowing Rock, and all that North Carolina’s high country has to offer. You can spend an entire day at Tweetsie or the afternoon hiking, snow tubing, or riding an alpine coaster.

Tweetsie Railroad is the type of place where you make long-lasting family memories, and that alone is enough reason for you to plan a trip soon.

Jeremiah moved to the Charlotte area with his wife, Erin, back in 2013. The family has grown over the years, and they now call the Carolinas home. They enjoy hiking and adventures, road trips, backyard fire pits, and pizza night. Jeremiah loves to explore, and looks forward to sharing tips, tricks, and resources for your next trip.