In a tinsel-trimmed corner of Upstate New York, just a reindeer’s leap from Montreal, a year-round Christmas village shimmers like a snow globe brought to life. Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY, is a perpetual winter wonderland that defies the seasons.
Twinkling lights drape over cozy cottages, while the sound of carols floats on the breeze. At the heart of the village stands Santa’s house, a charming Alpine-style home where the jolly old man greets visitors.
Nearby, the Reindeer Barn houses the legendary creatures said to pull Santa’s sleigh, from Dasher to Blitzen, each in a stall with their name displayed above. And for those who’ve penned letters to the North Pole, the village’s post office is ready to receive them, complete with a special postmark.
From Montreal to the North Pole, sort of
Just two hours from Montreal, this Christmas village offers an escape into a world where holiday cheer never fades year-round. But in the winter, it’s especially popular with the young and young at heart. The proximity to Canada makes the Christmas village an ideal getaway for those seeking a nostalgic escape. Adults can revisit cherished childhood memories of the holiday season, and children can experience the wonder and excitement of Christmas in a tangible, vivid way.
The village’s Post Office is a functional tribute to holiday traditions. It’s a real operating post office where visitors can send out their Christmas cards and letters. What makes it special is the unique postmark that can be stamped on each piece of mail, creating a keepsake or a surprise for someone receiving a letter from the North Pole. Children can also post their letters to Santa, adding their wishes to the mailbag destined for the jolly man himself.
Village of Lights
The Village of Lights, a key feature of Santa’s Workshop, transforms the area into a festive evening destination. As night falls, thousands of lights illuminate the park, highlighting snow-covered roofs and pathways. This is where the village really comes to life, offering visitors a vivid and colorful experience.
For those seeking a bite to eat, the village’s eateries provide a range of options, from quick snacks like gingerbread cookies to full meals. The shops in the village are also a highlight, with the Candle Shop and Hat Shop offering unique, handmade items perfect for gifts or souvenirs. The evening’s highlight is often the Nativity Pageant, set on the village hillside.
In 2023, the Village of Lights is scheduled for December 3, 10, and December 17-23. The event begins at 4:30 pm, with the entrance closing at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are priced at $24.95 USD per person, with free admission for children under two years old. Tickets can be purchased in person during your visit.
Adding to the holiday cheer, Santa’s Workshop offers the special “Dinner with Santa” event on select December evenings, coinciding with the Village of Lights program. The unique dining experience takes place at the Northern Lights Restaurant, where families have the opportunity to enjoy a hearty meal with Santa Claus himself.
The “Dinner with Santa” event is scheduled from 4:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Sundays (December 3, 10, and 17) and from Monday to Saturday (December 18 to 23). Dinner is served until 5 p.m. providing ample time for families to savour their meals and interact with Saint Nick.
Admission to the Village of Lights is included with the “Dinner with Santa” package for $69.95 USD per person. Reservations are required for the popular event, as it tends to fill up quickly.
History of the vintage theme park
Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY, opened on July 1, 1949. It was one of the first theme parks in the United States, predating even Disneyland. The park was the brainchild of Julian Reiss, a Lake Placid businessman, who was inspired by his daughter’s wish to visit Santa Claus.
The construction of the park focused on creating an immersive Christmas experience. Artisans and craftsmen worked to design and build a village that captured the essence of the North Pole and Santa’s workshop.
Over the decades, Santa’s Workshop has expanded and added new attractions, but it has always maintained its focus on the Christmas theme. The park is a piece of living history, offering a glimpse into the evolution of theme parks and the enduring popularity of the Christmas spirit.
Beyond Santa’s Workshop
While Santa’s Workshop is a major attraction, the Lake Placid Region itself is a destination filled with activities and sights. Whether it’s a summer vacation or a winter getaway, the region offers a variety of experiences.
Over an hour north of Lake George, Santa’s Workshop is just eight minutes from High Falls Gorge. The nature park provides a scenic walk with views of the Ausable River’s waterfalls. It’s a peaceful and picturesque setting, ideal for nature lovers. Meanwhile, AuSable Chasm, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” offers hiking trails and float tours. The Adventure Trail cable course is also a popular attraction for those seeking a bit more excitement.
Nearby, the Lake Placid Olympic Arena and Museum allows visitors to explore the history of the Winter Olympics. The museum showcases the achievements of Olympic athletes and offers insight into the world of winter sports.
A timeless retreat
At Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY, the charm is in its simplicity and a slight touch of kitsch. The park does an excellent job of treating every visitor like a child, regardless of age. As the one-price-fits-all general admission states: “Every person becomes a Child at Santa’s Workshop.”
Santa’s Workshop serves as a time capsule, wrapped in the classic trappings of a bygone era, preserving the essence of what Christmas used to be. It’s a place of unpretentious joy, offering a chance to reconnect with the child within and indulge in the timeless magic of the holiday season.
Santa’s Workshop, North Pole, New York
When: Open all year
Where: 324 Whiteface Memorial Hwy, Wilmington, NY
Cost: $39.95/general admission
More at northpoleny.com