North Pole, NY: Too cool for school!
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School's out for summer, and that means one thing—tackling our list of summer traditions. On this particular Wednesday we managed to cross off one of our coolest items.

As you head up the Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway you can't help but notice the quaint, themed signs touting a visit with Santa. This of course brings a few questions to mind:

  1. Santa. Like, the real Santa? Doesn't he live at the North Pole?
  2. Speaking of North Pole, it's summer. It's hot. Wouldn't the North Pole melt here? Maybe they mean the North Puddle.
  3. Reindeer. Do you think they have reindeer? Can I pet a reindeer?
  4. I'd love to talk to a real elf. Do you think they're friendly? Do you think they'd let me help make toys?

Well, friends, I'm here to answer these questions. And, I've brought along a couple of enthusiastic helpers who are just jonesing to find out if they made the Good List this year! While we're at it, we'll see if we can squeeze in a few well-hidden learning opportunities; or not — it is the beginning of summer vacation after all!

A little history lesson

On July 1, 1949, Santa and his elves opened the doors to his workshop in Wilmington, New York. Since then children of all ages have been welcome to explore this magical little theme park — the forerunner of today's larger outdoor entertainment venues. This summer marks the 69th anniversary of this still-popular attraction.

Designed by well-known local artist Arto Monaco, this storybook village was created with children 48 inches and smaller in mind. And let me tell you, there is nothing my son, Oliver, would rather do than flaunt his independence and ride the rides without mom tagging along.

Signed, sealed, delivered

Upon entering Santa's Workshop you are greeted by the smiling elves at the post office. This is where your letter to Santa is delivered — although I'm not sure you'd be able to identify it in the bags and bags that get mailed here each year! You can also choose to mail a letter home with a stamp from the North Pole, of course. And, yes, you can even have Santa mail a letter home to your good little boys and girls.

And...they're off!

Within minutes, the kids, with their new friends in tow, were on the rides, laughing hysterically and debating which seats were the fastest, the scariest, and the best. There are a few rides, like the Santa's sleigh rollercoaster, where adults are allowed to join in the fun. I'll admit, I was glad I had the option to wave from the sidelines; I think Santa speeds.

Then there are the rides that are a bit slower, but still a thrill for this age group. Again, I was happy to smile and wave, and thank Santa for providing such a kid-friendly environment!

Tools of the trade

After sufficient time spent going in circles, literally, we decided to move on to the Toymaker's Shop. Here, kids can get their hands dirty helping the elves paint, assemble, and hammer an assortment of old-fashioned wooden toys. There are options to sit and color, slide through the shop from the toy loft to the main floor, and operate the wooden toy set.

The moment we've been waiting for!

We've toured, we've prepped, we're ready. It's time to meet the big guy, check out his flying posse, and see if the North Pole is really as cool as it's cracked up to be.

After visiting Santa, and having a heart-to-heart chat about school and chores and behavior, we head to the reindeer barn.

Cool down, fuel up

We're winding down after several hours of fun in the sun. Time to cool off by hugging the North Pole, enjoying a few chocolate treats, and taking in a show. Today. Today, was a good day.

Look, I don't claim to be an expert on anything, but there are a few things I know in life. One is that childhood is fleeting. I absolutely grasp that this may very well be the last time I visit Santa's Workshop, or the pre-Christmas Festival of Lights, with Oliver as a "believer." And that's OK.

I love the fact that I see so many families with older kids in tow, all happily donning their hats and laughing as they cool off at the famous pole, cheerfully taking in the charm of this wonderland and their enthralled little siblings. I know the next transition is keeping the spirit and magic alive for our younger generation of cousins and friends, and Oliver will absolutely embrace that opportunity when it's his time. But, for now, I hope all his childhood wishes come true, and man, I sure hope he makes the Good List this year — I know I did. Seriously, my name was on the list!

Happy holidays, y'all!

Check out other events and attractions in the Whiteface Region and make the most of your stay!


Kim Andresen

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