Christmas Tree Inn in abandoned Santa Claus, Arizona

Santa Claus, Arizona is a desolate ghost town, once home to the Christmas Tree Inn, a holiday-themed amusement park that now sits abandoned and decaying.

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

An hour's drive from the mining town of Oatman brought me to Santa Claus, Arizona, which sits on a small plot of land along Highway 93. 

Santa Claus was founded in 1937 by Nina Talbot, a real estate agent from Los Angeles. She must have had a good sense of humor because she proclaimed herself to be the "biggest real estate agent in California", not because of her success in the business, but because she weighed over 300 pounds. 

Hoping to create a Christmas-themed resort town in the middle of the desert, Talbot built the Santa's Land tourist attraction and put the surrounding parcels of land up for sale. Despite her efforts, the parcels did not sell, and the town's only residents were those who worked there. Talbot ended up selling the entire place in 1949.

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Santa Claus succeeded in becoming a tourist destination where kids could visit Santa year-round. Its post office was important because it received children's letters addressed to Santa, and replies were sent out with a Santa Claus postmark. 

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Santa Claus, Arizona received positive attention from a few major celebrities. 

Duncan Hines, a prominent restaurant critic whose name is now attached to cake mixes and other food products, bolstered the town's popularity when he gave the Christmas Tree Inn a highly favorable review. 

Scifi writer Robert Heinlein once ate at the Christmas Tree Inn, and enjoyed it so much that he featured the town in the 1950 short story "Cliff and the Calories (A New Puddin' Story)." 

In 1954 Actress Jane Russell later threw a dinner party there.

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

In the 1970s the town became less popular and fell into disrepair. In 1983, owner Tony Wilcox put the town up for sale, but was unable to find a buyer at the asking price. 
The last remaining business closed in 1995.

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

A few badly weathered buildings still remain.

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

And a sad little wishing well.

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Also, a disturbing portrait of Mr. Claus etched in concrete.
Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

It was a lot of fun to explore, but I have a feeling Santa would be pretty sad if he came down the chimney and saw the current state of the place.

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

I was glad to discover that the main building had a creepy little basement. I absolutely love basements. 

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

I also love attics, and it had one of those too! I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning.

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

It looked like Santa Claus threw one hell of a party before he moved out.

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Christmas Tree Inn Abandoned Theme Park in Santa Claus Arizona

Full up with holiday cheer, I set out eastward toward Flagstaff, hoping to see another site or two before dark. 

The increase in elevation made for a much harsher climate, a fact that really hit home when I stopped in the town of Williams for gas. It was freezing cold and the ground was covered in snow. 

Urban exploration of farm in Williams, Arizona

Dark clouds looked on the horizon, and I knew I was in for a rough night.

Urban Exploration of Williams, Arizona

Halfway from Williams to Flagstaff I stopped to check out a neat old farmhouse. Unfortunately it was very dark out by that time, so none of the pictures turned out very well. 

Urban Exploration of abandoned farm near Flagstaff, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned farm near Flagstaff, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned farm near Flagstaff, Arizona

Urban Exploration of Abandoned farm near Flagstaff, Arizona

It started snowing as I drove the rest of the way to Flagstaff. I ventured out into the cold and grabbed a beer and a bite to eat at a local bar. On the way, a careless driver skidded through an intersection, nearly hitting a pedestrian. 

I went back to the car and was about to go to sleep, when I had a nagging feeling that I should check the street signage. I'm glad I did because it said I couldn't park there between 2 and 5am. Turns out that rule applies to most of the streets in Flagstaff. It's also important to note, in case any of you have RVs and are thinking of vacationing in Flagstaff, the city has rules against parking RVs overnight pretty much anywhere. But there is a rest stop about 30 min east of the city, where you can park. 

I drove around until I found a nice neighborhood. It was snowing pretty hard and most of the cars on the street were covered in snow. I figured I'd be able to sleep there without any of the neighbors noticing the presence of an unfamiliar car, since it would be covered in snow pretty quickly. Fortunately I was right. I bundled myself up in about 5 blankets and fell fast asleep. 

Thanks for checking out this article. If you enjoyed it, please feel free to share it on Facebook. While you're at it, please subscribe to Places That Were and follow me on my social media sites:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/placesthatwere

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JimSullivanPlacesThatWere/posts

EyeEm: https://www.eyeem.com/u/placesthatwere

Instagram: http://instagram.com/theplacesthatwere

Twitter: https://twitter.com/placesthatwere/

Tumblr: http://placesthatwere.tumblr.com/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/jimplicit

500px: https://500px.com/placesthatwere

Thank you!

10 comments :

  1. Interesting post.
    I was wondering--do the Walmarts still allow RV's, etc to park in their lots overnight? I know they used to, and since there seems to be one in EVERY town, might be a safer place to "park it" for the night.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny you should mention that! While trying to figure out where to park for the night in Flagstaff, my research turned up some info about RV parking at Walmart. Apparently most Walmarts still do allow overnight RV parking, but not the ones in Arizona. Isn't that crazy?

      Delete
    2. Some in Arizona do. It depends on City ordinances. But after a gun fight in the parking lot of Cottonwood, Walmart it may very well have changed.

      Delete
  2. What a great series of photos! Whenever I see a business close down it goes to show how hard times are today. You have a wonderful blog. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great page! I like your passion for abandon places of the past. I started out with exploring old western ghost towns. I had a lot of fun. Keep sharing your adventure!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Tim! I'm glad you like my blog. Ghost towns are some of my favorites, but I'll explore anything that's abandoned :)

      Delete
  4. I looked up online how much Santa Claus, AZ costs and for the 4 acre land and ownership of the city it costs $749,500 and Owner can finance with 35% down payment. A lot of bucks but I think it would be fun to own your own city!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://nevadatrade.com/santaclausarizona.html

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the info! If only I had the cash. I'd love to own my own ghost town!

      Delete