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Long-lost Santa’s Village theme park could reopen this holiday season

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The festive family attraction has been closed since 1998

Just in time for the holidays, the much-missed Southern California attraction known as Santa’s Village may be reopening as soon as next month. According to the San Bernardino Sun, the owners of the park have asked San Bernardino County officials to issue a temporary permit allowing the amusement park to resume operations for the first time since 1998.

Located in the small town of Skyforest south of Lake Arrowhead, the park first opened in 1955—beating Disneyland to the punch by six weeks. Offering whimsical storybook-style scenery and winter-themed attractions, it remained popular for several decades, but shut down in the 90s after a long, slow decline.

Now, new owners have plans to restore the park to its former glory—and more. Plans call for a large adventure area called Skypark at Santa’s Village. In addition to the quaint cottages and giant candy canes of old, the park will include mountain biking trails, zip lines, climbing areas, and an outdoor ice skating rink.

Unfortunately, the environmental review process for some of those features is taking a bit longer than expected. In the meantime, the site’s developers are hoping to reopen just the Santa’s Village part of the property—much as it was prior to closing.

According to the Sun, area Santas are already getting excited about the prospect of the park’s resurrection.

"I’m just waiting for a phone call," veteran Santa Bill Priest tells the paper. He notes that he’s been waiting 18 years for the chance to greet visitors of the park once more, anticipating that he may play a mentor role to up-and-coming Jolly Old Saint Nicks this year.

During the midcentury heyday of theme parks and roadside attractions, Santa’s Village grew popular enough that two other parks were opened—first in Santa Clara, then in East Dundee, Illinois. Both locations also eventually closed.

Update: a previous version of this article included a typo naming 1995 as the park's opening year. We apologize for the error.

Update 10/19: A tipster tells us that the Illinois Santa's Village is up and running again; though the park shut down in 2006, it later reopened under new management.