Welcome to Santa Claus, Indiana
In Southwestern Indiana you will find a town that calls itself “America’s Christmas Hometown,” and with a name like Santa Claus, it’s no wonder.
Angie Doan, who has spent her life in Santa Claus and now works as the Guest Relations Manager at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, explained what makes this town so special:
“Here in Santa Claus, you pretty much recognize almost everyone in the off season.
In the summer, you know the people who are here are here to have fun. It’s a really good feeling.”
It’s a beautiful, beautiful town. It’s really nice to have Holiday World so close, and (Lincoln) State Park so close.”
Life in Santa Claus
When asked what people would find the most surprising about Santa Claus, Doan says, "People are friendly all year round. With the theme park here, we stress friendliness and we look for the friendly people to hire, so you are used to seeing friendly inside the park, but when you are outside – going to the gas station, or going to the grocery store, or going to the dentist – it’s friendly there too. It just rubs off on you, especially if you work at Holiday World as your first job, it sticks with you. It was my first job when I was in high school.”
It’s always a holiday in this town, where the Christmas Store is ready with whatever you need to celebrate regardless of the time of year, and the Santa Claus Museum is available to provide visitors with history and both educational and hands-on exhibits, and Santa in the big red suit.
Working at Holiday World
Holiday World has been open in Santa Claus, Indiana, since 1946. Angela Doan came back to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in 2011.
“I started out just doing ticket taking and ticket booth and I fell in love with the place. I came back (to work) every single summer, I worked in a grade school nearby.”
“I loved that job,” she continued, “but when the opportunity came around to work full-time at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, I never looked back. It’s an amazing place."
It’s easy to keep up the smiles with the variety of amusement and water rides the park offers, in addition to something you will never see in other large theme parks – free parking, free drinks, free sunscreen, and free Wi-Fi.
Squirrels, Monkeys and Pigs?
When you work at an amusement park you are bound to see some pretty funny things. In addition to guests who can bring new meaning to TMI (too much information) and children being children, Angie Doan has greeted some interesting animals visit Holiday World.
“In my area, we are over the kennels, the Holidog Inn. We have all kinds of animals come in, all the time.”
“We had a woman bring a squirrel in. She carried it in her bra. That was fun. We had a little monkey once, a potbellied pig, and there was a giant rabbit. The guest said they travel with the rabbit and the rabbit sits in the car seat. Trying to picture that in my head was always fun!”
Planning Your Santa Claus Vacation
While Santa Claus, Indiana, isn’t quite a year round destination, it’s close. The theme park is open May to October.
Some of the other attractions, such as the Santa Claus Museum, stay open until the Christmas festivities are over in December.
Santa Claus native Angela Doan says summers are her favorite.
“I know that Christmas -- they do it up right here, of course -- you know going into it that it’s going to be a big deal. They have a beautiful tree that they have lit up at the shopping area, they have the parade, but I love my summers at Holiday World. It is never, ever boring!”
“In the Santa Claus area, there are so many things within an hour’s drive. There are caves in the area (Marengo Caves, Indiana Caverns), there’s a beautiful state park (Lincoln State Park), and Louisville is only an hour away. I would definitely say give it a week to just kind of wander around.”
You can also some riding at Santa’s Stables.
The jolly old guy likes to ride donut, and he brings him his namesake treats when he visits.
Stay at Lake Rudolph
The obvious place to stay in Santa Claus, Indiana, is Lake Rudolph Campgrounds. Here you will find everything you need to complete your vacation. Lake Rudolph offers Cabins, Cottages and RVs to rent. Their Christmas Cabin can sleep eight, and has a kitchen, three flat screen televisions, and air conditioning. It also has a large deck with a gas grill.
If you want to bring your own accommodations to Lake Rudolph, you’ll find RV and tent sites with full hookups. Wi-Fi is complimentary throughout the campground, which also has a lake for fishing and boating, miniature golf, a pool and small waterpark, and a store with pizza, ice cream, and all the supplies you’ll need.
When you stay at Lake Rudolph, there is the free shuttle to take you back and forth right to the front entrance of Holiday World. Within the grounds, rent a golf cart and then you won’t have to get in your car at all.
Leave Enough Time for Holiday World
“For Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, I’d definitely say to take at least two days since it’s the dry park and the water park,” says Angela Doan of the perfect Santa Claus vacation.
“We have a wonderful website that I would love to see people use. You can plan it so you know how much time you are going to use in each area. They spent a lot of time making sure our website is user-friendly and full of information.”
The Holiday World website is also a good place to find additional information on the other attractions, and restaurants, if you haven’t filled up on funnel cakes and barbecue in the park. Doan says a visit about a half hour away to Jasper is a must, “There is a German restaurant in Jasper called the Schnitzelbank. It’s authentic German and very good.”
A Few More Pieces of Advice…
Before you leave town, stop at Santa’s Candy Castle, where you can have some of their decadent frozen hot chocolate and write a letter to Santa, which these days go straight from Indiana to the North Pole via computer.
Angela Doan also says to be sure to “Always talk to the employees. Talk to guest services, and I don’t say that just because it is my area. Talk to customer service in any park. They hear it all, they see it all. They try to make things better for guests.”
The town is prepared for guests from all over the world.
“My favorite was a couple from Denmark,” recalls Doan. The woman had grown up in the States and had spent several summers in Indiana and used to come to Holiday World. After they got married and came to the U.S. for a honeymoon, they were doing a cross country trip. She said this was one place she had told her husband she wanted to take him. We got to help them celebrate their honeymoon. I love helping people make memories.”