I’m one of those people.
You know the kind. We start listening to The Carpenters in September. Pull out Macaulay Culkin in October. Trim the tree as soon as the turkey is off the plate, oh yes we did.
I hide my eccentricities from my family, I honor the holiday schedule and keep Thanksgiving well. But this summer I managed to get the whole family on board for a day, when we visited Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hamphsire. Boy oh boy. Oh boy. This did not disappoint. My husband has fond memories of this New England theme park from his childhood, and so when the opportunity arose to visit, he crumbled like a Christmas cookie.
Nestled in New Hampshire, just north of the Presidential mountain range lies the small hamlet of Jefferson. An unassuming New England town, where it’s most famous seasonal resident chooses to spend much of his down time. That’s right, Santa lives here. Santa’s Village is a Christmas theme park, ostensibly for families with kids between 2 and 12, but really I’d have to say 2-92 if you skip the teenage years. You may have been led to believe that Santa stays in the North Pole year round, but really you should be headed for Latitude +44.426331, Longitude -71.495074 for a glimpse of the old man. The regular season, when Santa closes up the North Pole shop is from June 18 through September 5, but he’s around on Weekends from May 28 and weekends until around December 18. If you’re looking for something to do in New England this year and don’t feel like taking the Polar Express again, then this is the ideal place for you.
2016 was the 64th season at Santa’s Village, and Santa has been working and living with one family for the entire time. Cecile and Normand Dubois ran a dry cleaning and tailor shop in nearby Lancaster in the early 1950s. When a deer crossed in front of their car in Jefferson, and their daughter asked if it was one of Santa’s Reindeer, they decided they had found the perfect location to carry out their dream. Santa’s Village opened on that very spot in 1953, two years before DisneyLand. Although it has evolved in many ways over the past 60 years, it’s rural charm and evergreen setting remain the same, with family, imagination and whimsy evidently at the heart of the operation.
We went on a particularly busy day at the park in late July and found the wait times to be minimal and well worth it. Right now they are open on the weekends, and as New England just received a fresh coat of snow, it is particularly picturesque. None of the water rides are open in December, but 18 of their rides are fully operational. We spent about twenty minutes riding, and riding again, and riding some more on the Chimney Drop, which is not for those of a queasy countenance or for those who have recently visited the Sugar n’spice bake shop.
Rudy’s Rapid Transit Coaster was a big hit with my roller coaster loving second-grader, while his little brother preferred the pace of The Skyway Sleigh. There is a broad variety of rides to accommodate the most diverse family interests. We all rode on Santa’s Express Train, my baby’s first ride, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Perhaps the best ride we went on all day though was the Great Humbug Adventure in which you ride through Scrooge’s house tickling Humbugs.
Price-wise it offers excellent value for money. Children 3 and under are free, everyone else is $31. You can bring in your own food, or eat at one of many elvish establishments. We couldn’t resist and so ate at the Burger Meister Food Court which was reasonably priced and offered excellent choices for kids, and for those of us doing weight watchers. While there is no limit to the cookies and doughnuts on offer, it’s nice to find a good salad at a theme park. My son was disappointed to not get a Corn Dog at Dasher’s Delights, but after my candied nuts at the Polar Expresso which were Polar-Yummo, I just couldn’t justify the Doe-Nut factory. Believe me, walking past those doe-nuts was the hardest thing I had to do that day.
All the rides are free once you are inside, and some of the attractions are free too. You can pay to have your picture taken with Santa of course, but they do let you use your own camera while they are taking pictures, goodwill to all men after all. The North Pole blacksmith will make a ring out of a reindeer hoof nail for every child, and the Elfabet hunt is free with a prize at the end.
The Elfabet Scavenger Hunt was perhaps my boys’ favorite thing all day. At the entrance to the park, you will find the Elf University. It’s next to the twenty foot Frosty the Snowman. There, you will receive an Elfabet card from some of Santa’s helpers. The card contains all the letters of the Elfabet, and then as you walk through the park you hunt for mechanical elves that will punch the card for you, one elf for each letter. This feature is reminiscent of an old Elf hunt that was in the park 20 years ago. (I am relying mostly on my husband’s memory for this tidbit, but his memory was jogged by the fact that you can still find the older elves in various places around the park.) Left there for nostalgia, these elves will not punch your card, but they will make you smile. When you are done collecting all 26 punches you return to the University for a diploma and prize. My kids are 4 and 7, and they absolutely loved doing this. It kept them occupied whenever they started to lose steam and provided us with something to distract them with whenever we wanted to avoid another sweet treat.
The most magical part of our whole day, and the place I could have happily spent much more time, was at the Reindeer Rendezvous. An honest to goodness stable full of Reindeer, to feed, and pet, and simply watch frolic. I challenge even the most jaded of humbugs to visit these delightful animals and not crack a smile.
Santa’s Village is definitely one of the more family friendly family parks I have been to. They have family restrooms and nursing areas, of course, which seem to have become an industry norm, but they also have a few added extras. During the warmer months, there are canine condos for your pets to spend the day in.
If you check in upon arrival, they offer preferential passes for families with children who don’t do well with crowds or waiting on line. For families with allergies, ingredients of various Christmas goodies change weekly, but guests are encouraged to ask at each location and will be provided with any information that might be needed that week with regards to gluten and nut allergies.
Of course, they really get into the spirit of things at this time of year. If you visited during the 2016 season and borrowed a stroller, tossed money in the wishing well or the whale’s pool, then you inadvertently contributed to Toys for Tots, as all the money accumulated in these places goes directly to the charity.
Santa enjoys a good party once his hard work is done and so on New Year’s Eve he throws a party. The celebration starts at 4 p.m. and the fireworks go off at 8. The event is all inclusive so food and beverages are included in your ticket price. The added bonus of going at this time of year is that the early sunset gives way to a simply stunning lighting display
Theme Parks might traditionally be a warm weather event, and New Hampshire in December certainly isn’t warm, but Santa’s Village makes it worth your while to bundle up a little and add a touch of magic to your holiday season.