Thursday, June 3, 2010

Santa’s Candy Castle, The Christmas Store, and the Santa Claus Museum

Yesterday, I posted about staying at the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort.  As part of wanting extra time at Lake Rudolph, I know that any future visits to Santa Claus, Indiana will include a visit to The Christmas Store, The Santa Claus Museum, and Santa’s Candy Castle.

Santa Claus Christmas Store

When I was growing up, my mom and I would drive from Kentucky up to the tip of the thumb of Michigan each August for a family reunion.  I have lots of fond memories from those trips with my mom and her family.  One of the regular stops on our drive up to the thumb was in Frankenmuth and a stop at Bronner’s.  Bronner’s is a Christmas wonderland and was a very magical place with each visit.

I’ve now found my very own Bronner’s right here in Indiana at the Santa Claus Christmas Store.  Collectibles from Willow Tree to Precious Moments to village pieces to any ornament you can dream up to homemade fudge to lights and you can even have a visit with Santa!  Zach fell in love with an outdoor Mickey Mouse and friends train set, Teagan was thrilled to eat fudge that wasn’t even slightly chocolatey and was pink (peppermint).  I picked up my kids annual ornaments for 2010 (a robot for Zach, a Willow Tree angel for Teagan).  I could have browsed for hours and would have kept finding new things to fall in love with!

Exterior of the Santa Claus Christmas Store

Photo provided by Spencer Co press kit

In the same little strip mall, you can stop in to the Santa Claus US Postal Service and have letters stamped with the popular Santa Claus, IN official postage stamp!

Santa Claus Museum

I’ll be honest- I was a bit apprehensive about what I would find at a museum dedicated to Santa Claus.  Turns out, the Santa Claus Museum is a little bit about Santa and a lot about the history of the town and the town’s affiliation with Santa Claus and Christmas.  Lots of great memorabilia dating back as far as the 1800’s.

Here’s the part I could have spent a long time pouring over- and I shared one of these via phone pic while I was there.  There is a collection of letters written to Santa that date back to the 1930’s and come from all over the world.

Letter1 Letter2 Letter3 Letter4 Letter5

The Museum also has a room dedicated to the history of Holiday World.  I won’t go into all the details because I want you to go there and learn about it yourself… but one piece I will share with you is a bit of memorabilia close to Jeff’s heart:

A map of Santa Claus Land (now Holiday World) from 1976- which is approximately the last time he was there.

1976 Map

The family that owns and operates Holiday World is the Koch family.  Pat Koch, the matriarch, greets guests each day and can be seen on the grounds sweeping trash, checking in with employees, helping kids.  When we came in, her son, the President of Holiday World, Will Koch, was also greeting patrons.  I was eager to meet him- my pastor had told me to introduce myself if I could because Will Koch was instrumental in our church getting its start!  Turns out, the Koch family has been instrumental in getting a lot of things started.  They run Holiday World in a way that benefits the patrons and protects the family friendly environment.  Talking to the various point people at all the places we visited around Santa Claus, Indiana, it seems that the Koch family has somehow been involved in a lot of projects in that little town and beyond.  This is a family that truly uses their good fortune and blessings to serve their community!  So it was really neat to visit memorabilia dedicated to how this family really helped build the town.

Santa’s Candy Castle

This is a must visit.  Seriously.  I had so much fun at this stop!

First, the owner, Kevin Klosowski, really makes the place warm and friendly and fun.  Second, the history of the place is fantastic.  Third, there is frozen hot chocolate that is to die for…

Santa’s Candy Castle was the nation’s first themed attraction.  It was created by Milton Harris- he dreamed of creating a town dedicated to Santa Claus.  The Candy Castle was a small part of that dream and he started it in 1935.  In 1936, he created Santa’s Workshop and Toy Village- buildings that were sponsored by various toy companies.  There was no paid admission and nothing was for sale- it was just a place for kids to come and play (especially fantastic for kids struggling through the Great Depression who didn’t have these toys at home).  Harris’ dream came to an end with the attack on Pearl Harbor as his sponsoring businesses changed focus away from toys to weapons and as tourism came to a stop. Harris passed away in 1950.  Several owners attempted to pick up where he left off but to no avail.  In the 1970’s, it seemed the project was abandoned.

Santa's Candy Castle - 1930's Exterior

Photo provided by Spencer Co press kit

In 2005, the Klosowski family purchased the property and began renovation.  In 2006, Santa’s Candy Castle re-opened its doors.  Restoration work continues on Santa’s Workshop and Toy Village.

These are the buildings that comprise what will be restored to become Santa’s Workshop and Toy Village.

castle buildings

In the main round turret, you will find the room I loved the most.  In the center of the room is a low table with computers where kids can have an online chat with an elf at the North Pole!  They answer some questions and the elf then sends a message to Santa to find out if the child is on the Good List… and then the child is presented, with fanfare, a certificate proclaiming them to be on the Good List.  The best part was when the elf reports back, there is a promise the child makes based on the questions asked about what they will work on to do better (for Teagan, it was listening to her parents) and when owner Kevin presented Teagan with her certificate, he explained that the certificate would serve as a reminder of the promise she made to Santa.

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But the best part of that room was that it was lined with child height book shelves and held almost any Christmas book imaginable.

The original room:

Santa's Candy Castle - 1930's Interior

Photo provided by Spencer Co press kit

And now…

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And in case I forgot to mention it… part of the whole point of visiting a place with “candy” in its name would be the SWEETS!  Jeff and I both had the Dark Chocolate Frozen Hot Chocolate.  DIVINE.  Seriously.  I can’t even find the words to describe how heavenly that was.  It was so good, that I bought a bag of the cocoa mix and also bought 2 bags of another flavor (Mexican Spice).  There’s an online store (I also recommend becoming a fan on Facebook) and the cocoa mix package gives easy directions on how to make your own frozen hot chocolate…

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Zach loved his frozen hot chocolate but wants to warn you that “It’s COLD!”

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The kids each left happily chomping on candy canes.  Teagan had some sort of sour something watermelon and Zach was going to town on a chocolate mint candy cane.  their faces sum it up best, I think.

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It really was more than just a candy store or place to buy novelties.  With this fantastic family owning and restoring the place- a family that really believes in the purpose of this place- and with the amazing history behind it, Santa’s Candy Castle is a Must Visit on the list.  I’m very eager to go back in a year or 2 just to be able to see what Kevin and family have accomplished in their restorative efforts!

Santa's Candy Castle - Present Day Exterior 

Photo provided by Spencer Co press kit

Coming soon… Lincoln’s Boyhood Home and our day at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari!

8 comments:

Amy said...

I've been to Holiday World several times, but never the Candy Castle or the Christmas store. I'll definitely have to add those to our itinerary when we make our trip this summer.

Mellodee said...

Sounds like a neat place! Ummm, though, isn't "frozen hot chocolate" an oxymoron?

Garret of Jim and Garret said...

That sounds so awesome! I would have had so much fun!

Thanks for such a vivid review. I never even heard of the place.

Julie said...

My college roommate was from Frankenmuth, MI and I loved going to Bronners. I am not much a fan of touristy places but am thinking I may have to relive some of my college days and check out the Christmas store.

Sounds like you have a great trip!

Eternal Lizdom said...

Julie, one of the great things about Santa Claus is that it doesn't feel touristy. It has very much kept the small town charm that makes it special. You won't find a fast food joint or super store or major chain in Santa Claus- it's all family owned, small businesses. Definitely worth a visit!

Melissa Wilkinson said...

Hi Eternal Lizdom - I'm Melissa Wilkinson from the Visitors Bureau. Thank you for visiting the town of Santa Claus! I'm sorry I missed you and we weren't able to meet but if need anything at all, please don't hesitate to ask! 888-444-5292 :)

Mrs4444 said...

I really like reading about family businesses like this. The letters were cute, and I loved the photos of the kids :)

Rebecca said...

Do you live nearby this place? I've been wanting to go there. Probably not this coming summer, but the summer after that is when we'd probably go.