The iconic Santa’s Village, the long-abandoned winter wonderland nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains, has been painstakingly restored and is getting ready to open for the holidays this year. Angelenos of a certain age will likely remember visiting the old-school theme park (or at least seeing the commercials as a kid), and will soon be able to visit Santa at the revamped destination. Now known as SkyPark at Santa’s Village, the park will feature several new additions to the restored original features, including outdoor activities like a climbing wall, new eateries, and even a bar for the grown-ups.
The Christmas-themed park originally opened in 1955 -- over a month before Disneyland -- thanks to developer Glenn Holland, and featured rides, a monorail, a Ferris wheel, and a petting zoo with live reindeer, as well as a toy shop, bakery, candy store, and more. The park had a successful run for decades as a popular holiday destination, but the franchise -- which included locations near Santa Cruz and in Illinois -- faced bankruptcy in the late 1970s. The Henck Family, who already owned the 230 acres where the 15-acre park sat, purchased the park, reviving it and adding more features; they eventually decided to close it in 1998. Another owner later worked to restore the park, but the “Old Fire” in 2003 -- one of the state’s worst wildfires -- put a sudden end to the efforts. Thanks to some renovations and firefighters’ efforts, the structures of Santa’s Village remained mostly intact, but the park stayed a ghost town for years to follow.