A once-beloved Christmas-themed amusement park that for decades drew Santa Claus fans to the alpine peaks of Southern California will finally reopen next month after an 18-year closure.
SkyPark at Santa's Village is scheduled to open on Friday, December 2 near Lake Arrowhead, in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.
It's the restart of a tourist attraction that offered colorful storybook-style cottages, candy canes and holiday-themed rides year-round from 1955 to 1998.
"It's kind of been like in a time capsule for almost two decades. I think people in Southern California especially have so many memories of the park, I think a lot of people are going to enjoy coming back and revisiting those memories," Santa's Village's General Manager Bill Johnson tells KPCC.
Johnson says employees are busy putting the finishing touches on the park.
The new 153-acre park will feature a tunnel ride, restaurants, pub and an ice skating rink. It will operate under a temporary permit until developers can win environmental approval from San Bernardino County to add campgrounds, a fly fishing pond, mountain biking trails and a zipline. Approval could come next year.
Johnson says the new attractions are more eco-friendly: "Everything is self-powered and kind of self driven. It's a way to kind of get families out to participate and get together and do activities in the park. So we have ice skating. We have pedal powered go-karts instead of gas-powered or electric go-karts."
For now, only the original 18 Santa's Village buildings will be open. The village will be open seven days a week, except for Christmas Day. Tickets, which went on sale on Wednesday, November 23, must be bought online. An adult entry will cost $59.
Only 1,000 tickets are available for opening day — and they're going fast.
The village is seen as an economic boost to an area that has struggled since the 2008 recession.
"My hope is that we are allowed to open the village as everybody remembers it," Johnson told the San Bernardino Sun last month.
Meanwhile, Santa is ready to report for duty.
"I can't wait to welcome kids into Santa's house for the first time in 18 years," said Bill Priest of Lake Arrowhead, who plays Santa at local functions.
Priest told the Sun last month that he will be a Santa at the village and train other Santas.
"I'm just waiting for a phone call," he said.