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Is there anything sweeter than the pure joy of the holidays? I mean the real joy that comes not from presents but from simple things like sharing milk and cookies in front of a twinkling tree, riding around in the car looking at neighborhood lights, and the sound of sleigh bells everywhere you go. There is a very special spot where all of that amazing, delightful holiday joy comes together, where Santa wants to meet you, the reindeer are frolicking, the air smells of pine trees, and where there are fresh sticky buns. Yes, I said sticky buns. It's all right here at Santa's Workshop, near Wilmington.

A window box of fresh pine greenery features a painted Santa hat.

When you walk through the gates to Santa’s Workshop, you are truly in another, prettier, more cheerful, and simpler place. This is where you get to forget about cell phones, social media, even those pesky Christmas lists. Instead, savor joy. Children’s eyes light up at the beautiful magic come to life, parents relax a little, and everyone has fun. Oh, and did I mention that Santa lives here?

An antique wood chair sits next to a glowing stone fireplace. The chair has a sign on it that read "Reserved for Santa."

Santa's Workshop is a picture-perfect village of festive, alpine cottages, kid-centric rides, a dainty barn, and more. Everywhere you look, Christmas joy surrounds you in details big and small. At Santa's house, well-loved children's books sit over the fire, while little wooden mailboxes are filled with "incoming wishes." The Northern Lights Restaurant sparkles with light, while the window boxes at each building feature handpainted designs. Oh what fun it is to go from spot to spot in this village, peeking in the chocolate shop, ooohing over cupcakes and those amazing sticky buns at the bakery, and spotting Chris Moose taking a stroll with Frosty by the serene St. Nicholas Church.

One of the most famous spots in the village is amazing and always cool: it's the north pole! This isn't the top of the world, but rather a column of frosty ice, which stays frozen all year long in the center of the village. Visiting in July? The north pole will be there, as frozen as ever. Arriving with the grandkids in December? Get a classic photo at the pole! It really isn't a trip to Santa's Workshop without it and chances are the kids won't stop talking about it for weeks.

The center of Santa's Workshop lit with Christmas lights at night.

I have to tell you that as an adult, I still adore Santa's Workshop and its gentle, friendly charm, but the greatest fans are the kids who visit. Much of the village was designed with small visitors in mind, so you'll find many things that are the perfect size for children, especially the rides! Twirl around on bobsleds, or in giant ornaments around a tree, ride the world's cutest miniature train, or hop on the festive carousel, where you can ride reindeer! 

A Christmas carousel decorated with holiday lights at night.

Speaking of reindeer, no visit to Santa's Workshop is ever complete without a trip to the reindeer barn. Here you can meet them all, from Prancer to Vixen, and of course, a special fellow named Rudolph. Best of all, you get to pet the reindeer, feel their fuzzy noses, and thank them for driving Santa around on Christmas Eve. Santa's house is just down the hill from the barn, a cozy space where the jolly fellow himself is ready and waiting to meet you, your little elves, and have a friendly chat. His home is extra cheery and you'll get great photos to remember him by.

Since opening in 1949, generations of gleeful children have been astonished and deliriously happy at Santa's Workshop. While the village has been maintained, spruced up, and enhanced over the years, it keeps the old-fashioned charm that makes it unique and so easy to love. It's a real life fantasy of holiday magic that offers everyone a rare experience. Ask a local about their Santa's Workshop memories and you'll see big smiles and maybe get to hear some fun memories (I was afraid of Santa).

A black and white photo of two small boys and a man at Santa's Workshop in the 1950s.
The author's uncles and grandfather at Santa's Workshop in 1956.


A small child rides a reindeer on a Christmas-themed carousel.
The author as a rain-soaked child riding the Christmas Carousel.

So now that you know how spellbindingly wonderful Santa's Workshop is, you might be asking, "When do I go?" Depending on when you're reading this, the answer is now. Right now. But if we take practicalities into consideration, you have a few options and frankly, I don't envy you having to decide. The North Pole is open for Winter Weekends now through Sunday, December 19. You can spend the day petting the reindeer, snacking, chatting with Santa, snacking some more, and enjoying the festive rides! For a visit that is soaked in sparkling beauty, I recommend the Village of Lights. These open evenings (4:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.) show off the village's lights. You can still visit Santa and the reindeer, but you can also toast s'mores over an open fire, join carolers, pick up some homemade goodies, and get your own special Santa hat!

Wood reindeer and a Santa in his sleigh decorate a gingerbread trim building.

You do eventually have to go home; they won't let you stay forever (I tried, dear reader). When you do say goodbye to the eight fuzzy reindeer, Santa's elves and friends, your new friend the baker, and Santa himself, you'll be taking home indelible memories that will last for many, many years. Don't forget to stop in the gift shop, where you'll find treasures made by local artisans and businesses and you can mail those last-minute cards. The post office here is quaint and the elves put a special postmark on the envelope!

Everly Greensleeves, the youthful Chief Elf of Operations says, "If you're going anywhere for Christmas, this is where you want to be," and I couldn't agree more! Santa's Workshop is a place that warms your heart, no matter how old you are. Everly says that Santa's Workshop brings him joy and once you visit, you'll feel the same way.

This holiday season, visit the Whiteface Region, home of Santa, to celebrate with great meals, energetic outdoor adventures, and lots and lots of snow. We love snow almost as much as we love Santa's Workshop!



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