North Pole, NY
1977 & June 27, 2009
Santa's Workshop in North Pole, NY opened in 1949. I visited the park as a child in 1977 and then Project Absurd visited again in 2009. If you are traveling to Santa's Workshop from anywhere below the southern half of New York state be prepared for a very long drive. Even with stopping in Lake George for a night, the drive still seemed endless. As a child, I remember thinking that we must be going to the actual North Pole because the trip was taking so long. On our trip in 2009, we thought the same thing. Also, the trip seemed even longer than usual because all of our modern electronics would not work for most of the trip to the North Pole. Our cell phones lost their signal, our GPS device wouldn't work, and our satellite radio wouldn't even work. We had to kick it real old school (you know, like 1998) and try to find an FM radio station while I followed directions that I wrote down on a piece of paper. We were starting to think that Santa had taken his workshop elsewhere when we finally saw the familiar sign in the parking lot (pictured above). As you can see, it has not changed much since the picture below, taken in the mid-1950s by Kelly's grandmother.
As soon as we got out of our car and started heading toward the entrance, we were treated to Christmas music.
When we got inside, everyone we met greeted us with "Merry Christmas!". Remember, it was June 27. We soon found out that it is always Christmas day in Santa's Workshop. We were also a little confused as to where to go first.
Since we just had (what felt like) a 17 hour drive, we were a little hungry so we decided to take a left to go to Mother Hubbard's Cupboard.
Unfortunately, Santa Claus did not join us for dinner that day. Well, the full sized Santa did not join us. There were 7 miniature Santas that watched o'er us while we ate. There was also plenty of artwork hung up on the walls for us to enjoy while we dined.
I love little kids' notes and drawings! Well, I assume this was done by a little kid. I suppose it could've just been done by some adult with bad penmanship. I hope Toby got his "COLORINNNG PENCIL SET" for "CHRISTIM". Judging from the awesomeness of Toby's drawing of a house with only one color, I can't imagine the masterpieces that he would draw with a whole pencil set!
After we finished our meal, we headed over to the arcade called "Reindeer Games".
There were only 5 games in the arcade, and I believe they all were from the 1990s or earlier. The only one I recognized was The Simpsons pinball machine. But, to be fair, Santa's Workshop doesn't really need an arcade. I don't think anyone makes the 46 hour trip up here to play pinball.
Heading onward, we saw a familiar looking carousel.
One of the great things about Santa's Workshop is that not much has changed over all of these years. Here is a picture of myself on this same carousel from 1977.
Aside from getting a new paint job, these reindeer look exactly the same. Please ignore my too-short jean jacket, striped shirt and puke green pants. It was the 70s, after all. Plus, at that age, I can't be responsible for my wardrobe. Also please ignore my bowl-cut. Thank you.
Throughout the park there were plenty of photo opportunities with reindeer, both the alive kind and the non-moving variety.
Somewhere near these reindeer, we spotted Elmer's Well.
I think Elmer is trying to scare kids into donating money to charity. Let's take a closer look at him.
Aaahh! Elmer looks a bit like something out of a horror movie. Those eyes could burn a hole in your soul. And the hole in his neck? Aaah! Elmer could give Chuckie a run for his money.
Ok, let's try to get that image out of our heads by looking at some of the awesome buildings scattered throughout Santa's Workshop.
And, here's a couple more...
The following picture is of the stage, where several of the costumed characters in the park perform during the day.
We didn't get to see a performance, perhaps because it wasn't very busy that day. We found it strange that there were so few people there. It was the opening day of their 60th season, after all. Anyway, here are some pictures of one of the performances from 1977.
Again from 1977, here is a picture of my brother and me with some of the park's characters.
Again, you're supposed to be ignoring the wardrobe and haircut. Focus on the snowman's tiny hat instead. Thank you.
Back to our 2009 trip, we saw a manger scene in one of the buildings that also hadn't changed much over the years.
Here is the same manger scene in 1977 -
Aside from some fresh coats of paint, the only major difference I see in the 2009 picture is the addition of huge candles. Those things are almost as tall as the people! I hope they didn't make the poor elephant move all of those into the scene.
A physical "North Pole", which appears to be a pole made of solid ice, has stood at the center of Santa's Workshop for over 60 years.
Again, the park was strangely empty that day in 2009. Usually this pole would be surrounded by people taking pictures, like it was in 1977.
Of course, Santa is blocking the pole in the second picture. Also, I appear to be uninterested in posing for a picture, as I am more focused on using my magic wand on something on the ground. In the background, a member of Devo is about to enter one of the buildings.
Browsing through some of the buildings, we spotted these elves making some presents.
In another building, we found some great displays showing the history of Santa's Workshop with old posters, postcards and memorabilia.
Let's take a closer look at some of the items in the second picture.
Among other things, I see a stuffed dog, a giant bag, a back scratcher, an inflatable reindeer, mugs, a keychain, yo-yos, a ruler, a plate and a deck of cards. Now that's some incredible merchandise!
We also filmed some video footage while we were there. This clip shows some of the things that were not shown in the pictures in this article - including the train ride, the inside of the arcade, and the reindeer barn.
Santa's Workshop is a great historical place to visit in New York State. If you can survive the 121 hour drive to get to North Pole, I highly recommend it!