“Please be good. Santa is watching!”
The sign on the counter of the gift shop essentially sums up the community of Santa Claus, Indiana, a town of 2400 people where Santa is more than a fictional holiday character. Here, he’s a real figure who permeates every corner of the town. Grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and even liquor stores and doctor’s offices feature the jolly fat guy as part of their name and logo, so he’s watching over you no matter where you go.
I thought that North Pole, Alaska was a Santa-crazed town, but Santa Claus, Indiana takes it to another level! This is what Town Hall looks like:
Local businesses all across town get in on the Santa action.
Even national chains embrace the big fellow.
The first place you might want to stop as a tourist in Santa Claus is the Santa Claus Christmas Store, which has a massive collection of gifts. Also located in the same outdoor plaza is Santa’s Ornament Shop. Cool finds in these stores include NFL team tree ornaments, elaborate nativity scenes, and Nutcracker action figurines.
Santa Claus, Indiana is the home of the Holiday World theme park. I didn’t leave myself enough time to visit the park, because I figured a small-town amusement park wouldn’t be anything special. Turns out, it had some impressive-looking coasters!
Also worth checking out is the Santa Claus Museum and Village. In a town full of Santa statues, the one sitting outside the museum might be the most impressive. Built in 1935, the newly-restored statue is 22 feet tall.
Another must-visit in the Indiana town is Santa’s Candy Castle, which looks like something out of a children’s fairytale. Here you can find candy and chocolates of all kinds, including an entire wall of Pez!
The Candy Castle also makes homemade popcorn in all sorts of awesome flavors (such as watermelon, banana, and sugar cookie), and their specialty beverage is a “frozen hot chocolate” that was one of the most rich dessert drinks I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting.
This time of year, Santa Claus, Indiana is surely a popular destination for folks living in the Midwest, but even if you visit during the summer like I did, you’ll be blown away by how Christmasy the town is.