June 03, 2010

Photo Essay: Santa's Village Theme Park, Abandoned

I drove from LA to Palm Springs yesterday, a drive I was not looking forward to down the congested 10E freeway. I asked my friend Vance, "Is there any other way to get down there besides 10?" and he crinkled his face and said, "Not really."

But looking at the map, I thought maybe I could bypass 10 to the north by taking 210E, and divert even farther north up into the San Bernardino Mountains for a leisurely, scenic drive instead of a hectic, boring one. Besides, it would give me a chance to snoop around and see if I could find the ruins of the old Santa's Village theme park in Skyforest, CA. That was worth adding an hour or two to my trip.

Crawling along the winding route 18 playfully nicknamed "Rim of the World," I spotted an outcropping of color on the left-hand side, and veered off into the forest. Instead of the spooky, abandoned park enshrouded in evergreens I expected, to my dismay, the park grounds have been taken over by an entirely different industry: logging. There are trucks and logs everywhere. And it is an active site, intermingled with gingerbread houses and candy canes.

There are a couple of things you can see from the driveway (that's covered in No Trespassing signs), mostly colorful buildings.

Despite the warning of a dog, I tip-toed down the wood-chipped path sprinkled with acorns to snap some quick shots of more buildings, and a few remaining rides. I didn't have time to be artful with my photography, as much as I wanted to be. I just had to document as much as I could before a dog or human started barking at me to leave.

I didn't pay much attention to the "Private Property" signs until I snuck towards the back of the park and saw what looked like a relatively recently-restored residence, with cars parked out front, and signs of everyday life. I was faced with anachronism after anachronism - not only the Christmas theme in summer, but the living and working in abandonment, letting the abandonment stand as though frozen in time but making a life in its empty spaces. I was reminded of the colonies of fish that make submerged subway trains their homes in the artificial reefs created off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

But how often do people do that? Humans are usually so preoccupied with building and destroying, with little attempt at making the most of what they've already got.

My inner nine year old thinks that if I ever got my hands on the grounds of an abandoned amusement park, I would totally live in it.

So therefore I was respectful of Santa's Village's (new?) owners, snooped as unobtrusively as I could, and then got the hell out before being discovered.

To become a fan on Facebook, click here.

Bookmark and Share


  1. Excellent photos and post! I would love to walk around the old Santa's Village property, but I don't think I'm that brave! Would it be possible to use your photos in a S.V. post that I'm working on for my blog, "Meet The World"? I would give you full credit for your photos as well as provide a link to your original post.

    I guess I will just check back to the comment section here on this post for your answer. Thank you!

    TokyoMagic! of "Meet The World"

  2. Thanks very much! Please credit Photographer: Sandi Hemmerlein and include courtesy of A link back to the original post would be great! If you'd like to discuss further, click on the Contact tab above and send me an email.

  3. Wow, thank you so much for the quick response and for permission to use your photos. I will credit you just as you indicated above. I am currently working on the post and I plan to and publish it before Christmas. Thanks again!


  4. Nice pics. Just an FYI, I worked as a ride operator there on "ol 99" when I was in high school...I can tell you this, the owners (Malcom IIRR) were not known as "nice people" nor did they maintain the rides mechanically- except for the roller coaster & the monorail- which wre state inspected- nothing else at the time was. ol 99 was the Choo-Choo Train (electrics)- we would test them each day befor opening the park to see if they could make it around without derailing or tipping over (seldom were we successfull)....I can remember the brakes failing on the dowhill was not a nice place to work at and when the owner passed away, he did not leave the park to his son (ops mgr).

  5. that's coool, Ive lived up here, for a little over twenty years. i actually worked there for i think about 2 years. definitely was a unique place... one of hose places that had magic. really nice infiltration. really cool photos. thanks.

  6. Thanks it reminds of my younger days going there.Its kind strange to see how it is now kind of like a ghost town. Thanks for posting the pictures and your site is great.