SkyPark at Santa’s Village reopened recently and I visited during its first weekend. We had a blast!
This park is unlike any you have visited before. Their plans for expansion include so many wonderful things. I can’t wait to take my kids back.
Check out lots of details on the park itself and how our visit went.
In this article
History and Overview
Let me begin with saying that if you are looking for thrill rides, this is not your park. It’s absolutely geared toward young children and those guests who are into nostalgia and charm (like me). Your daring teenager and his friends will be disappointed. In addition to annual holiday visits to see Santa and celebrate Christmas, I could see this as a really cute date idea. I could also see it as a darling venue for a younger child’s birthday party with a few friends.
I took my 9 year old daughter and 10 year old son and they had the best time. We were there before opening (10:00am) and we stayed until close (6:00pm). I enjoyed it as much as they did. We visited on day 3 of its re-opening. One attraction wasn’t open yet. And, one restaurant wasn’t serving, either. But, these things are to be expected with any park opening.
The park is just under 2 hours from Oceanside and about an hour and 20 minutes from Disneyland. This treasure opened 6 weeks prior to Disneyland in 1955. It enjoyed a good run and then some financial difficulties, causing it to close its doors in 1998. After battling a severe bark beetle infestation, one of the state’s worst wildfires in history – the “Old Fire” of 2003 – nearly destroyed the land completely.
Finally, after nearly 20 years, the park reopened on December 2, 2016. It has been entirely redesigned in many ways, but some structures and theming from the past park have been restored, including 18 log buildings.
The “new” park differs from others because all attractions are powered by the guests. Meaning, the cars at Arrow’s Adventure are pedal-cars, not on a track like the Autopia at Disneyland that we’re familiar with. You can ice skate, rock climb, make a craft, decorate cookies, mine for gold, watch a show and more. With the exception of the train that runs through the park, all activities – now and in the future – are driven by the guest’s energy. This park has a huge focus on exploring the outdoors and beautiful San Bernardino National Forest.
We loved the nostalgic feel of the 1950’s fantasy village, the entertainers, the attractions, and the overall ambiance of the area. While it’s only just over an hour from Disneyland, it feels like you’ve stepped back in time and into another world.
There’s so much more history. I encourage you to check it out. (I love this kind of stuff.)
Tickets are available online at $49 for ages 4-12, $59 for ages 13-61, $49 for ages 62-79. Guests younger than 4 years old and older than 79 are free. Guests visiting during the 2016 Winter Season will receive a credit to return at 50% off their ticket price until November 4, 2017.
The park is located in the San Bernardino National Forest in Skyforest, California. The elevation is 5,910 feet. It sits on the scenic Rim of the World Highway (Route 18). It’s about 23 miles from one of the largest and most popular ski resorts in Southern California, which is Big Bear/Snow Summit. We have skied both of those resorts and most others in this area many times since moving here. If you’re planning a ski trip, consider adding a day for this park.
The park is open from 10:00am to 6:00pm most days, and is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Parking is free.
Outside food and beverages are not allowed in the park, however, you could bring a picnic and eat it in your car if you wish. The parking lot is right outside the park.
All guests must sign a waiver before entering the park. This can be done online or at the time of arrival.
Just like Disneyland, this park took 1 year to create, start to finish, and opened in May of 1955. And, then many decades later…….it took 30 months to restore and transform the park to what it is today. Santa’s Village was the first franchised amusement park in the U.S. with locations in Dundee, IL and Scotts Valley, CA, as well as the original in Skyforest, CA.
Check out some Frequently Asked Questions before your visit.
Review the park map while planning your visit.
What Your Ticket Includes
We were busy from open to close, with only a break for lunch and gingerbread. Take a look at all you can do.
From the park’s website:
VISIT WITH SANTA Make memories with Santa as you visit him at his North Pole home. All good girls and boys sign Santa’s Good Book when they visit. Feel the icy chill of the actual North Pole!
SILVER BELLS SKATING RINK Feel the clean mountain air as you glide across this amazing outdoor rink.
POLAR EXPRESS TRAIN RIDE Take a ride through the Frostbite Tunnel on this miniature train ride.
SANTA’S WORKSHOP CRAFT EXPERIENCE Each good girl and boy will get to make a craft with Santa’s Elves in Santa’s Workshop. Or write a letter to Santa and give it to the big guy himself!
LIVE CHRISTMAS SHOWS & STORYTELLING – Join us for songs, laughter and reverie all season! This year the Sky Pavilion features The Mistletones, Captain Tale Tale’s Dance Party, and Magic Shows. Watch the storytelling of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
CHRISTMAS CHARACTER EXPERIENCES – Meet Mrs. Claus, The Elves, Arrow, and Princess Sugar Plum
FROZEN FALLS CLIMBING TOWER – Discover your inner courage as you scale this iceberg themed climbing wall
ARROW’S ADVENTURE – Take an adventurous pedal car ride through the Northwoods, the Magical Tunnel, and the Castle Pond. This is our version of Autotopia!
MAGIC TREE CLIMBING ROOM – Take the challenge! Scale this colorful climbing room that is designed for all ages and abilities.
SANTA’S VILLAGE MINING CO. – Mine for gemstones and arrowhead in Santa’s Sleuce Box. Hit Pay dirt Every time!
SANTA’S DUMPTRUCK & Bike Test Track – Santa and the Elves always have to test the bikes and helmets going out for Christmas. Help Santa keep the girls and boys safe by testing the bikes for him!
MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT TREE LIGHTING PARADE – Meet the Storybook Characters of Santa’s Village as they stroll to the Village Christmas Tree nightly to Make Spirits Bright!
*Everything you need for these experiences is included in the cost of your ticket. Ice skates for skating, shoes for rock climbing, craft supplies and more. You will only need to purchase food, drink, and souvenirs as desired.
*Not mentioned in this list, but that we totally enjoyed for free – Cookie decorating to the left of the Gingerbread Bakery. A 45 minute tour through the park detailing some fun historical points and information on future expansion. Additional character meet-n-greets. “Elf Academy”, a brief visit around 3:30pm educating kids on how to be an elf. Kids received a button at completion. All included in your ticket!
*Disneyland fans should consider the last option listed above, Making Spirits Bright Tree Lighting Parade, simply a tree lighting. Characters will walk down Candy Cane Lane with Santa to light the tree in a brief ceremony around 4:30pm each day. This is not a parade like what we know at Disneyland. I encourage you to see it, but think of it more as an elaborate tree lighting.
*Since the park is essentially brand new as far as operation goes, be prepared for a few quirks or closings. Remember how Disneyland’s first days went? There’s a lot to get right. Be patient as the park perfects itself. Two of the above options were not operating when we visited and my kids weren’t phased. They never slowed down finding more to do or repeating what they liked before.
*Since sharing my interest in this park on social media, I’ve heard a few people complain about the price. I disagree with these opinions. If you priced out ice skating, panning for gold and rock climbing, for example, you would equal or exceed the cost to get into this park – and only have three things to do. Each of these activities is pricey on its own. This location incorporates the few I mentioned……..plus so much more…..12 plus, actually……for one cost well below what you would be charged to do them all. Plus entertainment and great service!
Dining and Shopping
There are a few dining options at SkyPark.
St. Nick’s Patio and Grille – Burgers, sandwiches and salads.
The Pedal Pub – Craft beer and bar food.
K’s Kandyshoppe and Creamery – Delicious handmade candy and ice cream.
Gingerbread House – Sweet treats and hot cocoa with a walk up window for quick orders.
Kringle’s Coffee and Gifts – Hot cocoa, too! I’m always in search of cocoa with kids.
Gatherings – The park’s finest dining with a 3 course menu and nice atmosphere.
My notes on dining: We ate lunch at St. Nick’s and it was good. The grilled cheese was delicious and the chips were made on site and super fresh. The Kandyshoppe has really reasonable prices including $3.50 slices of fudge that are HUGE! Gingerbread House was my favorite. Delicious treats (both the classic gingerbread cookie and chocolate chip brownie) and hot cocoa. Every location was beautifully designed and decorated.
My notes on shopping: We did less shopping than I would have liked to do, but kids were anxious to do everything and many things more than once. There are several really cute stores on site. Sky Trading Co. is the biggest and most thorough option. It has everything from toys to decor to apparel. I bought a cute card and a “Grand Opening” ornament, but that’s all I had time for. There were so many beautiful things that I could have spent a fortune on. Bring your credit card if you’re a fan of Christmas decor. The pillows, kitchenware, ornaments, etc, etc. I could have spent a fortune.
Some food photos…..
The kandyshoppe. The waterwheel is from the original park.
Just so cute.
Here is the cookie Lainey made near the Gingerbread House. Yummy.
The darling Gingerbread House. It’s so picture perfect inside and out.
Grilled Cheese Kids Meal at St. Nick’s – only $6.00.
And, a bit of shopping…..
My new ornament.
I want a cupcake and donut tree.
Love both of those pillows. Peaking behind the one on the right is a plushed animal named Arrow, who is Santa’s dog. He’s famous at the park and you’ll see lots of kids carrying these around. They’re $24.99 each. Lainey wanted one, but it wasn’t in our budget.
The entire Santa experience was lovely. We went as soon as we walked in the park and I’m so glad for that. The line was long all day. Santa sees children from open to close, with the exception of a break at lunch time and during the tree lighting in the early evening. We were in line about 10 minutes prior to official opening (they let people in around 20 minutes early today). Right at 10:00am, the Town Cryer came through the village announcing Santa’s arrival.
One family or group at a time entered the charming cabin for some time with Santa. My kids signed the “Good List”, told Santa what they wanted for Christmas, and took a photo. Upon leaving, they were each given a darling bell ornament, pictured below.
After exiting the cabin, we took a right to see the famous “North Pole”, a frozen pole just outside. Always so fascinating for kids.
There was a professional photographer on site that took our photo with his camera in addition to using my phone as well. He gave me a small piece of paper with info on it to review the photo and I failed to get information on how that works. I’ll do so and edit this post asap. Sorry. I’m a rookie.
Some Santa photos……
With an elf waiting for Santa. I asked her for a photo. I’m sure she was all, “Ok, Crazy.”, but she was very polite. About 20 times during this visit, I wanted to scream, “I do this all the time at Disneyland!” somehow rationilizing my behavior, but I withheld. My kids said it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
The ornament each child received after seeing Santa.
If you fail to see Santa, you can bring your letter from home and drop it in this mailbox. Or, you can create the letter at Santa’s Workshop on site and then deliver it here, too.
Some Photos from Our Visit
So so many…….this place has the best photo ops.
Here we are in the tunnel of Arrow’s Adventure (the pedal cars).
Lainey went solo. There are one seater cars and 4 seaters.
What’s up with the GQ poses? Not sure what’s happening here.
Lainey and Princess Sugar Plum.
Here is the workshop where you make crafts. This closed at 4pm on our visit so that they could be ready for the tree lighting at 4:30pm. Check for the same timing on your visit if crafts are on your list to do.
Here’s a sample list of events for the day.
This was my kids’ second favorite thing to do, after the pedal cars. It’s a large room where kids can climb everywhere.
Lainey likes to climb the highest.
The Town Cryer! He was a gem.
Lainey’s button for becoming an honorary elf.
The ice rink is quite big.
But, if you ask your kids for a sweet picture, your daughter will be difficult. It’s part of Christmas.
Our tour guide, CJ Kufflebug. She’s an original. So much fun!
Santa’s dog, Arrow.
Mining. SoCal kids are pros at this after field trips throughout elementary school.
Darkness arrives and the park gets chilly, but pretty.
Love these old fashioned touches throughout. This merry go round was a big hit for preschoolers.
Fires are lit and lights are on. The park feels different at night, as they always do.
Tips for Your Visit
*Visit Santa first. Absolutely first. Then, ride the train. These are the two most popular things to do currently.
*Don’t miss all of the free things to do and take home like cookie decorating, crafting, and mining. Kids came home with about a dozen “gems” each from their experience. Have room in your park bag or purse to collect everything.
*When you walk in, ask if they’re hosting a tour during your visit. Ours started at 11:00am, was free, lasted 45 minutes and shared fun little details on the history and future of the park.
*Dress for weather cooler than what the forecast says. It was chilly!
*Most guests leave not long after the tree lighting. That last hour is a lot of fun with kids enjoying an empty park. If it’s not too chilly, plan to stay late.
What’s Next for SkyPark at Santa’s Village
And, more! SkyPark at Santa’s Village currently only uses 15 acres of the 230 it owns. Watch for this park to expand in impressive ways over the next few years with 2017 starting off in a big way.
Disclaimer: SkyPark at Santa’s Village provided free admission for my group, however, all opinions are my own. I’ve been watching this park develop over the past couple of years and was thrilled when they offered me tickets to review it.