Tweetsie RR

In 1956, N.C. Governor Luther Hodges declared May 20 as Tweetsie Day, as the famed #12 returned to North Carolina.

All aboard!

Tweetsie Railroad set to open for season April 2.

BLOWING ROCK — Like attractions and hospitality-oriented businesses everywhere around the world in 2020, surviving the pandemic proved a challenge. That included the challenges facing theme parks such as Tweetsie Railroad, which is set to open April 2.

“The hardest thing we have ever done is to tell employees they can’t come to work and close our doors,” said Cathy Robbins, who with her husband, Chris, are the owner-operators of the popular, family-oriented, heritage railroad and Wild West amusement park.

Now with 2020 in the rearview mirror and the park reopening, Robbins said that many of their employees have returned, anxious to provide guests with the same fun experiences offered in the past — with some health and safety protocols.

“With a couple of hundred acres, it’s not hard to achieve social distancing,” Robbins pointed out. “The biggest hurdle has been the train, which of course is the centerpiece of the attraction. We have had to put limits on the occupancy of the train.”

Tweetsie RR Cowboys

The Tweetsie cowboys provide entertainment for park guests aboard train rides.

While the 3-mile train ride serves as the main attraction, there is plenty more to do in the park. It is one of those places where kids and adults alike let their imaginations run wild while discovering fun in its many Tweetsie dimensions.

There are “country fair” rides, such as a Ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl, merry-go-round and a chair lift to Miner’s Mountain. Young boys and girls will thrill at taking the “controls” of a biplane or helicopter. Then there is the test of G-force stamina with Round-Up. Be swept away by a tornado. Learn about the force of gravity with Freefall. Cruise around the Turnpike.

Up on Miner’s Mountain, you may not find real gold, but you can enjoy the miniature Mouse Mine Train for a tour of North America’s only “Cheese Mine.” Then twirl, twist on Tweetsie Twister.

Feeding Goats at Tweetsie RR

The Deer Park Zoo at Tweetsie Railroad allows guests to interact with animals including deers, goats and llamas.

Don’t let the name, “Deer Park Zoo” fool you. Maybe it should have been titled, “Dear Park Zoo” because there are species other that bucks and does. Have you ever met an African pygmy goat, a European fallow deer, a Nubian goat or a llama. If you thought an emu was just dreamed up for an auto insurance commercial, think again. How about a burro, miniature horses, micro-mini donkeys, Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep or yellow-bellied and red-eared slider turtles? There is a whole world of animal species out there besides dogs, cats, and goldfish and the kids will be amazed at what they find at Tweetsie.

Robbins explained that the live entertainment acts and dining facilities are all open air, so social distancing is a breeze. Along the train ride, there are action-packed scenes with the good guys vs. the bad guys.

Diamond Lil’s Can-Can Revue is a colorful, live show in Tweetsie Palace, where a Magic Show is sure to spark a child’s curiosity. There’s other interactive live entertainment, too, as well as the Tweetsie Railroad Country Clogging Jamboree.

“It was a challenging year for the business,” said Robbins, “although we did get to open for Christmas. “Certainly, you take a financial hit when the business can’t open its doors. The federal Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP loans were a big help in terms of being able to reopen and in keeping at least some of our people employed.”

“So now we are putting all of those challenges behind us and looking toward the future,” said Robbins. “We are looking at 2021 and beyond with a lot of optimism. The State of North Carolina has done a good job of getting people vaccinated. We are hoping that with more people getting vaccinated that they will open more of the state, including entertainment facilities.”

“There is so much about Tweetsie Railroad that is just good old fashioned family fun,” Robbins said. “The state has done a good job getting people vaccinated and as even more people do, things should open up more. The mandates require us to take reservations. Because of the social distancing requirements, we are limited to about 140 riders on each train.

Fireworks at Tweetsie

Fireworks at Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock.

“Again, we are putting 2020 behind us and looking forward,” said Robbins. “On opening weekend, we are excited to have the Easter Bunny coming to the park. Thomas the Train is coming in June and the always popular frisbee dogs will be coming in July. We are also planning on doing the July 4 fireworks, but it may need to be a little bit different. Of course, a lot of people are in their cars, anyhow. Railroad Heritage Weekend will come in late August, then the always popular Ghost Train as we get closer to Halloween.

“There is always a lot going on at Tweetsie,” said Robbins, “and we are really pleased to be able for people to enjoy the experience again.”

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