Santa Claus is located at the intersection of Highway 162 and 245, approximately four miles east of Lincoln City, and seven miles south of Interstate 64 between Louisville, Kentucky, and Evansville, Indiana.
The famous little town is home to the world’s only post office with the Santa Claus name. The world’s first theme park is also located in Santa Claus; Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari (originally called Santa Claus Land) opened in 1946. Most of the businesses in Santa Claus have Christmas-themed names such as: Santa’s Lodge, Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort, Christmas Lake Golf Course, Kringle Place and Holiday Foods. Many of the establishments display Christmas lights and decorations year-round. Nearly all the streets in Santa Claus are holiday themed as well; there’s Christmas Boulevard, Candy Cane Lane and Mistletoe Drive. There are eight larger-than-life Santa statues located at various locations throughout the community.
The town of Santa Claus was incorporated in 1967 with a town board of three members and a clerk-treasurer. The population of the town at that time was less than 50. During the summer months, the number of visitors outnumbers the residents many times over.
Naming of Santa Claus
In the 1840s a group of German immigrants formed the town of Santa Fe (pronounced "fee"). In 1852, the town applied for the establishment of a post office. The residents found they would have to change the town's name when the Postal Department informed them there was already a post office in Indiana with the Santa Fe name. The town's name was changed to Santa Claus later that same year.
Local lore tells of a town meeting around a wood stove in a little log church on Christmas Eve in 1852. The residents were deliberating over what to name their community when a winter's gust blew the doors to the church open. Sleigh bells could be heard in the distance and the children started exclaiming it must be Santa Claus! The residents decided the town should indeed be named Santa Claus.
In1932 Attorney Milton Harris came to town and developed “Santa Claus Town”, the town’s first attraction which is purported to be the first themed attraction in the nation. Santa Claus Town was a family-oriented attraction where Santa lived, worked and played year round. It consisted of the Candy Castle (sponsored by Curtiss Candy Company of Chicago -- creators of Baby Ruth & Butterfingers), Santa’s Workshop (where Santa could be seen making wooden toys) and the Toy Village (miniature fairytale buildings sponsored by Lionel Trains, Daisy Air Rifles, Buddy L Trucks, and other famous toy companies). This attraction gave rise to future tourist attraction developments including Santa Claus Park (which included the Santa Claus statue) and Santa Claus Land (now Holiday World).
Original Santa Statue
Businessman Carl A. Barrett collected donations and opened a park with a large statue of Santa Claus in 1935. The statue, dedicated "to the children of the world" is 22 feet high. This landmark has a base in the shape of the Star of Bethlehem, with its principal point showing the way east to the land of the Christmas story.
World’s First Theme Park
On August 3, 1946, Evansville industrialist Louis J. Koch opened Santa Claus Land. This was the first theme park built in the world. (Disneyland opened nine years later.) The original Santa Claus Land included the Santa Claus Land Train, toy displays, a food and souvenir shop, plus a special place to visit Santa Claus. In 1984, additional holiday themes were created and the park was renamed Holiday World. In 1993, Splashin’ Safari water park was added. During the summer months nearly a million guests visit the family parks, which have been repeatedly voted the World’s Friendliest and Cleanest.
In the late 1950s Bill Koch developed Christmas Lake Village, a rural residential community, in Santa Claus. The 2500-acre development is situated around three lakes: Christmas Lake, Lake Holly and Lake Noel. A property owner’s association was established in 1968 to manage the properties within the development. The private, gated community includes tennis courts, clubhouse, pool and championship golf course, Christmas Lake Golf Course. All the streets in Christmas Lake Village have Christmas names. Over 800 homes are located in the Village.
Holiday Village, located on the north side of Santa Claus, continues to be developed by the Koch family. The scenic, 400-acre community with public access has a recreation center, pool and miniature golf course. More than 600 homes are located within the residential section.
Santa Claus Post Office
In 1856, the U.S. Postal Department gave official notice that the community would have a post office. The Santa Claus Post Office is the only post office in the world with Santa’s name. Each year, the post office receives thousands of letters to Santa from children all over the world. A group of local volunteers called "Santa's Elves" make sure each child receives a reply from Santa Claus; this tradition has been traced back as far as 1914.
The Post Office offers a holiday picture postmark during the month of December that also attracts mail from all over the world.
"Christmas in Santa Claus" Festival
Each year, this small town hosts an old-fashioned "Christmas in Santa Claus" celebration including the Festival of Lights, a drive through 12 themed neighborhoods in Christmas Lake Village. The traditional festival has been held for more than 20 years and includes events such as Breakfast with Santa, Christmas Crafts, musical performances, and a Christmas parade.