Story and Photos by JD Dotson
There is a common theme among the towns in Southern Indiana I have been fortunate to explore, and Santa Claus is no exception. Many embrace their past, some change with the times and others have an eye to the future. The common denominator in the towns of Southern Indiana is the collective spirit of their people. They are kind, proud of their towns, knowledgeable of their heritages and willing to share the spirit of home with visitors. In Santa Claus, Ind., the spirit of Christmas abounds.
Aside from Holiday World, part of the fun of exploring Santa Claus is finding the Santas dotted all over the town. “Santa” is standing outside the grocery, sitting and posing for a selfie outside the post office, climbing the roof, reading a book outside the bank, overlooking the golf course, standing outside a hotel and waiting for a table to open up at Subway. But the best part is the people who keep the spirit of Santa Claus in their hearts year round, keeping traditions alive and spreading joy while feeding the spark of belief in children that visit, even if one of those children is a big (47-year-old) kid like me.
SANTA CLAUS CHRISTMAS STORE
33 Kringle Circle | 877.224.1772 | www.santaclauschristmasstore.com
You would think it would be difficult to get into the Christmas spirit in 90-degree heat, but stepping inside the Santa Claus Christmas Store instantly does the trick. I have been to ornament exchanges, tree decoration parties and given plenty of ornaments at the holidays. This store has something for every single person you know who celebrates Christmas. I was lucky to run into Santa at the Santa Claus Christmas Store as he held the sweetest conversation with three little sisters. I told him I had my eye on the Christmas Vacation figurine set and hope he gets it down my chimney unbroken.
SANTA’S CANDY CASTLE
15499 IN 245 | 812.544.3900 | www.santascandycastle.com
My sweet tooth won today while in Santa Claus. I am usually pretty good, but walking into a castle full of sweets was just too much. Santa’s Candy Castle was full of nostalgic candy like the lemon drops Grandma Kochert always had in a bowl, modern confections, candy-coated popcorn, the popular reindeer hoof shaped chocolate and gooey nutty deliciousness. In the name of research, my evil sweet tooth ordered me to have the famous frozen hot chocolate for lunch and I obliged. The sweet girls behind the counter reported making over a hundred on the weekend days in the summer, and I believe it. Such a rich and decadent treat. The castle also boasts a room of computers with a direct link to Santa’s Elves to make sure you get on Santa’s nice list with a certificate to prove it. With the haul of treats I bought myself, I am sure my chances were shot, so I got a certificate for a good little girl I know.
6709 E. County Road 1475 N. | Lamar | 812.340.2288 | www.santa-stables.com
Just outside of town – past the golf course with the skinny Santa sculpture – sits Santa’s Stables in Lamar. I introduced myself to the team of horses, the sleepy dogs and the staff and, surprisingly, found myself doing a bit of shopping at the stables. The stable wall is covered in signs and decor from painted, old barnwood and horseshoes, and a jewelry case full of bracelets made form horse hair and rings of horseshoe nails. Everything at the stable is made by the owners and the girls in between rides. There are 45-minute trail rides, 25 minute rides and guided pony rides for the young ones. I did not go for a ride, but made sure to say hello to the horses and dogs.
SANTA CLAUS MUSEUM AND VILLAGE
69 State Route 245 Santa Claus | 812.544.2434 | www.santaclausmuseum.org
Sitting atop a hill – keeping a close watch over the church, the post office and the Santa Claus Museum – sits a 22-foot tall concrete statue of Santa dedicated to the children of the world and praising the joys of the pitter patter of little feet running across the floor. The Santa Claus Church, built in 1880, still contains most of the original furniture and was open for exploration. Small, but heavy on nostalgia and Santa Clausland memorabilia, the museum’s Santa vignette with voiceover instantly took me back to a favorite photo of my mother and her siblings sitting on Santa’s lap, quite possibly the same Santa depicted in the scene, Jim Yellig. The museum is full of artifacts and photographs depicting the evolution of the town from origin to the Santa Claus of today. The gem of the little village is the post office. The little room holds tiny school desks ready with pencil and paper and a mail slot to drop letters to Santa. Don’t forget to ring the bells so the elves hear and come get your mail. This last year, volunteer elves replied to more than 22,000 letters in just 21 days all postmarked from Santa Claus, Ind., a (free!) tradition started in 1914. If you can’t write a letter in person at the post office, but want a letter from Santa Claus, you can send a letter by December 21st with a legible return address to: Santa Claus, P.O. Box 1, Santa Claus, Ind. 47579
3 N. Kringle Place | 812.937.6050 | www.santastoys.net
You cannot visit Santa Claus and not make a stop in Santa’s Toys. This brand new shop immediately brought out the big kid in me as soon as I stepped in the door. There were updated versions of toys I had when I was a kid and amazing, modern toys that had me thinking “Where was this when I was a kid?!” The shop was full of games, stuffed animals, active toys, things that would appeal to a young scientist, artist, pirate or astronaut. There were educational toys and silly toys. I could’ve spent all day and realized a couple of thing: My goddaughter needs most everything in the store, and I need a higher paying job. There was so much fun stuff in this magical place, including a Swurfer surfboard swing that will be hanging in my backyard one day soon. The neon, liquid floor tiles right inside the door were pretty spectacular to see. The colors seem to glow and morph with your steps, and I imagine the wonder that would be felt by a kid crawling or stepping across the floor. They would provide hours of entertainment and exercise. I could barely drag myself off them, and when I did I found and became enamored of these weird, adorable Worry Eater dolls. The idea is to write or draw something that worries you and “feed” it to the doll, thereby letting the worry eater take your fear away. I love the strange creatures and am so in love with the idea of taking away my kid’s worries one day when she’s old enough to have them. Pretty sure I know a number of adults who would benefit from a Worry Eater, too.