Day Trips: Hop aboard a holiday train

The Easter Bunny, dressed in overalls, distributes treats at the Easter Bunny Express.
The Easter Bunny, dressed in overalls, distributes treats at the Easter Bunny Express. N.C. Transportation Museum

Rabbits and railroads? Their comic and complicated relationship goes back at least to 1945, when surveyor Elmer Fudd made the mistake of singing “I’ve Been Wohking on the Wailwoad” while foolishly planning a rail line above Bugs’ abode.

In a hare-twist of history, railroad museums in both North Carolina and South Carolina celebrate spring by hiring the Easter Bunny to their sites the last two weekends in March. The events are extremely popular family outings: Everyone gets to take a closed-loop excursion ride on a train and meet the long-eared celebrity known for dispensing candy.

Yes, reservations are recommended.

At the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer, 45 minutes northeast of Charlotte and just off Interstate 85, the Easter Bunny Express is offered March 19-20 and 25-26. The 25-minute train rides, with the Easter Bunny dressed in overalls and handing out treats, leave the station at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. both Saturdays and March 25 (a Friday); 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. March 20 (a Sunday).

Pulling its four cars will be a vintage diesel locomotive.

March 26 also includes a noon Easter egg hunt, plus (with a combo ticket) a ride on a special, six-caboose train pulled by the Lehigh Valley No. 126 locomotive.

Other Express-related museum events include tattoos, crafts and coloring, and activities that range from bubble-blowing to sidewalk chalk-drawing. And there are photo ops.

Besides the Easter Bunny Express ride around the museum’s 57-acre grounds, the regular attractions there – including the new bicycle exhibit and railroad, automotive and aviation exhibits – will be open.

For an extra fee, breakfast, lunch or snack sessions with the Easter Bunny are available; see the website for details.

Admission, which includes a ride on the Bunny Express: $15; $13 for seniors and $11 for ages 3-12. March 26 combo tickets (which include a ride on the steam caboose train and the egg hunt): $21; $19 for seniors; $17 for ages 3-12.

Meanwhile, an hour south of Charlotte, off I-77, Exit 34, the S.C. Railroad Museum’s Rockton Rion and Western Railroad, operated at Winnsboro, will host the Easter Bunny on March 19 and 26. Easter Bunny Eggspress rides both Saturdays are offered at 10 and 11 a.m., noon, 2 and 3 p.m.

The train runs about 3 miles from the station in Rockton, S.C. Passengers get off the train there to meet and greet the Easter Bunny, receive a special treat, and participate in activities such as storytelling and book coloring. The ride is about 70 minutes total, including the stop at Greenbrier station.

For each ride, two separate trains, both pulling coach cars, meet and pass at Greenbrier. One will also pull the 60-seat open-air car (the Green Giant). Seats on this specialty car are available on a first-come basis. Regular coach tickets are $15 for 3 and older; tickets for the Green Giant car are $20 per person.

John Bordsen: 704-358-5251

Want to go?

Easter Bunny Express at the N.C. Transportation Museum, Spencer:

Easter Bunny Eggspress at the Rockton, Rion and Western Railroad, near Winnsboro, S.C.: