Santa Claus House.
America's northernmost Santaland beneath the Northern Lights.

Santa Claus House and Giant Santa

Field review by the editors.

North Pole, Alaska

In 1953 Davis, Alaska, changed its name to North Pole and adopted the slogan, "Where the Spirit of Christmas Lives Year 'Round." The town hoped to lure a toy factory that could then label its products, "Made at the North Pole."

Santa Claus House.
Nellie and Con Miller, North Pole's original Mrs. and Mr. Claus.

That didn't happen, but it did attract Con Miller, who would sometimes dress as Santa when he bartered for furs in surrounding villages. As he built his trading post, Miller was recognized by one of the neighborhood kids who yelled, "Hey, Santa! Are you building a new house?" Miller liked the idea and Santa Claus House was born. Con became North Pole's mayor, his wife Nellie was postmaster and marriage commissioner (She married thousands of couples in Santa Claus House). Together the Millers were known as Mr. and Mrs. Claus. When their daughter was born, they named her Merry Christmas Miller.

Con and Nellie are now gone, but their family still runs Santa Claus House, only 125 miles south of the Arctic Circle. A North Pole in Alaska suffers from diminished comedy opportunities in its wan polar light (no sweaty Santas like in the Lower 48) but it has an edge on all other Christmas attractions when it comes to kid cred. When we spoke with Paul Brown, Santa Claus House operations manager ("I like to tell people I'm Santa's boss"), he was outside shoveling snow, his mobile phone was frozen, and the temperature was 15 below zero.

Santa Claus statue.
Giant Santa was built so his arms could move, but not at 50 below zero.

"It's not unusual to get a weeklong stretch in January of 50 below," said Paul, although only the most precocious Santa fans visit so far before Christmas. Conversely, some visitors show up in July expecting ice and snow, Paul said, and find Santa Claus House with 22 hours of daylight at a balmy 80 degrees.

Those who make the trip arrive in a town with lampposts shaped like candy canes, and streets with names such as Kris Kringle Road and Blitzen Ave. The North Pole post office, according to Paul, receives nearly a half-million "Dear Santa" letters every year (zip code 99705). There's Santa's Fireworks off of Snowman Lane, Elf's Den Lounge on Mistletoe Drive, and of course Santa Claus House, with its perpetual Christmas cookie smells, twinkly lights, shelves of toys, and throne room for St. Nick. Outside, next to Santaland RV Park, is a pen of live reindeer.

Also outside stands the World's Largest Santa, 42 feet tall with his boots anchored in a base of eight-foot-thick cement. He was built in 1968 by Wes Stanley of Stanley Plastics in Enumclaw, Washington; served as a seasonal display at the Westlake Mall in Seattle; then assumed similar duties outside the old Federal Building in Anchorage. Con Miller bought Santa for $4,500 and stood him permanently outside Santa Claus House with his new cement overshoes in 1984. "We have to be careful not to sweep snow off Santa on a 50-below day when the fiberglass is brittle," said Paul. "One year his arm fell off."

Santa Claus House.
Typical wintertime scene at Santa Claus House.

Santa Claus House.
Santa and reindeer, evidently not Rudolph.

Con Miller retired as Santa in the mid-1980s, but Santa Claus House has never suffered a Santa shortage despite its edge-of-civilization location. "It's like the top Santa position, period, anywhere in the world," said Paul. There are plenty of applicants. "It's like the Grand Ol' Opry for Santa." All candidates must pass multiple tests and interviews, then occupy Santa's seat daily about nine months out of the year.

Santa Claus House has expanded and added attractions over the decades, including a new-for-2018 oversized fiber optic globe that shows the ever-changing population of Earth's naughty and nice lists. "It sounds corny, but it's something we take very seriously," said Paul, stressing that the magic of Christmas always comes first while acknowledging that the attraction can never satisfy everyone. "Some people think Santa Claus House is his real home; they want to walk through his bedroom," said Paul. "I don't know about you, but I personally wouldn't want to tour Santa's bedroom."

Also see: North Pole, New York | North Pole, Colorado

Santa Claus House and Giant Santa

Address:
101 Saint Nicholas Drive, North Pole, AK
Directions:
East of Fairbanks, at milepost 14 of the Richardson Hwy.
Phone:
907-488-2200
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

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