Thursday, December 14, 2006


Red-Nosed Road Trips

Trying to get myself into the Christmas spirit (and no, I don’t mean egg nog!), I’ve been thinking back to the various annual trips my family would take to go see Santa Claus.  Growing up in Los Angeles, where the Christmas season was signalled by the annual Santa Claus Lane Parade, I remember marching bands marching down Hollywood Boulevard, leading the way for Santa and his sleigh, but what I remember most is the wonderful car driven by Grand Marshal Roy Rogers.  This gigantic, shiny gold stretched-out 1963 Bonneville convertibile was fronted by what I still think is the world’s coolest hood ornament: Longhorn cattle horns, stretching the full width of the grill. So, though I admit my sense of the holidays has more to do with pop culture than with any deep and abiding faith, I still like Christmas  (and Hannukah, and Kwanzaa, and Eid , even Festivus, with its “airing of grievances” and feats of strength.)

With such irreligious thoughts in mind, I’ve trawled through my Road Trip archive and come up with a collection of places and websites to go where you can rediscover the sillier aspects of this annual collision of culture and commerce – and maybe have some fun, too. (And people who decry the “commercialization” of Christmas should know that without holiday shopping, there’d be no Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer! )

With so much shopping and cooking and cleaning to be done for the holiday season, taking a road trip may well be the last thing on your mind, but if you (or your little ones…) have a heart set on seeing Red-Nosed Rudolph or Santa Claus, short of flying off to Lapland there are a few fun possibiliities out there (though not as many as there used to be!)

Back in 1946, one of the first  “theme parks” in America took Christmas as its original motif: Santa Claus Land, in the southern Indiana town of Santa Claus (which has been offering a “Santa Claus” postmark at the post office for nearly 100 years). The theme park, now known as Holiday World, is still in business in the warmer months, with some of the biggest and best roller coasters in the world, and themed rides and attractions which play around witth all sorts of all-American events and holidays. (The kiddie rides retain the Santa and Christmas themes, fortunately.)  Another Christmas-themed theme park has kept true to its roots, but alas is also closed at this time of year.  Located outside Great Smokey National Park, in tourist-tacky Cherokee North Carolina, Santa’s Land is home of the “famous” red-nose-reindeer-fronted Rudicoaster. (Which is the source of the kitschy souvenir seen above.)  

Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the Christmas-themed attractions you can actually visit this time of year are located near to established winter resorts and skiing centers, so you can mix a bit of nostalgic roadside Americana in with your snowboarding or skiing Winter Wonderland adventures. Up in New England, there’s a delightful little Santa’s Land along old US-5 in Putney, Vermont, where you can buy Christmas trees and give Santa your  wish list, while up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire check out Santa’s Village, in Jefferson, New Hampshire.  There's also one near Lake Placid, in upstate New York, but I haven't been there (reader reports gratefully received, as always!)

Out West, in wonderful Manitou Springs, at the foot of Pike’s Peak, look for Santa's North Pole Workshop. I would have ended my Christmas wish list with a pointer toward my all-time favorite Santa, the one who used to live on Santa Claus Lane, right on the beach below Santa Barbara, California, but he was evicted in 2005,  to make way for a  “Cape Cod Themed” retail experience.  It’s enough to make anyone nostalgic, isn’t it?  Anyway, 'tis the season to be jolly, so

Ho ho ho… Merry Christmas!

1 Comments:

Blogger Jamie Jensen said...

is anyone else having problems reading or commenting on this blog??

if so, write me and let me know.

Merry Christmas,


Jamie Jensen

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9:07 AM  

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