Live reindeer, miles of light displays and delicious gourmet treats are just a few of the magical Christmas offerings for visitors to Santa Claus, Indiana. About two and a half hours north of Nashville, the town has loads of unique shopping, vibrant local restaurants and family-friendly activities such as cookie decorating.
“The holiday season in a town called Santa Claus is pretty spectacular!,” shares Melissa Arnold, Executive Director of the Spencer County Visitors Bureau. Wintertime festivities begin the first weekend in December with the Santa Claus Christmas Celebration, followed the next weekend by the Santa Claus Christmas Parade as well as an arts and crafts show.
“There is a lot you can see and do at no charge,” Arnold continues, such as seeing the reindeer and writing a letter to Santa. “Santa and his elves respond to every letter. We also do a wonderful chestnut roasting on Saturdays, just like the song, and learn about that longstanding American tradition.”
Among the paid activities are a special Christmas dinner with Santa at his lodge and the Land of Lights, a 1.2-mile driving journey that tells the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in giant, brilliant LED light displays with storyboards. “It’s a really neat event to get you in the spirit for the holidays,” Arnold adds.
Additional entertainment includes musical concerts, Storytime with Mrs. Claus, food trucks and the Festival of Lights, a nine-mile residential Christmas lights tour through a gated community that is open to the public on select Saturdays in December. Dress warmly reminds Arnold, “It is magical when we get a blanket of snow.”
Visitors can enjoy a museum dedicated to the history of the town. According to local legend, the town’s name dates back to the 1800s, when it was called Santa Fe. But when the residents applied for an official post office, they were denied because there was another Santa Fe, Indiana. Many other names were suggested but nothing seemed to fit. On Christmas Eve the townspeople
gathered for church in a log cabin. Suddenly a gust of wind blew open the doors of the church and the children shrieked excitedly, “Santa Claus is here!” The townspeople took this as a sign and agreed that Santa Fe would become known as Santa Claus.
Another bright spot in the area’s history is that Abraham Lincoln spent his formative years in Spencer County. The story of young Abe’s early life in Indiana is revisited at the popular Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.
Among the numerous shopping options are Santa’s Candy Castle for homemade confections and gourmet hot chocolate, the giant Santa Claus Christmas Store for ornaments and decorations, and the can’t-miss Santa’s Toy store.
Santa Claus is close enough for a day trip from Nashville. For tourists choosing to spend the night, overnight accommodations include Santa's Lodge or the Sun Outdoors Lake Rudolph with cottages, RV parking and tent sites.
One of Santa Claus’ most famous attractions, Holiday World amusement park, is closed during the winter months. But tourists can take advantage of another wintertime option—Paoli Peaks ski resort is about an hour from Santa Claus. Or head east to Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Louisville Slugger Museum, world-famous horse racing and the Bourbon Trail. SantaClausInd.org