Santa Loves You!

Most Kitschy Christmas Towns: North Pole, Santa Claus & More (PHOTOS)

From Santa theme parks to real elves answering letters, Nina Strochlic on the ultimate in holiday cheer.

Frank Lukasseck / Corbis

Frank Lukasseck / Corbis

What’s red, white, and lit all over? These over-the-top Christmas destinations! From Santa theme parks to real elves answering letters and a Grimm’s fairytale marketplace, see the ultimate in holiday cheer.

Martii Kainulainen / AP Photo

Napapiiri in Lapland, Finland

This is the real deal, kids. The Santa Claus Village in Lapland is as spirited as it gets. Drop in on the old man himself in his office, mail some Christmas cards from his post office, and explore the Santa Park, which boasts real reindeer, workshops, and oodles of holiday cheer. Kids, address those holiday wish lists to Santa Claus, Santa Claus Main Post Office, FI-96930 Arctic Circle, and you’ll probably get an elf-written reply.

Sam Harrel / AP Photo

North Pole, Alaska

Not many of us will have the opportunity to explore the true North Pole, so Alaska’s version will have to do. In a stroke of tourism-boosting genius, Davis, Alaska, changed its so-so name to this moneymaker 60 years ago. The town has a 42-foot-tall Santa Claus statue towering over the Santa Claus gift shop. Just around the corner, the post office postmarks Christmas cards with a North Pole stamp for out-of-towners.

Bas Czerwinski / AP Photo

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Modern-day Santa Claus was born as Holland’s Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of a gift-giving St. Nick. In Amsterdam, Christmas is celebrated in two parts: once on Dec. 5, for gifts, and once on Dec. 25, for family and feasting. In between, the city is garlanded in lights, filled with parades, and if the weather drops low enough, frozen canals turn into ice-skating rinks.

Stuart Westmorland / Corbis

Leavenworth, Washington

It’s been compared to a snow globe before, and the Bavarian-styled town of Leavenworth doesn’t disappoint during Christmastime. The town looks like it’s straight from Hansel and Gretel, complete with a center square and gazebo, and in the month of December the weekends come alive with chestnut roasting, lighting ceremonies, folk concerts, and old-fashioned costumed characters parading about.

Roland Weihrauch / AP Photo

Cologne, Germany

The Germans don’t do anything halfway, and that certainly includes Christmas. Cologne hosts not one, not two, but seven Christmas markets during the holiday season, which makes shopping for gifts a breeze. One of the markets is even themed entirely around the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. Above all the lighted stands, the city’s towering Gothic cathedral looks down on the Christmas merriment approvingly.

Daniel R. Patmore / AP Photo

Santa Claus, Indiana

“Celebrate Christmas every day of the year in Santa Claus, Indiana!” this town’s website boasts. It was named at the behest of a child and continues to be a kid’s wildest dream, with Santa-themed everything, including a Candy Castle and golf course. Santa Claus, Ind., calls itself “America’s Christmas Hometown,” its lakes are named “Christmas,” “Noel,” and “Holly,” and street signs point to lanes called “Sleigh Bell” and “Three Kings.” The town is also the U.S. Post Office’s final destination for all mail addressed to a certain Mr. Santa Claus. A group of “Santa’s Elves” does its best to answer each letter.

Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce

Woodstock, Vermont

New England is a winter wonderland as is, but this Vermont town has neighboring quaint towns green with envy. Each year, Woodstock celebrates Wassail Weekend, a Norse-inspired festival that features 50 horses parading through the town, along with a feast, sleigh rides, and a tour of the town’s most magical historical spots.

George Rose / Getty Images

Solvang, California

Settled by Danish Americans more than 100 years ago, this California town’s windmills and half-timber houses look completely out of place under the bright sun of SoCal. Come Christmastime, Solvang celebrates Julefest with Danish folk dancers, a parade, horse carriages, a gingerbread house, and a massive tree-lighting ceremony. Why brave chilly Europe when you can have Old World quaintness just an hour from Santa Barbara?