Santa Claus, Indiana: My Personal Wally World

| August 16, 2017

Well, guys, I’ve met my Wally World.

I’m basically Clark Griswold with curves. I mean, I know that now I’m rolling up to houses like Uncle Eddie, but I’m Clark in spirit. If anyone would shlep a family cross-country to Wally World, it would be me. If anyone would force everyone to have a merry Christmas, it would be me. If anyone shares an awkwardly-excessive exuberance with Clark Griswold, it is Me Me Me

Santa Claus Indiana

A road trip that includes the tourist trap of SANTA CLAUS, INDIANA(!!!) therefore could not be more perfect for me.

Stay with me here.

A little background: My knowledge of Santa Claus, IN came early in life. My Poppop gave my mother an antique, regulation-sized mailbox that was once used to mail letters that would be postmarked from Santa Claus, IN.

Santa Claus Indiana Antique mailbox

My family put it out every Christmas, and kids in the neighborhood would mail their letters to Santa. Eventually, I inherited the mailbox. About 6 years ago, I hosted a giant neighborhood Santa letter-writing party, and all the kids stuck the letters in Santa’s mailbox. I freaking love my Santa Claus mailbox. So the existence of this town called Santa Claus has been in the back of my mind for many years; I’d just never been in the area to be able to swing by.

Until now.

Santa Claus Indiana

When I tacked Santa Claus onto our road trip, I researched the town. There are Christmas shops, Santa statues, a summer theme park, a golf course, resorts, campgrounds, etc.

And, of course, a post office.

And, of course, a post office.

I hadn’t planned on visiting the theme park. All I really wanted to visit were Santa’s Candy Castle (SANTA’S CANDY CASTLE!!); an old Santa statue; a shop where I could buy a Santa Claus, IN ornament and some postcards; and the post office, from which I could mail postcards postmarked Santa Claus, IN (BECAUSE SANTA!).

When we arrived in town (me ridiculously giddy, and Paul wondering why he married me), we pulled up to the first Christmas shop we saw. It was right next to the post office! I hopped out of the RV, forgetting to do every single thing I do when preparing to leave the dogs in the RV alone, and began photographing Santa statues.

Santa Claus Indiana

When Paul, who had taken the dogs out, caught up with me, he told me all of the things I’d forgotten to do. I would list them here, but I wasn’t paying attention because I was in SANTA CLAUS, INDIANA!

I stepped into the ornament shop and began wandering around as if I’d never seen Christmas ornaments before: oohing and aahing and bouncing from display to display. After wandering through the multiple connected shops, I found postcards at the end of the last section. I still hadn’t found a Santa Claus, IN ornament, though, so I made my way back to the first room I’d entered. Right by the entrance, there were postcards and souvenir ornaments, magnets, spoons, thimbles, etc. that I’d somehow missed. I wanted it all, but I stuck with exactly what I’d come for: postcards and an Santa Claus, IN Christmas bulb–with an actual mailbox on it!

Perfect, right?!

Perfect, right?!

Then I rushed to the post office. It had closed one minute before I opened the door. The metal barrier was down. Sad, I looked for a stamp machine and found none. A postal clerk stepped out of a door into the hall of PO boxes. “No stamp machine?” I asked. When she said No, my face fell. When she realized my disappointment, she took my money, went in the back, and got me a book of stamps. People in Santa Claus have Christmas spirit all year round!

We checked the map and headed toward SANTA’S CANDY CASTLE!

En route, we would pass the amusement and water park Holiday World. When we approached Holiday World, the parking lot was completely empty. Paul said, “Holiday world is closed.” It’s operating on weekends only, this time of year. If I’d been hoping to visit the park, I thought, I would have faced my very own Wally World.

Santa Claus Indiana

But I hadn’t planned on visiting Holiday World, so that was no Wally World moment for me. Shwew!

Then it happened.

We approached Santa’s Candy Castle, where the parking lot was empty. Not a soul to be found. But I’d read online that it was open daily, so I hopped out of the RV.

RV Empty parking lot

I approached the completely adorable little brick castle that I’d read housed a workshop, and candy, and gifts, and Christmas spirit all year round!

Only, Santa’s Candy Castle was closed.

The feelings are real, folks.

The feelings are real, folks.

I trudged back to the RV to report my findings to Paul. I was genuinely bummed. Apparently this has happened to some other poor lover of Christmas very recently, because google now shows that a user has suggested new hours.

Google maps hours

We backtracked down the road so that I could visit the historic Santa statue that stands near the Santa Claus town museum. I knew that the museum would be closed, but I hadn’t been planning on visiting it anyway. I just wanted to see the statue.

It was pretty darn big. It was erected in 1935 and recently restored, relocated from a local park to the museum grounds. It stands on a base with sentiments engraved on each side.

Santa Claus Indiana

I read the first I came upon: the statue’s dedication “to the children of the world in undying love.” The panel to the right read, “Life hath given thee nothing more sweet than the patter of feet on the floor.” The panel to the left read, “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy cup of life may be overflowing with happiness.”

Then I turned the corner and read it: “There is nothing so universal as the spirit of Santa Claus.”



Santa transcends culture, religion, borders, generations.

I know some people turn up their noses at the commercialization of Christmas. I don’t dispute that malls and craft shops have commercialized Christmas, hawking holiday crap for like 10 months out of the year. But let’s not take it out on Santa. Santa isn’t just about presents. Santa is bigger than that. Santa is joy on children’s faces.

And damnit, no one fights wars over Santa.

Sure, you see Facebook wars over “taking the Christ out of Christmas,” but none of those angry keyboard-pounders are carpetbombing suburban shopping malls. No wars are fought over Santa.

I love Santa.

I love Santa.

Now, I’m still sad as hell that Santa’s Candy Castle (his CANDY CASTLE, guys) was closed. But you know what? I now have something to look forward to: a return to Santa Claus, IN, when Santa’s Candy Castle is open.

Truth be told, after completing my long-awaited pilgrimage to Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty last week, there was a twinge of sadness as I realized I’d checked that one off the Bucket List. I couldn’t think of any new cheesy, Roadside Americaesque tourist traps that would so capture my heart to make it worth a goal destination. Well, now I have one. If it’s closed next time, though, I’m taking hostages.

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Category: Der Wanderbus, FAMILY, Shits & Giggles, Travel, Uncategorized, US Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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