When I heard that the Santa’s Village near Lake Arrowhead was reopening after 20 years, I knew that I wanted to make a trip up there before Christmas. Emily, Jeremy, and I took Lorelei on their grand opening weekend with the hope of enjoying some actual winter weather, drinking hot chocolate, having Lorelei sit on Santa’s lap (in a non-mall setting), and getting into the Christmas spirit.
The day had some unexpected surprises (more on that later) which is not exactly what we had planned for. But first, a little more about Santa’s Village.
It is located in Skyforest, CA, near Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains. For people unfamiliar with the area, this is close to Big Bear. Once we started driving up the narrow, windy mountain road the temperature began to drop considerably and the winds really picked up. And when we got to the top there was actual snow on the ground! This is more exciting than you can imagine to two girls from the East Coast living in Southern California.
When we finally got into the park, after a minor hiccup with the parking situation, we headed straight towards the line for Santa since it was longer than we expected. We were told that they couldn’t have anyone else join the line at the moment as Santa was going to take a break but we could come back in about 1.5 hours to see him.
We took the opportunity to get some food and do some exploring. The park has two sit-down restaurants and a cafe-style restaurant, with outdoor seating set up to look like a ski lodge. There are a couple rides, a train and a rollercoaster-esque bike trail. There is a skating rink and lots of arts and crafts and shows for older kids.
This was Lorelei’s first time seeing snow and she desperately wanted to crawl over and touch it. Despite their being snow on the ground, it said the temperature was 55 degrees. With the high winds, it felt more like 40. Also, after living here for 3 years, even 60 degrees feels cold to me. We were enjoying the cooler weather but needed some hot chocolate to warm us up.
After we got drinks, Emily and I explored a little more, checking out the Chapel of the Little Shepherd and walking by the candy and gingerbread shops, and gift shop full of all things Christmas. There was even a man walking around with a giant dog that looked like a wolf. He was getting lots of attention and pictures. The dog, not the guy.
We joined Jeremy who was waiting for the food and finally ate lunch while Lorelei took a quick nap.
Now to the not so pleasant part of the story. I will try to keep it short. After we finished eating, it looked like the line for Santa was starting to fill back up so we decided to get back in line. When we got to the end of the line (which was only about 15 minutes after they started letting people in to see him again), we were told yet again that we couldn’t join the line and would have to come back TWO (!) hours later because Santa was going to be part of the parade. This wasn’t going to work for us, as we had an infant that needed to get home. We attempted to explain this to the young girls (one of whom was a little disrespectful and condescending) more than once and they still wouldn’t budge. Even Lorelei’s sweet face and the fact that it was her first Christmas didn’t change their minds. I have to admit I wasn’t entirely nice to one of them.
After that, we were all a little upset and very disappointed as this was a major reason we went, since Lorelei couldn’t really enjoy anything else yet. The rest of the park felt a little spoiled at the moment and so we decided to leave. But not before I spoke with the woman at the front desk and expressed my disappointment and frustration, to which she quickly offered to refund all of our money. I appreciated that as it was a lot of money.
I will say, I don’t entirely fault the park. It was its first official weekend open and there are definitely going to be some bumps along the way. I hope they take this as a learning experience and make some changes with their operations (and maybe educate their staff on how to be respectful to paying customers :)). I do think that if the afternoon hadn’t felt spoiled, we would have stayed and enjoyed ourselves. The park is charming and even for a couple hours it felt like the Christmas that I am used to.
Tip: It is a fun park for adults but if you are going to bring kids, it is more geared towards older children.
Long story short, this is why Emily and I ended up taking Lorelei to see Santa at the Mission Viejo mall, exactly what we were trying to avoid. Oh well.
No matter where she met Santa, I’m sure it would have gone exactly like it did.