A to Z Challenge: Reflections #atozchallenge

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]During the month of April 2016 I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge had each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays.

This was my first opportunity to really participate in this annual event, which just completed its 6th year.  It was not easy!!  I had to not only post something daily, but also create a theme and stick with it.  And, in my perfectionist way, I wanted to make sure there were plenty of photos and commentary.  I wrote in such a way to draw people to the more detailed posts, where ever possible. 

It was a load of fun and I completed the challenge.  Not sure how many actually did, but it was certainly tough, yet fulfilling. 

What I really loved about the event was being able to communicate and link up with others doing the same thing.  I have made some new friends on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  I have found some interesting blogs to follow and also have a few new followers.

I most certainly look forward to participating again next year.  Now to start thinking of a good theme for next year.  May actually take a long time!!!

A BIG Thanks to Arlee Bird and her wonderful team!!

My blog was number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts took readers across the back roads of America to many unique towns.  See what other bloggers posted about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

Following is a complete listing of each with the banners associated with each post’s link. Click on the Lettered Banner to go to the specific post.

ABanner600

The A Towns: Amarillo, TX – Adair, IA – Alzada, MT – Alamogordo, NM – Alligator, MS – Alliance, NE – Ada, MI – Akela Flats, NM

 

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The B Towns: Bemidji, MN – Boring, OR – Blackfoot, ID – Burk’s Falls, ON – Booger Holler, AR – Brownsville, TN – Babb, MT – Blackwater, MO – Bena, MN – Bucksnort, TN – Bugtussle, KY – Bugtussle, TX

 

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The C Towns: Cactus Flat, SD – Centralia, MO – Cape Elizabeth, ME – Climax, NC – Climax, KY – Choteau, MT – Cave City, KY – Charm, OH – Chelsea, MI – Champaign, IL – Cut Bank, MT – Caledonia, ON – Cut and Shoot, TX – China Grove, TX – Cool, TX – Coolville, OH

 

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The D Towns: Douglas, WY – DeForest, WI – Discovery Bay, WA – Dublin, OH – Dublin, TX – Dragoon, AZ – Denton, TX – Durant, OK – Danville, IL – Dallas, SD – Denver, NC – Damon, TX

 

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The E Towns: Earth, TX – Eureka Springs, AR – Elbe, WA – Easton, PA – Eldon, IA – Egg Harbor, WI – East Peoria, IL – Embro, ON – Eagle, CO – Endeavor, WI

 

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The F Towns: Flagstaff, AZ – Friendly, WV – Friendship, AR – Flippin, AR – Fair Play, SC – Fergus Falls, MN – Feely, MT – Flippin, KY – Fly, OH – Four Way, TX – Future City, IL

 

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The G Towns: Gainesville, TX – Gothenburg, NE – Guthrie, KY – Gregory, SD – Galata, MT – Glasgow, MT – Glasgow, KY – Gardiner, MT – Gillette, WY – Granbury, TX – Grand Forks, ND – Gravel Switch, KY – Gilboa, OH – Georgetown, TX

 

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The H Towns: Hell, MI – Hamtramck, MI – Hamilton, ON – Hatch, NM – Hico, TX – Hopland, CA – Hoboken, NJ – Hugo, OK – Hershey, PA – Home on the Range, ND – Hamburg, IA

 

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The I Towns: Indian Head, SK – Intercourse, PA – Ironwood, MI – Independence, MO – Idaho Falls, ID – Iona, ID – Inverness, MT – Iron River, WI

 

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The J Towns: Jamestown, ND – Joseph, OR – Jeffersonville, IN – Juneau, AK – Jackson Hole, WY – Janesville, WI – Jackson Center, OH – Jamaica Beach, TX – Jamestown, NY

 

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The K Towns: Kemmerer, WY – Keystone, SD – Ketchikan, AK – Kensington District, ON – Kadoka, SD – Kremlin, MT – Kirkwood, MO

 

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The L Towns: LeClaire, IA – Lake Nebagamon, WI – Lesage, WV – LeRoy, NY – Lizard Lick, NC – Lake Jackson, TX – Lost Springs, WY – Langdon, ND

 

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The M Towns: Mt. Horeb, WI – Meadville, PA – Metropolis, IL – Marshfield, WI – Moenave, AZ – Mystic, CT – Montrose, SD – Minot, ND – Mitchell, SD – Mapleton, ON – Medina, NY – Moose Jaw, SK – Mars, PA

 

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The N Towns: Nicholson, PA – Nekoma, ND – Natchez, MS – Neah Bay, WA – Nauvoo, IL – Newport, OR – Newark, OH – Normal, IL – Nice, CA – New Salem, ND

 

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The O Towns: Only, TN – Old Orchard Beach, ME – Okay, OK – Oil Springs, ON – Oak Creek, CO – Oacoma, SD – Odd, WV – Onawa, IA – Oddville, KY

 

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The P Towns: Pella, IA – Peculiar, MO – Pierre Part, LA – Point Pleasant, WV – Paris, KY – Paris, TX – Paris, TN – Paris, ON – Port Orchard, WA – Powder River, WY – Paducah, KY – Port Gibson, MS – Palmyra, NY – Perryville, KY – Paxton, NE – Pembroke, NY – Penn Yan, NY – Ponder, TX

 

QBanner

The Q Towns: Quincy, IL – Quartzsite, AZ – Queen City, OH (Cincinnati) – Quicksand, KY

 

RBanner

The R Towns: Roswell, NM – Regent, ND – Rhinelander, WI – Rabbit Hash, KY – Raton, NM – Red Lodge, MT – Riverside, IA – Rugby, ND – Rudyard, MT

 

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The S Towns: Steubenville, OH – Stanley, ID – Sedona, AZ – Santa Rosa, CA – Staunton, IL – Sisters, OR – Seymour, WI – Santa Claus, IN – Sandwich, NH – Sweet Grass, MT – Shakespeare, ON – Stratford, ON – Sikeston, MO – Success, MO – Soda Springs, ID

 

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The T Towns: Tightwad, MO – Talent, OR – Toad Suck, AR – Thermopolis, WY – Teton Valley, ID – Tetonia, ID – Tuba City, AZ – Tornado, WV – Tavistock, ON – Tomahawk, WI – Tripp, SD – Tunica, MS – Tioga, TX – Ten Sleep, WY – Torch, OH

 

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The U Towns: Uncertain, TX – Uncasville, CT – Upper Lake, CA – Ukiah, CA – Upton, KY

 

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The V Towns: Vulcan, AB – Valier, MT – Vernal, UT – Vandalia, IL – Vicksburg, MS – Versailles, KY – Vincennes, IN

 

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The W Towns: Wharton, TX – Welland, ON – Wapiti, WY – Wall, SD – Winterset, IA – Winner, SD – Walla Wall, WA – Worland, WY – Walcott, IA – Waldo, AR – West Montrose, ON

 

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The X Towns: Xenia, OH – Lexington, KY – Cotopaxi, CO – Oxford County, ON – Texarkana, AR – Texline, TX – Rexburg, ID – Exie, KY

 

YBanner

The Y Towns: Yampa, CO – West Yellowstone, MT –  Yellville, AR – York, NE

 

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The Z Towns: Zanesville, OH – Zelienople, PA – Zurich, MT

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A to Z Challenge: The D Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns, some known for their names, other for unique sites in town. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

D The D Towns

Douglas, Wyoming

Large Jackalope - Douglas, WY
Large Jackalope – Douglas, WY
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye
My Official Jackalope Hunting License from Douglas, WY
My Official Jackalope Hunting License from Douglas, WY

As I travel across the US and Canada, I am always on the lookout for quirky things and big statues.  Well, Douglas, Wyoming provides plenty in that area.  Touted as the Jackalope Capital of the World, Douglas has jackalopes dotting the town, including a couple of big ones.  And “What is a jackalope?” you ask…  Check out my full posts on Douglas HERE and ALSO HERE.

DeForest, Wisconsin

Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI
Pinkie the Pink Elephant in DeForest, WI
Sissy the Cow in DeForest, WI. Playing a little "Chick-Fil-A" on Burger King!!
Sissy the Cow in DeForest, WI. Playing a little “Chick-Fil-A” on Burger King!!

Perhaps Wisconsin is the home of the most Big Things.  Throughout the state there are big cows (it is a cheesy state mind you) and big mice.  There is a big bulldog in Beloit (see here).  However, not much tops the big pink elephant at the Shell One Stop in DeForest, WI and the big cow named Sissy is also one of America’s biggest.  Read the bigger story and see more photos HERE.

Discovery Bay, Washington

Wood carved things in front of Fat Smitty's in Discovery Bay, WA
Wood carved things in front of Fat Smitty’s in Discovery Bay, WA
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty's
Dollar Bills plaster every inch of the walls and ceiling of Fat Smitty’s

The theme of quirky runs throughout the veins of this post.  I now move on to Discovery Bay, WA on US Highway 101 northwest of Seattle, (near Port Townsend, WA) home of the uniquely quirky Fat Smitty’s burger place.  Surrounded by a menagerie of interesting and colorful wood carvings on the outside and walls and ceilings plastered with dollar bills (and other denominations), this is a place to behold.  Oh, and yes, the burgers aren’t too bad either.  See my full post about my August 2015 visit to Fat Smitty’s HERE.

Dublin, Ohio and Dublin, Texas

At the "Filed of Corn" - Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH
At the “Field of Corn” – Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park in Dublin, OH
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
The Field of Corn in Dublin, OH has 109 ears of corn
My son Solomon in Dublin, Texas home of the Dr. Pepper Plant in June 2007
My son Solomon in Dublin, Texas, former home of the Dr. Pepper Plant in June 2007

I have never been to Dublin, Ireland, but I have been to Dublin, Ohio and Dublin, Texas.  The two American towns named Dublin are distinctly different, but both offer some surprises.

In Dublin, OH you can play amongst ears of corn at the “Field of Corn” is a publicly funded art installation in the city of Dublin, Ohio. The installation consists of 109 concrete ears of corn positioned in rows and standing upright in a grassy field.  Sculpted by Malcolm Cochran, a professor of sculpting at Ohio State University, the park was named the Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park, and was originally farmed by Sam Frantz, an inventor of several hybrid corn species.  This is not the only unique public art work in Dublin.  This is one of a few towns that has worked to bring in a plethora of unique, cool and sometimes quirky works of outdoor art. Check out the Dublin Arts Council’s website.

In 2007 I took a trip with my son to Texas and Arkansas (I noted our visit to Booger Holler in my B Towns post of the #AtoZChallenge).  On that same trip we visited the town of Dublin, TX, near Waco, to visit what was, at that time, the only remaining Dr Pepper plant in the world that made Dr Pepper with pure cane sugar.  The plant has eventually converted and the museum was moved to Waco.  But I note it here because, back then, they changed the name of the town to Dr Pepper, Texas once a year (and set the population at 1024 — if you are a Dr Pepper fan, you’ll know what the 1024 means).

Dragoon, Arizona

An example of The Thing billboards that dot Arizona, New Mexico and California
An example of The Thing billboards that dot Arizona, New Mexico and California
A myriad of souvenirs available at Bowlin's The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
A myriad of souvenirs available at Bowlin’s The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
Bowlin Resort's The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
Bowlin Resort’s The Thing resort in Dragoon, AZ
The Thing's Outhouse -- Great Seats Available
The Thing’s Outhouse — Great Seats Available
AssKickin
Ass Kickin’ nuts…super spicy hot. Made in Goodyear, AZ and found at many tourist shops. Great for munching on long road trips (as long as you have some icy cold liquid to wash them down)

I mentioned Bowlin’s resorts in my post on Akela Flats in the A to Z Challenge last week.  Bowlin has another fun touristy place in Arizona called “The Thing.”  This is one of those places that has billboards hundreds of miles away promoting the unusual site (other’s that I recall seeing in diverse places include “Where the hell is Wall Drug?” (South Dakota), “Visit Little America” (Wyoming), “Rock City” (Tennessee).  I’ll actually hit these places in future posts. ).  As for an explanation of “The Thing”, you’ll have to make your way south of Tucson on Interstate 10, pay the fee and go see it for yourself.  Make sure you visit the famed Outhouse and get some of those amazing Ass Kickin’ Peanuts!  They are available at many fine tourist trap shops around the southwest.

Denton, Texas

Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square in Denton, TX
Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square in Denton, TX
The Great Texas Supper Mural at LSA Burger Co, in Denton, TX
The Great Texas Supper Mural at LSA Burger Co, in Denton, TX

A well kept secret of a place is Denton, Texas.  Just north of the excitement of the Dallas metroplex, Denton sits quietly with its grand architecture, ghost walks and a unique burger joint that features a wonderful, yet controversial mural call the The Great Texas Supper, a play on the Last Supper painting but instead has a number of dead Texas musicians.  The LSA Burger Company also features a tribute to Willie Nelson, a Texas shaped “Texas Instruments” sculpture and bars covered with old record albums.  See my full post HERE.

Durant, Oklahoma

Sumoflam with Durant's Giant Peanut
Sumoflam with Durant’s Giant Peanut
Scrap Metal Horses - Durant, Oklahoma
Scrap Metal Horses – Durant, Oklahoma
Painted Horses in Durant, OK
Painted Horses in Durant, OK

Durant, Oklahoma is one of those unique small towns that brings me so much enjoyment in travel.  Home of the “World’s Largest Peanut” statue, it is also decorated with dozens of painted horses. Durant is in the Choctaw Nation and is currently ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.   Though Durant lays claim to the “World’s Largest Peanut”, its a title it shares with two other monuments in Texas and Ashburn, Georgia. This monument is for the peanut growers in Bryan County and I found it on the front lawn of Durant’s city hall.  See more about my trip to Durant and other locales from back in 2013 HERE.

Danville, Illinois

Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Celebrities of Danville Wall Mural in downtown Danville, IL
Lindley Sign Post Forest in Danville, IL
Lindley Sign Post Forest in Danville, IL
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl
Danville USA Brick Sculpture by Donna Dobberfuhl

I visited Danville, Illinois on a trip to Omaha in 2013.  This is one of those towns you can spend a good day in.  With dozens of wall murals depicting town history and town heroes, the art is great. But there are other unique pieces of art such as the Danville USA Brick Sculpture shown above.  But most interesting to me was the Lindley Sign Post Forest. The story is unique….Carl Lindley, one of the mural artists in Danville, has the same name as Carl Lindley (also originally from Danville, IL), the founder of the original sign post forest in Alaska (see here). This tradition started in 1942 by Carl K. Lindley, a U. S. Army Engineer, 341 company “D”. When building many signs in the area, he added a sign to a sign post which stated, “Danville, Illinois, 2835 miles”.  The Alaska version has over 47,000 signs.  I think the more mini version in Danville has about 200.  Read the bigger story and see photos in my 2013 post HERE.

Dallas, South Dakota (Honorable mention)

Welcome to Dallas, SD
Welcome to Dallas, SD
Water tower in Dallas -- in the middle of the road
Water tower in Dallas — in the middle of the road

In 2013 I trekked across the country to Idaho and, along the way, took a drive along the Oyate Trail in South Dakota, which covers US Highways 18 and 50. (See the full post HERE).  One of the unique little places I visited was Dallas, SD.  Unlike the huge metropolis of Dallas, Texas, this small community has no stop light but it DOES have a water tower right in the middle of the road!

Denver, North Carolina (Honorable mention)

Big Spider, Denver, North Carolina
Big Black Widow sculpture, Denver, North Carolina
Stacy's Restaurant, Denver, NC
Stacy’s Restaurant, Denver, NC

If I am going to include a Dallas, I might as well also include a Denver, this one in North Carolina.  Denver is a town of a little over 13,000 fine folk who enjoy the luxurious life on the west shore of Lake Norman, just off of NC Hwy 7.  I visited some friends there in March 2012.  We went downtown to dinner and lo and behold I saw a giant black widow!!  Creepy.  Sculpted by artist Dave Simpson, it apparently advertises a pest management company. The gleaming arachnid, with its eight-foot-long legs, perches on a boulder.  After that appetizing moment we had a wonderful dinner at Stacy’s Restaurant. It was a great local home cooked meal type of place.

Damon, Texas (Honorable mention)

I sent this to my friend Damon. The old clapboard style post office in Damon, TX
I sent this to my friend Damon. The old clapboard style post office in Damon, TX
There is Planet Hollywood and then there is Planet Damon...
There is Planet Hollywood and then there is Planet Damon…

Another town with a unique water tower and a fun post office is Damon, Texas.  A small place in southern Texas, it has one of the smallest water towers I ave seen and it boasts the name “Planet Damon.”  Fun fun.  See my full trip HERE.

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Christmas Time in Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus Post Office
Santa Claus Post Office

Over the years, I have traveled to a number of what I call “Theme Towns.” These would include places such as Vulcan, Alberta with its Star Trek theme (see post of my visit in 2007); Metropolis, IL and its Superman theme (see post of my visit); Hershey, PA and its chocolate theme (see post about recent visit in 2015); Roswell, NM with an alien theme; Douglas, WY and its Jackalope theme (see post here); and Hell, MI with its Devils and hell-fire (see post here). Another one I visited back in 2012 was Santa Claus, IN with its Santa and Christmas inspired themes. That visit was a short pass-thru visit on my way west to Kansas City.

Family off to visit Santa Claus (Indiana, that is)
Family off to visit Santa Claus (Indiana, that is)
SumoSanta and Mrs. SumoSanta having fun
SumoSanta and Mrs. SumoSanta having fun
Grandson Landen Noe on his 7th birthday
Grandson Landen Noe on his 7th birthday

On my grandson Landen’s 7th birthday, Dec. 17, we gathered up Landen, his sisters and his cousin Rockwell, along with my daughter Marissa and my wife and took a day trip to visit Santa Claus during the holiday season. It was a lovely, though quite cold, day to take the two and a half hour trek from our own horse and bourbon themed Lexington up to Santa Claus.

Santa Claus exit and Sumoflam
Santa Claus exit and Sumoflam

Our trip up was uneventful. It was cloudy in the morning so we didn’t
see a sunrise. However, by the time we got to the Santa Claus exit off
of I-64 west, the skies was bright with sunshine and a few spotty
clouds.

We got into town about 11:30 EST, but it was Central Time there. Our
intent was to head to lunch first and then visit the town.

Welcome to Santa Claus
Welcome to Santa Claus

 

Kringle Place shopping center in Santa Claus, IN
Kringle Place shopping center in Santa Claus, IN

One might think that Santa Claus would have a quaint little rustic
downtown area with Christmas-like cottages and a Gatlinburg-esque
atmosphere. Unfortunately, this is not really the case. Though there
are Santa statues throughout the small town, the actual town consists of a strip mall (Kringle Place) with a few Christmas-themed shops, then, a couple miles down the road there is a museum, the original post office, an old church and the “Candy Castle.” The town has a hotel called Santa’s Lodge, with a restaurant called St. Nick’s. There is a campground at Lake Rudolph. Besides the Santa-themed attractions, the biggest drawing card to the town is the Holiday World Amusement Park with its huge roller coasters and water slide amusements. Obviously, at this time of the year it is closed for the season.

Santa Claus Car Wash in Kringle Place - I guess Santa also has a car!
Santa Claus Car Wash in Kringle Place – I guess Santa also has a car!

 

Santa Coke Machines dot the town of Santa Claus, IN
Santa Coke Machines dot the town of Santa Claus, IN

Thus, this visit to Santa Claus was really in the “off season” though,
for three weekends in December the town is bustling with Christmas
visitors and its variety of Christmas activities, some of which were
still available on this particular Thursday visit. (Mind you, the
County Tourism office recommended I visit on Saturday, but that wasn’t going to work for us).

We got to St. Nick’s restaurant at 10:45 and it didn’t open until 11,
so we kind of hung around the lobby of the Santa’s Lodge hotel, which
was nicely decked out for Christmas. The town really has sparse

St. Nick's Restaurant in Santa Claus, IN
St. Nick’s Restaurant in Santa Claus, IN

dining options. Besides the obviously Santa-themed St. Nick’s, the only other options appeared to be a Subway (with a Santa out front) and a Pizza/Sandwich place in the Kringle Plaza strip mall. If you want to eat vegan, good luck!

St. Nick's Menu
St. Nick’s Menu
Seating at St. Nick's Restaurant in Santa Claus, IN
Seating at St. Nick’s Restaurant in Santa Claus, IN

 

St. Nick's Kid's Menu
St. Nick’s Kid’s Menu

St. Nick’s has a few Christmas designs and the menu is certainly Christmasy. The menu items were typical American faire. We were there on a slow day and found little that we could eat (as far as vegetarian options were concerned.) We ordered the tri-color tortellini with artichoke pesto, kind of excited about the Christmas colored noodles. But, much to our dismay, our server came back a few minutes later to tell us it had been discontinued and that the “new owners” we’re getting “new menus” soon. So, we opted for the salad bar, which sufficed (somewhat). All the kids got kids meal chicken fingers and fries, which were hefty. I asked about the “Reindeer Paws,” which were advertised on the Santa Claus, IN website (see here), and our server had never heard of them.  Apparently they used Reindeer Paws as the name of their Buffalo Wings but no longer.

Grandkidz waiting for their chicken strips and fries at St. Nick's
Grandkidz waiting for their chicken strips and fries at St. Nick’s

By this time, my wife was already noting another “Sandwich Fail,”
referring to our September 2015 trip to New England and our out of the way drive to Sandwich, NH to get a sandwich (and our ultimate discovery that there are no places in Sandwich to get a sandwich).

St. Nick's Restaurant
St. Nick’s Restaurant

Though the waitress was pleasant, the food was lackluster. But, in a town with few choices, it was probably better than the other two places.  Thankfully, they gave us a 10% discount due to all of the troubles. That was helpful considering the cost of meals for seven people.

Some of Santa's Lodge Christmasy decor
Some of Santa’s Lodge Christmasy decor
Santa's Lodge Christmas Tree with the grandkidz
Santa’s Lodge Christmas Tree with the grandkidz

Now that tummies were full, we were ready to venture into town and see all of the offerings of this small Indiana village.  Our first stop was some photo shoots inside and outside of Santa’s Lodge.  The interior is nicely decorated for Christmas (perhaps year around).  And, outside, they have the 10 foot tall “Angry Santa” statue — that’s what I call it anyway.  He doesn’t look too friendly, though he did pat me on my head!

Good boy Sumoflam
Good boy Sumoflam
Angry Santa
Angry Santa
Julianne and Grandkidz cuddling with the "Angry Santa"
Julianne and Grandkidz cuddling with the “Angry Santa”

DSC_7681From Santa’s Lodge we decided to head over to the Santa Claus Museum and Village, which was east on IN 245 a bit past IN 162. The old historic Post Office and old Santa Claus Church are located there, along with a 20 foot tall Santa Statue.  The Santa Claus Museum features historical documents, photos and artifacts illustrating the progression from the tiny settlement of Santa Fe (pop. 65) to the present day town of Santa Claus. Exhibits feature the story behind the town’s famous name, the history of tourism, and artifacts highlighting the town’s unique history. The town was established in 1854 and known as Santa Fe (pronounced “fee”). In 1856, when the town was working to establish a post office, the United States Postal Service refused their first application as there was already a Santa Fe established with the USPS. Several town meetings were held, during which the name Santa Claus was selected.

Santa Claus Statue near the Santa Claus Museum
Santa Claus Statue near the Santa Claus Museum (as seen in Dec. 2015)
Santa Claus Statue as seen in January 2010 when I passed through
Original Santa Claus, IN Post Office
Original Santa Claus, IN Post Office

The town now has the world’s only post office to bear the name of Santa Claus. Because of this popular name, the post office receives thousands of letters to Santa from all over the world each year. A group of volunteers known as Santa’s Elves ensures each child receives a reply from Santa Claus; this tradition has been in existence since at least 1914.

One of "Santa's Elves" helping out at the old Post Office where the grandkidz could write letters to Santa
One of “Santa’s Elves” helping out at the old Post Office where the grandkidz could write letters to Santa
Landen writes to Santa Claus at the Santa Claus Post Office
Landen writes to Santa Claus at the Santa Claus Post Office
An elf guards the Santa Letter mailbox
An elf guards the Santa Letter mailbox

DSC_7656DSC_7664

Writing letters at Santa Claus Post Office
Writing letters at Santa Claus Post Office (photo by Marissa Noe)

The kids sat the old style desks to write their letters to Santa.  It was a nice little unique atmosphere.

After each child completes their letter, the parents (or children) include their mailing address on the letter and Santa will send them a letter to respond to them. There is no charge for this.  It is a fun concept for the kids (and donations are accepted for those wishing to help out Santa’s volunteers)

Plaque on old Santa Claus Church
Plaque on old Santa Claus Church

Just behind the old Post Office is the old church.  It is a small, cozy building.   It was built in 1880 and still is heated by a wood burning stove.

The inside is sparse, but warm.  There is a nice nativity scene at the front.  The grandkidz went in and sat down in one of the pews and all sang Silent Night together.  It was really sweet!

Grandkidz sing Silent Night in the old Santa Claus Church
Grandkidz sing Silent Night in the old Santa Claus Church (photo by Marissa Noe)
Singing Silent Night
Singing Silent Night
Old Plaque on Church
Old Plaque on Church (St. Paul’s Kirche – 1880)
The Old St. Paul's Church in Santa Claus, IN, built in 1880
The Old St. Paul’s Church in Santa Claus, IN, built in 1880
An ornament adorns a branch on a tree in front of the Santa Claus Museum
An ornament adorns a branch on a tree in front of the Santa Claus Museum
Ornaments on a decorated tree in front of the Santa Claus Museum
Ornaments on a decorated tree in front of the Santa Claus Museum
Couldn't resist a selfie n the old church
Couldn’t resist a selfie n the old church

12398520_10153790433132090_1021391118_oA little on further down the road is “Santa’s Candy Castle,” the perfect place to pick up some goodies for the kids.  And during the Christmas season, they also provide an opportunity for the kids to chat with Santa’s Elves in the North Pole online and find out if they have been Naughty or Nice. Its a nice interactive thing for the kids to do and they get a certificate afterwards that is encased in plastic!  (There is a cost involved, but I was able to get coupons online and save a few dollars at santaclausind.org)

Naughty and Nice
Naughty and Nice

We had already determined who was Naughty and Nice between Mom and Daughter….but the grandkidz needed to wok with the north Pole elves to get that determination.

The interactive program on the computers requires a special code and each child is assigned to a specific elf for their interview.  The Elves ask a few questions and then make some advice before they finalize the certificates.  The kids have fun with this and so the adults!

Naughty Grandma helping the birthday boy take his survey
Naughty Grandma helping the birthday boy take his survey
Rockwell taking his North Pole Elf survey. He ended up on the Nice list!
Rockwell taking his North Pole Elf survey. He ended up on the Nice list!
The Grandkidz all made the Good List (photo by Marissa Noe)
The Grandkidz all made the Good List (photo by Marissa Noe)
The PEZ Wall at Santa's Candy Castle
The PEZ Wall at Santa’s Candy Castle

Then came the BEST part of the visit to the Candy Castle….yep, the Candy!!  The store has a Jelly Belly Room, a giant PEZ wall and a huge assortment of favorite goodies, even some that are not typically seen in the eastern US (such as the Rocky Road Bars).  Each of the grandkidz got to choose ONE thing for being on the good list (per Grampz).

Hello Kitty Collector PEZ
Hello Kitty Collector PEZ
One of the Jelly Belly Walls
One of the Jelly Belly Walls
SCORE! Tabasco flavored Jelly Belly candies!! How exciting!
SCORE! Tabasco flavored Jelly Belly candies!! How exciting! (See more)

Then there are the Bean Boozled Flavors – including such yummy goodies as Skunk Spray, Toothpaste, Booger, Vomit, Baby Wipes, Moldy Cheese, Stinky Sock, and Grass Clippings.  YUM!  And yes, we got some of these too.  Take the Bean Boozled Challenge if you dare…I have and lived to tell about my vomit and skunk spray experiences.

Bean Boozled Poster
Bean Boozled Poster

The Candy Store also offers a variety of fudge, popcorn and taffy flavors all served up by Santa’s Nice Little Helpers who were there for us on this day.  If you dare (which we didn’t) you could try out the famed Frozen Hot Chocolate.

Santa's Helpers at the Candy Castle.
Santa’s Helpers at the Candy Castle.

The Candy Castle also has a few ornaments and books as well as a Santa Claus Hall of Fame wall.  Here are a few more photos from this fun place.

Santa Claus Wall of Fame
Santa Claus Hall of Fame
Welcome Sign
Welcome Sign
Hats - including a Humbug Hat
Hats – including a Humbug Hat
Sumoflam at the North Pole
Sumoflam at the North Pole
At Santa's Candy Castle
At Santa’s Candy Castle

My daughter in law Holly wanted us to pick up a nice ornament from Santa Claus.  She SPECIFICALLY asked my daughter to get it and didn’t want to ask me.  When I called her and asked her why she wouldn’t want me to do it she said “I don’t want you bringing home a pickle ornament or some other weird ornament.”  Ironically, I had never heard of a pickle ornament.  But, t my amazement, there were indeed pickle ornaments for sale at Santa’s Candy Castle.  They even came along with a story.

Pickle Ornaments
Unique Pickle Ornaments

According to whychristmas.com the story of the Pickle Ornament is as follows:

The tradition of the Christmas Pickle has got to be one of the strangest modern Christmas customs in that no one is quite sure why it exists at all! It was claimed that the Christmas Pickle was a very old German tradition and that the pickle was the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree and then the first child to find the pickle got an extra present. Some families now have the tradition of hanging the pickle on the tree, with the first person/child to find it getting a present. But it probably didn’t start in Germany!

Christmas Pickle
Christmas Pickle

Needless to say, we got Holly her nice ornament, but ALSO got her a Christmas Pickle ornament.  I couldn’t resist.  We read the little info sheet to all at the family gathering.  “An age-old German good luck emblem, this realistic, hand-painted glass ornament adds a touch of legend and humor to holiday decorating. According to tradition, the first child to find the pickle ornament, which parents hide deep within the trees boughs, gets an extra gift from St. Nick.” Oh what fun it was!

Even the Grinch frequents the Candy Castle!
Even the Grinch frequents the Candy Castle!

DSC_7708Now that we determined that the kids were all good and that they were all candied up, we got back in the van and headed over to Kringle Place to visit some of the shops there and maybe, just maybe, get a chance to see the REAL Santa. The Santa Claus Christmas Store has a HUGE selection of Christmas collectibles including ornaments, nativities, Christmas decor items and a special room to visit Santa Claus…a really special one.

Hundreds of ornaments at the Christmas Store
Hundreds of ornaments at the Christmas Store
More ornaments
More ornaments
Classy Santa Ornaments
Classy Santa Ornaments
Santa Decor
Santa Decor
Santa with Santa
Santa with Santa
Kids fascinated by Silent Night musical diorama
Kids fascinated by Silent Night musical diorama
More Santa Decor
More Santa Decor

Then of course, there was the chance visit with the REAL Santa Claus. Marissa said it best…  “This Santa was pretty awesome. Lyla wasn’t even scared at all- which has not been the case for the fast few we have seen. And I just loved the chair. After asking the children what they wanted for Christmas he asked them if they knew why we really celebrated Christmas. And then they had a conversation about Jesus. (And look at his chair!)

Santa with the Grandkidz
Santa with the Grandkidz (photo by Marissa Noe)
The upper part of Santa's unique chair at the Christmas Store
The upper part of Santa’s unique chair at the Christmas Store

By this time we were pretty zonked.  Marissa and Julianne still wanted to do some shopping, so I took the kids and we took a drive around the rest of the town.  We found a few unique surprises along the way as we did.

Santa Claus Police
Santa Claus Police

To my surprise and delight,  we discovered a Santa Claus Police Car!  I asked the kids why they would need a Police Car in Santa Claus and Landen piped up with “Santa needs someone to decide who is Naughty and who is Nice.”  HA!  And now, I have another unique Police Car to add to my collection as well.  here are a few other Santa Claus fun places.

Saint Nicholas Catholic Church
Saint Nicholas Catholic Church
Wondering if this is where the old Santas go??
Wondering if this is where the old Santas go??
Holly Tree
Holly Tree
A statue of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in front of Saint Nicholas Catholic Church. Most Catholic churches just have a Mary...so this was unique
A statue of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in front of Saint Nicholas Catholic Church. Most Catholic churches just have a Mary…so this was unique
Volunteer Fire Department
Volunteer Fire Department
Up on the Rooftop
Up on the Rooftop
Candy Castle Road
Candy Castle Road
Santa Reading at the bank
Santa Reading at the bank drive-thru

And then there are the many Santa Claus” statues in town.  The town even has a hashtag “#SantaSelfie”.  I saw at least a dozen Santa statues around town at the banks, the post office, the library, the Subway sandwich shop, and other places.

These are all themed to give that wonderful feeling as one travels around town.  Even the City Hall is decked out with a Santa Claus and holiday decorations.

Some of the Santas around town are whimsical. Others are much more traditional.  Some are life size and others are larger than life.  Here are a few more of the Santas around town.

Santa Claus City Hall Santa Statue
Santa Claus City Hall Santa Statue
This Santa sits in a loft on top of the Holly Tree shop
This Santa sits in a loft on top of the Holly Tree shop
A Chain Saw Art Santa at Santa's Candy Castle
A Chain Saw Art Santa at Santa’s Candy Castle
A Santa Selfie with the Santa in front of the Tourism Office
A Santa Selfie with the Santa in front of the Tourism Office
A Waving Santa at Santa's Lodge
A Waving Santa at Santa’s Lodge
Another Santa Claus reading a book
Another Santa Claus reading a book
Santa Claus Welcome Sign
Santa Claus Welcome Sign
Santa Claus Chillin
Santa Claus Chillin
A Santa Selfie
A Santa Selfie

And finally, even Sumoflam gets to meet Santa Claus in person!!  He told me I was a good boy this year!!

Sumoflam Santa with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN
Sumoflam Santa with Santa Claus in Santa Claus, IN

 

 

 

 

 

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