The holidays may be over, but you can celebrate all year with the newly reopened SkyPark at Santa’s Village in the community of Skyforest, near Big Bear, California. It’s a mere five-hour drive from downtown Phoenix, on the scenic Rim of the World Highway.
Santa’s Village opened Memorial Day weekend 1955 (one month before Disneyland). After 43 years, the theme park closed in 1998. Having sat vacant for almost 20 years, visitors can once again experience the year-round holiday spirit.
Owners Bill and Michelle Johnson have and tastefully restored the buildings on property. While some of the classic attractions are gone, new ones have been added, and others will open this year. The iconic feel of the 15-acre park has been preserved, rekindling nostalgia for those that visited years ago.
Stroll the grounds and wander through the many gift shops and eateries. Attractions include a visit to Santa’s House, an ice-skating rink, a bouldering room, a climbing tower, a bike track for kids, crafts, a train ride and various other experiences. “Arrow’s Adventure” offers a pedal car ride though a magical tunnel and around Castle Pond.
“Gatherings,” a beautifully designed sit-down restaurant serves up contemporary cuisine in a cozy, rustic setting. Make sure and get a cookie from the Gingerbread House bakery! The mint chocolate cookie was to die for!
The staff is incredibly friendly and go out of their way to ensure you are having a great time. Various shows and storybook readings take place throughout the day. When the sun sets, characters gather for a parade and tree lighting.
Future attractions include the reopening of the classic Bumble Bee Monorail, which will be pedal powered. A zip line, and hiking/mountain bike trails are being added, utilizing a portion of the property’s additional 200-plus acres.
SkyPark at Santa’s Village is low capacity, outdoorsy and hands-on, and is not Disneyland—don’t expect it to be. You can show up 5 minutes prior to the parade without a crowd, employees will remember you as you walk around the park, and if you want a photo with a character, there isn’t an outrageous line.
Plan a day trip to SkyPark at Santa’s Village, or make a vacation out of it by staying in one of the neighboring communities. Check SkyPark’s website for hours, tickets, attractions and road conditions, as the park is situated at nearly 6,000 feet in elevation!