For our anniversary, I bought my wife an annual pass for the Great Smoky Mountains Railway. It’s a fun destination although it kills an entire Saturday when we go (two hours there, four and a half hour train ride, and two hours drive back).
The Nantahala Gorge Excursion takes you across Fontana Lake. The Fontana trestle bridge was featured in the Sandra Bullock movie, Forces of Nature. Great Smoky Mountain Railway was also featured in My Fellow Americans. If you take the Tuckasegee River excursion, you will pass by locations from Harrison Ford’s The Fugitive.
The annual pass is an amazing bargain. It is $99 and nets you Crown Class seating whenever you ride (not the cheap seats but also not first class) with FREE soft drinks/tea/coffee for the ride in a souvenir tumbler. With each annual pass, you also get two FREE tickets to bring friends. The pass more than pays for itself just with the FREE tickets. Normal price for a Crown Class ride is $66. The only drawback to the pass is that it is NOT good for Dinosaur Train, The Polar Express, and other specialty train rides.
On the train ride, there are plenty of fast food options including hot dogs and hamburgers. They also have musicians traveling through the cars. Both times we went, we heard music from The Freight Hoppers. When you finish back at the depot in Bryson City, don’t forget to stop at the Toy Train Museum (FREE with ticket stub).