You probably do not need to be reminded that the holiday season is in full swing. There is no shortage of potential destinations for celebrating your familys holiday traditions, but the most important thing is that you are with family and loved ones.
If, however, you were wondering what the most Christmassy town in the world is, we’ve found it: Santa Claus, Indiana, where it’s Christmas 365 days a year.
The story of how this tiny town in Indiana came to be named Santa Claus is a good one:
In the early 1800’s, pioneers settled a small town in the gently rolling hills of Southern Indiana, originally naming it Santa Fe (pronounced “fee”). In the 1850’s the town’s application for a post office was denied, because another town with the same name already had a post office. On Christmas Eve, as services concluded in the small log church, the townspeople decided to stay and hold their final town meeting of the year. The only order of business, selecting a new name for the town, was not going very well. Suddenly a gust of wind blew open the door to the church, and sleigh bells were heard in the distance. “Santa Claus!” exclaimed the excited children, providing the inspiration for the town’s new name. On May 21, 1856, the U.S. Post Office Department approved a post office in the newly-renamed town of Santa Claus, Indiana.
So should you ever find yourself in, say, July humming “Jingle Bells” and wondering where to go for a quick fix of Christmas spirit, you now know that you can find it year-round in southwest Indiana. Here are just a few Yuletide highlights that you’ll find in Santa Claus, Indiana.
Santa’s Candy Castle
The first building in Santa Claus Town was Santa’s Candy Castle, a red brick building that looked as though it had been lifted from the pages of a fairytale. It was sponsored by The Curtiss Candy Company, creators of the Baby Ruth and Butterfinger candy bars, who were famous for their larger-than-life advertising campaigns. Santa’s Candy Castle was dedicated amidst tremendous fanfare on the cold, snowy day of December 22, 1935.
With broadcast television still years away, the formal dedication ceremony was broadcast live by radio station WGBF of Evansville. Thousands attended the dedication including national business leaders, politicians, and most importantly, many very excited young children. The grand affair marked the opening of Santa Claus, Indiana’s first tourist attraction and the first themed attraction in the United States.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 shocked the nation, and tourism to Santa’s Candy Castle sharply declined. Formally closed in the 70s, Santa’s Candy Castle wasn’t reopened until 2006 after a family purchased it and began restorations. Those restorations still continue today, but Santa’s Candy Castle remains free and open to the public, just as it was in 1935. Inside, you’ll find plenty of candy, chocolate, and gifts.
Learn more at www.santascandycastle.com.
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
Santa Claus Land, today known as Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, opened on August 3, 1946. Free to the public, the park had a Santa, toys, dining, and rides, including The Freedom Train, which still runs today. By the 1980’s, the theme park had added many more rides for children and their parents, plus two entirely new sections: Halloween and Fourth of July. With more holidays than just Christmas represented, the name of the park was officially changed to Holiday World. In 1993, the Splashin’ Safari water park was added.
Holiday World is known for its three wooden roller coasters: The Raven, The Legend, and The Voyage (ranked as the best roller coaster in the world by the Golden Ticket Awards). Some of the more popular rides at Splashin’ Safari today include Giraffica, Wildebeest (the world’s second-largest water coaster), and Mammoth (the world’s longest water coaster at 1,763 feet long).
Learn more at www.holidayworld.com.
More activities and lodging options in Santa Claus, Indiana: