Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, Indiana! It’s Christmas 365 days a year in this historical Midwestern town with a theme park and candy castle.
Offbeat, quirky, or downright strange attractions always get our attention, but sometimes we discover destinations that create a category of their own.
Even in the heat of late summer, we knew it was Christmas.
In fact, Santa himself came out to greet us!
- 1 Santa Claus
- 2 Santa Gallery
- 3 How Santa Claus, Indiana, Got It’s Name
- 4 Santa’s Stables
- 5 Santa’s Stables Gallery
- 6 Santa’s Candy Castle
- 7 Santa’s Candy Castle Gallery
- 8 Santa Claus Museum & Village
- 9 Santa Claus Museum & Village Gallery
- 10 Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
- 11 Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari Gallery
- 12 My Take on Santa Claus, Indiana
- 13 And Finally . . .
- 14 Map It!
- 15 Pin this Post!
- 16 Helpful Links
Although Santa was elusive, he was not shy. Upon our arrival, he appeared from out of nowhere, ate dinner with us, hung out in the lodge, and spent a lot of time getting to know Mia and Caius Bender from Explore with Erin. He disappeared at the end of the evening, and although we never learned where he laid his head at night, we did hear rumors that he frequented the Santa Claus Christmas Store.
How Santa Claus, Indiana, Got It’s Name
The town of Santa Claus, Indiana, as with all legendary locations, has a storied past. Some of the historical details you read and hear may not be 100% accurate, but at least they tell a good story. So I will give an account of how Santa Claus, Indiana, got its name the way it was told to me by a very reputable, yet nameless source. But even my story may not be entirely accurate, so don’t quote me . . . .
Rising early the next morning, we drove three miles south of town to Santa’s Stables for what would become my favorite Santa-themed activity of the trip. Santa Claus himself was also an early-riser and met us there. He brought along a bag of powdered doughnuts to snack the horses before our ride. Soon, trail guides matched each member of our group with a trusty steed and then led us down the trail through woods and cornfields of Southern Indiana. Lucy and Colby and other barn dogs escorted our procession, scampering here and there in the cool morning air. A most refreshing start to our day!
Santa’s Stables Gallery
Santa’s Candy Castle
Dedicated in December 1935, Santa’s Candy Castle was the first in a series of fairytale structures that would become Santa Claus Town. Later called the world’s first themed attraction, this dream of businessman Milt Harris was sponsored by various candy and toy companies. For a few years the free attraction brought joy to many children, but several contributing factors eventually caused the attraction to close in the 1970s. Years later, new owners purchased the property, and the restored castle reopened in 2006. Today the castle is a candy-lovers dream, featuring retro candy, a computer lab, soda fountain, and a decadent frozen hot chocolate. I may or may not have tried one . . . .
Santa’s Candy Castle Gallery
Santa Claus Museum & Village
The Santa Claus Museum & Village is a blend of historical town structures and memorabilia from Santa Claus Land, another historical attraction claiming to be the worlds’s first themed park. Although I have difficulty distinguishing between a themed attraction and a theme park, there is no question that opening in 1946, Santa Claus Land preceded Disneyland. The verdict is still out on Knott’s Berry Farm.
Probably the most impressive statistic of all is that each December volunteers called “Santa’s Elves” answer tens of thousands of letters from children all over the world, a tradition that has been carried out annually for over one hundred years. The elves headquarter in the original Santa Claus Post Office, now restored and situated on the museum property. Visitors can write their letters to Santa on location or write from home at any time during the year, and expect their reply in December. Other features on the property are the 1880 St. Paul’s Church and the 1935 Santa Claus statue. The museum contains historical memorabilia and artifacts from the town of Santa Claus. I especially enjoyed seeing the vintage signage from Santa Claus Land and authentic letters to Santa from decades past.
Santa Claus Museum & Village Gallery
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
Backroad Planet typically does not cover theme parks, but it was clear that Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari was the biggest draw and most promoted attraction in Santa Claus, Indiana. In 1984, Santa Claus Land began a period of expansion and officially became Holiday World. The water park Splashin’ Safari was added in 1993. Today the park boasts several of the biggest and best rollercoasters in the world. There was a time when I would have waited in line to ride every thrill ride in the park, but alas my body does not enjoy the thrill like it once did.
Even though I gravitate more toward scenic and historical locations, I decided to give the park a walk-through, knowing many of our readers enjoy commercial attractions, as well. If you visit Holiday World, do not go expecting Disney World. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
You can purchase a one day ticket for a fraction of a Disney day pass, and it includes admission to both the theme park and the water park. Even as a native resident of Central Florida, I would venture to say that children of all ages would probably have as much fun (at a more economical price for their parents, mind you) at Holiday World as they would in Mouseville. One bonus feature I enjoyed during my brief visit is unlimited free soft drinks at four self-serve Pepsi Oasis stations located throughout the park. This feature alone could save a family a bundle of cash. But wait, there’s more! Free parking, free sunscreen, and free WiFi are all included with the price of admission.
NOTE: One thing to keep in mind should you decide to plan a trip to Holiday World. Because they are located in the Midwest, they are a seasonal attraction open April through October and only on weekends during the early and latter months.
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari Gallery
My Take on Santa Claus, Indiana
Indiana is not the only state with a town named Santa Claus. There is a Santa Claus, Arizona, but it is a ghost town. And there is a Santa Claus, Georgia, but it has no post office or attractions.
The Official Hometown of Santa Claus is Rovaniemi, Finland, located in the northernmost province of Lapland, but rumor has it that their Santa Claus is fake!
Suffice it to say, Santa Claus, Indiana, is no ordinary town.
Still, there were a couple of things that left me puzzled during my visit. On the morning of my last day in Santa Claus, I thought I would seek out a Mom & Pop restaurant for breakfast since the restaurant at our host lodging was closed on Sundays. It was then I discovered that there were no family restaurants in Santa Claus. After walking around the vicinity I found a Subway and grabbed a breakfast sandwich. Even more surprising than the lack of restaurants, I learned that for a town with such a rich history, there is no Main Street or historical district at all! I am puzzled still.
You may notice that I did not mention lodging in Santa Claus. When we stay at a property with great accommodations during our travels, we typically mention them in our posts. The same goes with dining. Since we do not do critical reviews on Backroad Planet, we typically omit mentions of substandard hotels and restaurants. That was the case in Santa Claus. Our host property was in need of renovation and the restaurant there relied heavily on institutional food. Although our sponsors gave us the grand tour of a much nicer property, we did not stay there, and we cannot honestly write about a location we have not experienced. I don’t often say this, but for recommendations on lodging and dining in Santa Claus, you might want to consult TripAdvisor.
That said, I believe travelers of all ages would enjoy visiting Spencer County, Indiana. Even if you are not into Christmas or theme parks, you may enjoy visiting Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Boyhood Home or the Saint Meinrad Archabbey, both just minutes away from Santa Claus.
In truth, they were both more my speed!
And Finally . . .
Jerry and I enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share little-known sites or off-the-beaten-path destinations. If you enjoy offbeat locations or quirky roadside attractions, we would love to hear your stories. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!
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