In the redwoods of Northern California, the first franchised theme park was born. The first Santa’s Village opened in 1955 in San Bernadino, where it operated until 1988. The park was so successful that Santa’s Village opened it’s second location in Scott’s Valley in 1957. Franchising was a relatively new concept, and something that had never been done before in the theme park industry. Using his formula for successful franchises, Glenn Holland opened a third location in Dundee IL in 1959. This location still operates today, and is on my shortlist of parks to visit!
Sadly, in 1979, Santa’s Village in Scott’s Valley closed its doors forever. ACE Norcal visited and filmed the remnants of the park, and found some amazing history there, including some buildings that are standing, and amazingly tickets and maps from 1979 that are still on the property but have since been reclaimed by nature!
K. Gordon Murray Fans will recognize the parks as the inexpensive backdrops for new scenes he had shot and inserted into Mexican films before turning them into cheap kiddie matinees for American children in the 196s. Santa and his Helpers, Santa’s Enchanted Village, and Santa’s Magic Kingdom all include new Santa’s Village footage cut into the original Mexican films to make for a schlocky record of the parks (and the awkward acting abilities of the park employees).
You can watch Santa and His Helpers here to see some of the park elves making toys, the Easter Bunny riding the train, and some great shots of the park.
If you want to experience a bit of this park’s magical history yourself, hope is not lost. Macdorsa park is home to 2 original mushroom statues from Santa’s Village! But in order to fully immerse yourself in the memories, Sorensen’s All Seasons Resort now owns 2 of the original buildings which have been converted to cabins. You can actually stay in Santa’s House and the Chapel overnight, and they are working on construction on the Elves Workshop! I sense a trip to Northern California in my future!
Although Santa’s Village is gone in CA, it is nice to see Californians saving a bit of their history. For a walk down memory lane, don’t miss santasvillage.net where a rich history of the parks can be found; or you can always join up with the Santa’s Village Memories facebook group to share some of your own photos and help keep the park alive!
Definitely don’t miss the opportunity to visit the still operational Santa’s Village near Chicago, where you can step back in time and still enjoy the park today and make new memories.
Do you have any memories of Santa’s Village? Tell us about them in the comments!