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Guide To Tweetsie Railroad Amusement Park

May 24, 2014 8:00 AM

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Photo courtesy of tweetsie.com

Photo courtesy of tweetsie.com

Located about 95 miles north of Charlotte between the mountain communities of Blowing Rock and Boone, the Tweetsie Railroad amusement park is a favorite destination for families, especially those with young children, to spend a fun day. Featuring an historic steam engine, Tweetsie first opened in 1957, and has attracted generations of North Carolinians, with many early fans now bringing their grandchildren to experience the fun. The heart of the Tweetsie experience is a Wild West show, complete with bandits and lawmen, that takes place aboard a train drawn by an authentic coal-burning steam engine. Other attractions include live shows, carnival rides and a mountain-top petting zoo.
Tweetsie Railroad Wild West Theme Park
300 Tweetsie Railroad Road
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
(828) 264-9061
www.tweetsie.com
General Information

Tweetsie is open seven days a week from late May through mid-August, and weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) during spring and fall, plus Memorial Day and Labor Day Mondays. Hours are generally 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with later hours on select summer weekends and during the Ghost Train Halloween Festival. Check the website for the current operating schedule.

Regular admission tickets are $39 dollars for ages 13 and up, $26 for children three to 12 and free for toddlers two and under. All rides and shows are included. Special tickets are required for Thomas the Tank days and the Ghost Train. Season passes are available. You can buy tickets online at tweetsie.com or by calling toll-free 877-TWEETSIE (877-893-3874). Parking is free.

When you enter Tweetsie after 3 p.m., you can come back the next day for a full day of fun, so keep your ticket stubs (some restrictions apply). Numerous lodging options are available nearby in Blowing Rock and Boone.

The Tweetsie theme park is located on US 321, about an hour and a half north of Charlotte, via I-85 S to US 321 N.

Related: A Guide To The Riverbanks Zoo And Garden

Tweetsie History

Old Engine No. 12, the “Tweetsie,” is the only remaining locomotive from the narrow-gauge rail line that once provided passenger and freight service between Johnson City, Tennessee and Boone, North Carolina. From 1919 to 1940, local residents learned to love the shrill “tweet” of the engine as it made its way through the mountains and coined the nickname “Tweetsie.” After heavy rains washed out the tracks, the engines were sold off, but in 1957, a local entrepreneur brought the Tweetsie back and established a park where folks could take a ride.

Today the train travels three miles of tracks circling Miners Mountain. The 1917 No. 12, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been joined by a second coal-fired steam engine, No. 190, built in 1943, which saw service in Alaska. Tweetsie Railroad’s steam engine repair shop is renowned and has restored and repaired many steam locomotives from around the world. The annual Railroad Heritage Weekend in September brings steam train enthusiasts from around the world to the Carolina mountains.

Shows And Activities

The Tweetsie theme park packs lots of fun into its 30 developed acres, making for a compact experience that is easy on young legs and old. A wild west town sits near the entrance gate, with numerous dining and shopping options, plus the Palace Saloon, where Diamond Lil’s Can-Can Revue performs several times each day. Tweetsie’s Country Clogging Jamboree, featuring the world famous Tweetsie cloggers, takes place at the nearby Pavilion Theater.

A short distance away, the Country Fair area features carnival-style rides and arcade games. From here, you can ride a chairlift to the top of Miner’s Mountain, or if you prefer, catch a bus or take the scenic walking path.

Another complex of attractions occupies the top of the mountain, including more rides, refreshment stands and the Miner’s Mountain Theater offering puppet and magic shows. You can pan for gold for free, or pay a small fee for a bucket of gemstone ore. The Deer Park Zoo offers up-close views of an interesting collection of kid-sized animals, including European fallow deer, African pygmy goats, emus, llamas, pot bellied pigs and miniature horses.

If your visit coincides with a summer weekend, don’t miss the special Sunset Show at the Palace Saloon featuring all of the performers from every Tweetsie show. It takes place after the final train ride of the day Friday through Sunday.

Related: Best Zoo And Aquarium Events In Charlotte

Rides

The rides at Tweetsie are all classics, providing kid-size thrills. Many Carolina kids take their first Ferris wheel ride at Tweetsie. Other kid-friendly rides in the Country Fair area include a carousel, tilt-a-whirl and Turnpike Cruisers that you drive around a track. For older kids, the Free Fall, Round Up and Tornado rides provide a more thrilling experience.

More rides suitable for youngsters can be found at the top of the mountain, including boats and retro jet planes, the Tweetsie Twister and the Mouse Mine Train, featuring an animatronic show inside of a tunnel.

Special Events

Numerous events crowd the Tweetsie calendar, including concerts and weekend visits from SpongeBob SquarePants, Scooby-Doo, Thomas the Tank Engine and the K-9 Frisbee Dogs. Annual events include a concert by Grammy-winning cowboy group Riders in the Sky, the Fireworks Extravaganza on July 4th and the Railroad Heritage Weekend, celebrating the history of Tweetsie’s steam engines and the heritage of the mountains. The Ghost Train Halloween Festival, featuring a haunted train ride, takes place on weekend evenings from late September through early November, and requires a special ticket.

Related: A Guide To Carowinds Amusement Park

With 15 years of experience covering restaurants in Charlotte and the Carolinas, and two regional guidebooks under her belt, Renee Wright examines the dining scene with enthusiasm plus a deep knowledge of food trends and outstanding local eating ops. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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