By Nel Lampe
Shopping malls and big box stores can get very crowded during the holiday season. How about an alternate place to shop that’s filled with atmosphere and fun? There’s a Christmas village in a wooded area that has holiday music piped through loud speakers, the smell of popcorn in the air and several shops — Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole.
Seemingly taken from the pages of a Christmas book, the village is filled with alpine-style buildings painted in bright colors. And the shops are clearly labeled to make shopping easy.
The Boys’ Shop has cars, cap guns and items of interest to boys.
The Candy Kitchen, inside the Boys’ Shop, sells old-fashioned candy as well as fudge made in its kitchen.
The Girls’ Shop has dolls, princess dresses, jewelry and lots of stuffed animals — “things that girls love,” said Austin Haggard, who works at Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole. Unusual tree ornaments are in the Christmas Shop and collectible Santa figurines. There are also traditional Christmas books.
The Personalization Shop has ornaments, books and letters from Santa that can have names inscribed.
Next door to the Personalization Shop is the Souvenir Shop, where knit caps, baseball caps and unique winter caps for adults and children are sold, along with rocks, pajamas and sweatshirts.
The post office has Santa mugs and Colorado Christmas gifts. Customers can also hand-dip candles that may be purchased.
A top-seller at the post office is “Snow to Go,” which looks like real snow when water is added.
S’more kits, with marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers, can be purchased to roast over the new fire pit near the Boys’ Shop. A marshmallow and cooking stick package is also sold.
A huge gift shop is at the entrance/exit building. For sale there are “I believe in Santa” T-shirts and sweatshirts to fit all ages. The shop stocks many of the items sold in the village.
Santa’s helpers work in the village and the jolly old man himself is in Santa’s House, comfortable and cozy in his overstuffed chair. He visits with children and listens to their wish lists and poses for pictures. Oh, yes, parents can buy pictures of their children with Santa.
For refreshments, stop by Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard for hot chocolate and snacks or the Ice Cream Parlor and Cafe for homemade funnel cakes, hot chocolate, ice cream, hamburgers and other sandwiches.
Miss Muffett’s Snacks opens on weekends.
Santa’s Sleigh is a great setting for a Christmas card family photo and is parked near the entrance.
As a treat for family friends, take this year’s Christmas cards, signed, in addressed but not stamped envelopes (no red ones) and take them to the Post Office at North Pole during your visit, or drop them by the gift shop at the entrance for mailing.
The post office in the village has its own ZIP code and will mail your Christmas cards and letters cancelled with a likeness of Santa and postmarked “North Pole,” Colorado, in red ink. There is no charge for this mailing service. As the North Pole Post Office uses metered postage, skip the stamps and pay for the postage when dropping off the cards. Postage is 44 cents per letter or Christmas card.
The mass mailing is Dec. 10. Cards or letters brought in after that date will be still be mailed up to Dec. 21.
In addition to the shops, Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole has two dozen rides — and they’re all included in the entrance price. At the front of the park there’s the Peppermint Slide, antique cars, the Mini-Himalaya, Tilt-a-Whirl and Dive Bomber rides at the front of the park.
On the west side of the park is the train and skyride aerial tram, all suitable for families. There’s also the antique hand-carved carousel and the “World’s highest” Ferris wheel.
One whole section in the enchanted forest is devoted to rides for younger children, with rides such as boats, motorcycles, rocket ride, the granny bug ride, kiddie wheel, midget racers, tubs, a candy cane coaster, a kiddie wheel and the Christmas tree ride.
In the upper park, near the Ferris wheel, are rides more suitable for teenagers and adults:
the Scrambler, Space Shuttle and Haunted House.
And to provide the perfect touch, there’s a frozen “north pole” in the center of the village,
Admission to the Christmas-themed park is $12.95 for Soldiers and immediate Family members, but everyone 10 or older must have their own military identification card to get the discounted rate.
Regular admission is $17.95 for ages 2-59. Children under 2 and guests 60 and older are admitted free.
Money is not exchanged in the shops or snack bars in the park. A “purchase card” is issued for each guest at the entrance, which can be attached to the wrist. Each purchase, including food, is annotated on a purchase card and paid for with cash or a credit card upon exiting. All purchase cards must be turned in at the exit,
Purchases at the gift shop at the exit can be made in cash or credit card..
The Christmas theme park is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is closed Wednesday-Thursday, weather permitting. Santa’s Workshop at North Pole is at 7,500 feet altitude, and weather may be more inclement. Call 684-9432 about weather conditions at the park before leaving home. Dress warmly as the park is mostly outdoors.
Visitors may bring their own lunch into the park. A picnic area is near the train.
The park will be open the day before Thanksgiving and beginning Dec. 16, will be open daily through Christmas Eve, when the park closes at 4 p.m.
To reach Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole, take Highway 24 west (exit 141 from Interstate 25) or from South Nevada Avenue, take Cimarron Street west to the small town of Cascade. At Cascade, turn left at the light, following signs for Pikes Peak Highway. About a mile up the Pikes Peak Highway, Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole is on the left, at 5050 Pikes Peak Highway. Visit the website at http://www.santas-colo.com.There’s plenty of free parking.