The Santa Claus Museum was not what I expected when I saw it on my itinerary. I thought it was about Santa Claus the man. Turns out it’s about Santa Claus the town, with a focus on the history of Holiday World. And if you’re a fan of Holiday World, you owe it to yourself to take an hour to visit the place during your next visit.
My family and I got to tour the Santa Claus Museum, thanks to the Spencer County Convention and Visitors Bureau setting it up. When we got there, we were greeted by Mrs. Koch, the owner of Holiday World, and wife of the founder. When they introduced us, I figured she had just stopped by for a quick visit, since the museum was her creation.
Turns out she was actually there to meet us and give us a tour. This is sort of like being met at Disney World by Walt himself, and I was thrilled that she was taking the time out of her day to do this for us.
We got to see where the volunteers would answer letters to Santa from little children, and saw the official government document that named Santa Claus a town. We saw some different Santa paraphernalia, and a lot of original photos from Holiday World from when it first started out. We heard about how the Kochs grew Holiday World and the Splashin’ Safari, how they are committed to making it one of the best parks in the country, and even their attitude on managing staff.
I also had a chance to meet their new PR director, Nathan Ryder, who I had originally met on a trip to Evansville, Indiana. He was in his second week on the job, and we had a chance to get reacquainted.
We also had a chance to visit the Santa Claus Gift Shop, which is right next to the museum. The gift shop is owned by one of Mrs. Koch’s sons, and his goal is to make it the biggest year-round Christmas store in the country (right now, they’re #2). Not only is there every kind of Christmas ornament and decoration you can imagine, there is even a fudge counter in the back where you can get it by the piece or by the pound. There is even fudge made with cane sugar, so people who have sugar issues and diabetes can enjoy it.
Most of their business comes from the Internet, but the walk-in traffic during the summer is tremendous. When we stopped in, I figured it would be a quick 10 minutes in-and-out visit. We spent more than 40 minutes in there, and saw a lot of stuff I had never even dreamed existed.
I’m always interested in the history of a place, especially a popular place that has touched the lives of thousands of people. If you find yourself in Santa Claus this summer, take a break, and visit the Santa Claus museum. It’s just across the road from the Lake Rudolph Campground on SR 241. And while you’re there, pick something up to get ready for the Christmas season. It’s never too early to start.