In North Pole, New York — part of the town of Wilmington — it’s never too early to wish someone a Merry Christmas. That’s because it is celebrated year-round at Santa’s Workshop.
In the early 1900s, Julian Reiss, a businessman from Lake Placid, wanted to create a place for children to visit Santa Claus. He teamed up with a businessman named Harold Fortune, also of Lake Placid, and artist Arto Monaco of Upper Jay. Together, they founded one of the first theme parks in the country.
The brand new entertainment venue opened on July 1, 1949.
“The pictures of the first few years were adults walking around. No kids. Like nobody had a concept of what it really was,” said Everly Greensleeves, Chief “Elf” of Operations.
But people were enamored with the theme. More than 200 people visited the park on opening day. A few years later, the park brought in 14,000 visitors, the highest recorded attendance in a single day. Families have continued to visit Santa’s summer home for more than 70 years.
“It’s just a great place to bring the family and you know the kids really do have a great time,” said Cassie McGlynn, a mother from Smith Town, NY.
From the toy shop to candy making to rides and real reindeer, it’s easy to spend an entire day at Santa’s Workshop. To feel like one of his helpers, children can head to the tailor shop to make their own Santa hat. After, they can sit down with St. Nick to discuss what they want for Christmas and their commitment to be on their best behavior.
“I’ve been doing this for so long, I forgot how much joy a child brings. When they come running to me. It’s just, I fight the tears back,” said Santa Claus.
Greensleeves says his favorite part is watching children explore the storybook village year after year.
“When they walk in here, this is putting reality to all the stories that they heard about Santa and the elves, and watching them walk around here and looking at things with amazement brings joy to us,” he said.
The park is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10-4:30 p.m. until September 3. Families can then enjoy the park’s autumn and winter weekends. Those interested can find the village hours here.