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Santa, baby! In the spirit of the season, for all you moms and dads out there here’s a quick international round-up of several key Kris Kringle korners -- theme parks built specifically around that jolly old elf and his crew. There are of course countless towns and cities (not to mention shopping malls) in various countries that toss up a little “Santa’s Village” for the kids during the Yuletide holidays, but these four in North America and one in Europe are dedicated theme parks that do their thing sometimes in winter, sometimes summer, occasionally both. Need I say that they tend to appeal more to families with smaller tykes?
Santa Claus’ Village, Rovaniemi, Finland
In operation since 1985 above the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lappland — which is, after all, about as close to the real deal as you can reasonably get, complete with real reindeer — this (left) is the only one of the bunch open year-round (you fly up from Helsinki,). So what’s up here? Exhibits of Finnish and international Christmas traditions (plus stuff like crystal, coins and gemstones); a snowmobile park; an elf-infested post office for mailing letters to you-know-who; sundry shops; a couple of eateries; sleigh rides; an ice bar (for mom and dad, of course) — and of course visits with Joulupukki (Santa) himself in his office and toy factory.
Santa’s Land, Vermont, USA
In the south Vermont town of Putney (just north of Brattleboro), the ho-ho-ho’s get rolling on Memorial Day weekend in late May at this cute little spread — more than a half-century old but reasonably well-refreshed — offering arcade games, shops (including, of course, plenty of candy), ” rides n slides,” and a petting zoo (whoa, check out Bill the camel!). In fall and winter hours switch to weekends only till December 20.
Santa’s Village, New Hampshire, USA
Yup, we’re in New England again — this time in the White Mountain town of Jefferson, in the southwestern corner of the Granite State. This one has a schedule similar to Vermont’s version but is a little more elaborate (and costs a bit more, too), with real reindeer, antique cars, a movie theater, some fairly elaborate rides (flume, ferris wheel); and several places to eat and shop.
Santa’s Village, Ontario, Canada
Located in the Muskoka River town of Bracebridge, about 2 1/2 hours north of Toronto, this amusement park (upper right) bills itself as “Santa’s summer retreat,” with a shorter season than the ones above, open late June through mid-September (though in December — this year it was the 19th — they have an “open house” complete with story time with dear old Mrs. Claus). Anyway, attractions/amenities include a petting zoo (no reindeer, but “fallow deer” that can look a little like ‘em if you squint); rides; a mini-water park; go-carts; mini-golf; laser tag; and a campground.
Santa’s Workshop, New York State, USA
The Hudson Valley’s fetching Adirondack Mountains — and specifically North Pole, NY, on the slopes of Whiteface Mountain — is home to what calls itself the “forerunner of present-day theme parks in the United States” — marking its 61 years in 2010 (left). Top features besides a modest roster of rides include a live Nativity re-enactment, other shows put on by a costumed cast of characters called the Mother Goose Guild. storytelling, and “Tannenbaum the Talking Christmas Tree.” And shops — but of course!