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

 

OBanner

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

 

SBanner

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

 

TBanner

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

 

ZBanner

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

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A to Z Challenge: The M 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 what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

MThe M Towns

Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

Welcome to Mt. Horeb, WI
Welcome to Mt. Horeb, WI
A giant troll sculpture greets you at the Mount Horeb Welcome Center. Created by Wally Keller
A giant troll sculpture greets you at the Mount Horeb Welcome Center. Created by Wally Keller
Ahhh..trolls
Ahhh..trolls
Another Mt. Horeb Troll - for good measure
A Mt. Horeb Troll – for good measure
One of dozens of HUGE trolls in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
One of dozens of HUGE trolls in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
Grumpy Troll Brew Pub and Restaurant, Mt. Horeb, WI
Grumpy Troll Brew Pub and Restaurant, Mt. Horeb, WI

There is no better place to catch some trolls than in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Indeed, the main attraction for the town are the trolls. The town has created a “Trollway” along Wisconsin Highway 151 with many large carved wooden trolls visible from the road. Many of these were created by local artist Michael Feeney. We found a few on our visit….  Click here for a nice map of the town, with all of the trolls and other attractions.  Click HERE to read more about my 2012 visit and see more trolls.

Meadville, Pennsylvania

Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Sumoflam and Road Sign Flowers
Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
Road Sign Flower Garden in Meadville, PA
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA
Stop sign flower in Meadville, PA
Balloons and more
Balloons and more
Roadsign art in Meadville
Roadsign art in Meadville

Traveling Interstate 79 North towards Pittsburgh, you can hop off of Exit 147 onto US Highway 19 and head towards Meadville.  Not too far off from there you will run into something interesting.  Along the road there is a giant menagerie of roadside art…all made from repurposed roadsigns that PennDOT had donated. Signs & Flowers is a garden of 12 large flowers made of recycled road signs and landscaping at the PennDOT storage lot in Meadville (photos below). In the spring and summer of 2001, Allegheny College art students, under the direction of art professor Amara Geffen, designed and planted the “garden,” which has quickly become a popular attraction for local residents and tourists. In the summer of 2002 Geffen’s students continued the project by constructing a 200-foot sculptural fence Read Between the Signs on the PennDOT property along Hwy 322.  See more photos and more of the story HERE.

Metropolis, Illinois

Welcome to Metropolis, home of Superman
Welcome to Metropolis, home of Superman
"Super" Family Trip - Metropolis, Illinois
“Super” Family Trip – Metropolis, Illinois
Sumoflam with Superman in Metropolis, IL
Sumoflam with Superman in Metropolis, IL
The Giant non-Superman Statue in Metropolis, IL
The Giant non-Superman Statue in Metropolis, IL

Many of us have grown up hearing the name “Metropolis” and associating with the big city that Superman.  Well, there is actually a town in Illinois called Metropolis and they celebrate their Superman status with an entire town square dedicated to Superman and a newspaper called the Planet. See more in my post about Metropolis from 2012 HERE.

Marshfield, Wisconsin

Jurustic Park
Jurustic Park
Welcome to Jurustic Park
Welcome to Jurustic Park
20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
20 foot tall Jurustic Park dragon in Marshfield, WI
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Marshfield, Wisconsin is located just north of US Highway 10 smack in the middle of Wisconsin.  And, about four miles north of Marshfield, you can turn off onto Wisconsin Highway 97 and then onto Highway E on the north edge of Marshfield at the Wal-Mart stoplight. Go north past Menards 3 1/2 miles to Sugarbush Lane for 1/2 mile and you will see strange metal sculptures — you are then at Jurustic Park, the brainchild of former attorney Clyde Wynia. Once you get there and park, you will likely be met by Clyde and he will give you the ultimate tour, tell you the stories (both real and made up all intermingled) and will demonstrate and explain some of his nearly 1000 pieces.  I asked him how many he has made and he said he has never counted them!! Jurustic Park is a MUST SEE destination if you are anywhere near. See my detailed post from 2012 about Clyde and Jurustic Park HERE.

Moenave, Arizona

Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Moenave Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City, AZ
Another view of the many tracks at Moenave.
Another view of the many tracks at Moenave.

In the early 1980s I was a tour guide for Nava-Hopi Tours in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Many of my tours took visitors to the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations in Northern Arizona.  One of first stops on these specific trips was at a little place known as Moenave, which is just off of US Highway 160 a few miles east of US Highway 89 north of Flagstaff.  Not too far up Hwy 160 on the left there is a turn off to the Dinosaur Tracks.  This spot on the Navajo Nation may be one of the most well preserved dinosaur track fossils around and, with probably close to 200 tracks, it may also be one of the biggest sites.  The site has become so popular, that the Navajo Nation may soon be creating a small visitor center and a fence to protect the site from vandals.  Currently you can still visit these for free, but it is advisable to leave a tip to the kind Navajo folk that “guide” you among the tracks.  Bear in mind that you’ll need to take what they claim about the tracks with a grain of salt.  Though paleontologists have verified these as authentic, there are no T-Rex tracks and no dinosaur poop on the site.  Just a number of three toed tracks.

Mystic, Connecticut

Welcome to Mystic, CT
Welcome to Mystic, CT
Mystic, CT signpost
Mystic, CT signpost
4 Roosevelt Bistro Thai Restaurant in Mystic, CT
4 Roosevelt Bistro Thai Restaurant in Mystic, CT
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife
Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT with my sweet wife

Connecticut offer many unique treasures, and one of them is most certainly Mystic, which sits on US Highway 1, just south of I-95.  The town is on the Block Island Sound and is not too far from the northeastern stretches of Long Island in New York.  We visited Mystic in 2015 as part of our New England visit/adventure.  I was more interested in seeing the site of the 1980s movie Mystic Pizza, but also found that the small town has an awesome seaport with some tall sail ships, a fairly well known (though expensive) aquarium, a submarine museum, and even a nearby dinosaur park in Montville.  It certainly deserves more than the couple of hours we devoted to the town. By the way, we have heard that you don’t want to try the pizza.  But, I would advise you try the Thai at the 4 Roosevelt Bistro, which we discovered on our drive into Mystic and turned around after our drive thru town to go grab lunch there.  It was a pleasant surprise to know that they also had a good number of vegan and vegetarian items on the menu, which made most of us happy.  See more details of our visit to Mystic an other areas in New England HERE.

Montrose, South Dakota

Porter's Sculpture Park, Montrose, SD
Porter’s Sculpture Park, Montrose, SD
A skeleton keeping guard at Porter's Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD
A skeleton keeping guard at Porter’s Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD
Sixty foot tall bull head can be seen for miles.
Sixty foot tall bull head can be seen for miles.
Oddball upside down giant hammer at the Porter Sculpture Park
Oddball upside down giant hammer at the Porter Sculpture Park
Porter Sculpture Park as seen from a Google Satellite image
Porter Sculpture Park as seen from a Google Satellite image

Back in 2013 I was on a return trip home from Idaho with my wife.  We had left Mitchell, South Dakota (see below) were driving east on I-90 toward Sioux Falls.  Unbeknownst to me, in the small town of Montrose, South Dakota, right off the freeway (near Exit 374), there was an unusual site.  I actually pulled onto the shoulder to get out and get shots of what is known as the Porter Sculpture Park, which includes an amazing 60-foot tall bull’s head, which is what got me.  For some reason I had overlooked this one!!   You can see more about my trip HERE.

Minot, North Dakota

Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church in Minot, ND
Sumoflam at the replica of the Gol Stave Church at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot
The 30 foot tall Dala Horse at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot

Once again, in the Dakotas, there is so much to see.  On a 2014 trip west to Montana, I made a stop in Minot, ND, which is on US Highway 2 in western North Dakota. This city is home to the North Dakota State Fair, but, of more interest to me is their celebration of Scandinavian heritage. The annual Norsk Hostfest is the largest festival of its kind in North America and is a tribute the area’s Scandinavian heritage. The Scandinavian Heritage Park is home to a replica of the beautiful Gol Stave Church which currently sits at the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, Norway.  You can see more about this trip across North Dakota on US Highway 2 HERE.

Mitchell, South Dakota

World's Only Corn Palace
World’s Only Corn Palace
Sumoflam at the Corn Palace
Sumoflam at the Corn Palace
The Corn Palace - 2013
The Corn Palace – 2013

Back in South Dakota again, you can’t miss out on the Corn Palace of Mitchell, SD.  It is one of those iconic must see roadside attractions. Originally built in 1892 as the “Corn Belt Exposition,” it became an iconic landmark and attraction in Mitchell after 1921.  Every year the exterior decorations are stripped and a new theme is created. The work is done by local artists. The artists use 13 different colors or shades of corn to decorate with. Typically there are over 275,000 ears of corn used annually on the murals. There is a nice list of the history of the murals here.  Definitely worth a visit if you are on Interstate 90 in eastern South Dakota.

Mapleton, Ontario (Honorable Mention)

Taxidermy and Cheese Store
Taxidermy and Cheese Store
Taxidermy and Cheese
Taxidermy and Cheese all in one stop!

The small community of Mapleton, Ontario is one of those “blink you miss it places.  However, it is also one of those unique and offbeat places, featuring the Mapleton Taxidermy and Cheese Shop.  See my 2012 post for more details HERE.

Medina, New York (Honorable Mention)

Big Apple Medina, NY
Big Apple Medina, NY
Culvert Road tunnel UNDER the Erie Canal
Culvert Road tunnel UNDER the Erie Canal
Culvert Road Tunnel under Erie Canal
Culvert Road Tunnel under Erie Canal

Clear up in northern New York, not too far from Niagara Falls, is a small town called Medina which is home to TWO unique oddities. The most well known is the Culvert Road Tunnel, which is a Ripley’s Believe It or Not (one of my site sponsors) featured site. This is the only place one can “cross” the Erie Canal by going UNDER it!!  Also, if you thought the Big Apple was in New York City, think again, the real Big Apple sits beside a bridge.  The apple was sculpted by artist Richard D. Banninster in 1999.  See my whole 2008 story about both attractions HERE.

Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (Honorable Mention)

Mac the Moose in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Mac the Moose in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Back up in Canada, the town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan is home of the world’s largest moose statue, named Mac the Moose.  I first visited there as a high school junior for a band tour in the 1970s BEFORE the moose.  I once again made my way to Moose Jaw in 2007.  Touted as the World’s Largest Moose, Mac stands 32 feet tall and weighs in at 10 tons.  He was made by Saskatoon artist Don Foulds in 1984. Mac is considered to be one of the most photographed roadside attractions in all of Canada.  See more about my 2007 visit HERE.

Mars, Pennsylvania (Honorable Mention)

Welcome to Mars
Welcome to Mars
Mars, PA
Mars, PA

Finally, for you outer space and alien lovers, you can visit Mars, Pennsylvania and see their out of this world spaceship in the city park downtown.  Residents of Mars are often called “Martians”, or “Planets” because of the high school team name, which is actually the “Fightin’ Planets.” See my post about Mars 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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