Once upon a time in Southern California, residents and tourists alike could "Enjoy A Fun-Filled Day At Santa's Village!" Santa's Village was located in Skyforest, near Lake Arrowhead and opened in 1955....six weeks before the opening of Disneyland. The park operated year-round for 43 years before closing in 1998.
Unfortunately, I never made it to this park. I remember seeing the television commercials as a kid and hearing how guests could eat at the "Pixie Pantry", visit the "Good Witch's Bakery" and ride the "Bumblebee Monorail." I really wanted to go...but alas, it never happened. The closest I got was during a family trip to Big Bear Lake. We had passed it on the drive up, so on the way back down the mountain, I asked my grandfather if he would pull over so I could take a closer look. My grandfather was always a good sport. He pulled the car over and even though the park was closed, I was able to peek through the fence at the colorful little buildings all trimmed with "gingerbread." Around that same time....actually, it may have been during that Big Bear trip, I was able to pick up a brochure for the park and I have kept it all these years.
Here's a vintage postcard showing the entrance to the park. When I saw this building in person, it was almost completely covered with shade from the growth of trees that had popped up around it. Gee, now I'm wondering why I didn't take a picture of it. I do have pictures from that trip and this is definitely something that I would have taken a picture of back then, so maybe I had run out of film.
So what happened to Santa's Village after if closed in 1998? Well, a developer bought the property in 2001 and began refurbishing the buildings with the intention of reopening the park, but he died in 2005 before the project could be completed. Today, a logging company has taken over the property. If we look at an aerial photo, we can see the former Santa's Village parking lot filled with cut timber.
Let's zoom in closer, shall we? Wait a minute....that building on the right looks like it could be the old Santa's Village entrance!
If we zoom in even closer, we can see what looks like part of a giant candy cane out in front.....it's even casting a cane-shaped shadow onto the ground in front of the building. Am I just imagining it because I want to see it?
Nope, both the entrance and the giant candy cane are still standing!
It looks like the portion of the building on the far left has been added to the original structure....maybe that was part of the refurbishment that took place before the plans to reopen the park fell through? And what's that green apparatus standing behind the entrance? Could that be a remnant of the old Bumblebee Monorail track? And what about those other buildings that are visible?
Well, for those that want to see what else may still exist from the park, including items that made their way to other Southern California tourist spots, stay tuned! I plan to do a Santa's Village post every day between now and Christmas Day! For now, I will leave you with another vintage image of the entrance.
Oh yeah, and it appears that the Easter Bunny lived at Santa's Village too. Who knew?
Steve Allen in Frontierland
5 hours ago