Santa Village Theme Park

Santa's Village Santa's House



Santa's Village Dundee

Santa's Village in East Dundee, Illinois (1959-2006 and reopened 2011) was a theme park built in 1959 by H. Glenn Holland who also built the other two in San Bernardino County, California and Santa Cruz County, California. This park was the third and last that he built. The buildings were modeled on what an average child might imaging Santa's Village would look like. When it opened, it was a very prominent theme park. Over the parks history more than 20 million people passed through the front gates.

One addition to the park, opened in 1963, was the Polar Dome which provided an ice skating and hockey venue under a forced-air supported dome. On November 28, 1966, a strong wind caused the Polar Dome to collapse. [1] The dome was then replaced by a flat cedar roof.

The unsuccessful launch of the Typhoon roller coaster and decreased attention to the aesthetics of the park eventually prompted the corporation to sell. The sale did not proceed as smoothly as hoped, and with many setbacks and unmet deadlines the park had to shut its doors.

Three Worlds Theme Park

In the park there were three distinct Worlds. They were: Coney Island, Old McDonald's Farm, and Santa's World.

Coney Island was the section on the left side of the park that was home to such rides as: The Yo-yo, Tilt-a-whirl, The Himalaya, Galleon Ship ride, and the bumble bee ride. Coney Island was also home to The Magic show. This area was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Old McDonald's Farm (a petting zoo) replaced the reindeer barn in 1970's, so that the previously roaming animals would be in one spot. This section of the park was home to many farm animals which could be fed and petted as they roamed around in a large area in the center of the stables and pens (which the animals were stored in at night). There was also a pony ride. The animals were housed at the Park until 2004, when they were sold to an outside vendor.

Santa's World, the focal point of the park, was north of the ice rink. Nearby were the Frog Hopper, balloon ride, snowball ride, giant slide, convoy, train and dragon coaster rides. On the left side of this area there was an outdoor theater where live shows were shown (different each year). This was also where Santa was and children could sit on Santa's lap and get their picture taken. There was also a pole (north pole) in the middle of this area that was freezing cold year round.

Park Closure

Santa's Village declined in quality in the last five years of its operation and in 2006, it did not operate because of financial problems and difficulty with the sale of the park. In August 2006, the park announced its permanent closure. Most of the rides and fixtures were auctioned in October 2006.

Water Park

The water park Racing Rapids was the water park attached to the back of Santa's Village. Though the parks were connected, there were separate admission gates to either one. A combination ticket was available at either park that would permit you to enter both parks that day. There was also a small parking lot by the entrance if you were only going to the Racing Rapids. Racing Rapids had the following rides and attractions:

  • Twister Tube Slide - A large two person tube slide which extended down a hill a few hundred feet and entered in a small pool where you immediately exited.
  • Slidewinder's Slides - These two one person body slides were over 50 feet high near the front of the park. To enter the slides there was one entrance which split off into two separating the line for the large slide, and the slightly smaller second slide.
  • Bumper Boats - These were located in a medium size pool which had fountain in the center of it. The pool held around 10-15 small, 1 person, gas boats. They were controlled by a steering wheel and a pedal.
  • Lazy River - This continuous 450 foot long 42 inch deep pool was located on the left side of the park by the Bumper Boats. This continuous pool was filed with many 1 and 2 person tubes.
  • Go-Karts - At the back of the park there was a large go cart track. It held 10 karts and you got 3 laps per wait. Towards the end of the parks lifetime this was the main attraction for the water park. Many people would come just to ride the Go-Karts, while few people would actually go on the water slides.

Santa's Village Future

On January 13, 2007 it was announced that there may be hope for Santa's Village in northern Illinois. There are plans to build a new Santa's Village theme park in North Utica, Illinois (about 94 miles southwest of the original park in East Dundee, IL). This new park is supposed to include many of the same rides, attractions, and shops as the original park in East Dundee. It is also supposed to have a combination of the layouts of the three original parks built by Glenn Holland. The new park will not include an Old McDonald's Farm or a Coney Island. Go to our Santa's Village News Blog for more news and information.

2011 the Santa's Village in Illinois reopened.


Santa's Village takes great pride in presenting the book that commemorates the Dundee Santa's Village in Illinois. It's written by the last Santa Claus of the Santa's Village parks, and his historical knowledge of all the parks will delight you with insidghts and memories alike. Get your copy of Santa's Village here.

Santa's Village Book 

Images of America


Since 1959, Santa’s Village in Dundee, has entertained millions. The park was born of a man who as a child had no real Christmas. Glenn Holland grew up in California during the Great Depression. His parents died by the time he was 18 years old, leaving him to care for his younger sister. As a father, he tried to give his own children the type of Christmas that he only knew in his dreams. In the early 1950s, struck with inspiration, Holland sat at his kitchen table one day and started to sketch his idea for a Christmas fairyland where all the magic of the holiday would come to life: Santa’s Village. Holland and general contractor Putnam Henck built three Santa’s Villages, two in California and one in Dundee.
Phillip L. Wenz is the Dundee Park’s resident Santa Claus and official historian. Besides his duties at Santa’s Village, Wenz has been seen in numerous televised parades and national holiday events. Utilizing his personal collection of pictures, memorabilia, and rare park photographs, readers can once again reminisce about the fun of Santa’s Village throughout the years. It is all here, the Christmas Tree Ride, the twirling Snowballs, Santa’s House, and the Frozen North Pole.

The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.



Sponors of Santa's Village:

Christmas Kids - a delightful website full of historical information about Christmas.


Santa's Village Gingerbread House