Santa’s Land: The Perfect Kid Friendly Kitschy Vintage Theme Park in Cherokee, NC
My son and his family traveled from their home in Indiana to visit Gatlinburg, Tennessee and made a side trip over the mountain and through the woods to see Grandma! We met up in Cherokee, North Carolina and spent the day at Santa’s Land Fun Park and Zoo, a vintage road side America, kid-friendly theme park in the Smoky Mountains.
Santa’s Land, which first opened in 1966, is the perfect park for children 10 years old or younger, or for the lovers of kitsch. In addition to the younger kid-oriented games and rides, there are giant fiberglass statues of rabbits, a snowman, and a kangaroo that surely has appeared in millions of family photo albums over the years.
The park offers a Ferris wheel and one roller coaster, which are a bigger adrenalin rush than the tamer rides for the toddler and early elementary age crowd. For us, and especially for my granddaughter Little E., the hit of the day was the kid-sized train which winds its way around the park and makes a stop at the food and restroom areas as well as the main depot.
For older kiddos, the park features paddle boats and arcade games.
We saw a total of about fifteen families all day and never waited in line for any ride. We really loved that the park was interspersed with playground areas that gave the adults an opportunity to rest…or play, themselves!
Little E. LOVES trains so this kid-sized version was definitely a hit! We rode around the park several times and sometimes twice in one trip!
During one ride, Little E.’s toy crown fell to the ground outside of the train car. I got off the train to get it, and the conductor yelled, “All aboard!” I had no time to retrieve the crown and get back on before the little train chugged its way out of the depot and left without me! I was able to get the crown though. I guess that goes to show that sometimes even wanna-be-princesses get left behind!
Little E. got a kick out of feeding the goats! There were also alpacas, camel, cavi, porcupine, many different large birds, lynx, tiger, lemur, and a couple of exotic animals that I did not recognize and were not identified by name on the enclosures. All in all, there was a good assortment of animals for the kiddos to view and interact with.
Little E. never hesitated to get on any of the rides since most of them are kid-friendly for the under 10-year-old crowd. When riding the helicopters, it didn’t take long to figure out that moving the bar back and forth makes the seat go up and down, almost like a real helicopter.
Here’s the giant kangaroo where small kiddos can try out the “joey” pouch. It was rainy the day we visited and the bottom of the pouch was wet, so Little E. didn’t want to get in all the way. Isn’t she a cutie pie? Surely, we now have a similar photo to all of those taken of other kid-sized Santa’s Land visitors since 1966!
Ever since I was a child myself, I have been enamored with colorful carousels. It was fun to ride with Little E. and her mom.
Like many 3-year-olds, Little E. declined to sit on Santa’s lap. Even so, Santa was very authentic, jolly, and personable. His helper elf was very friendly too!
With Santa safely tucked in his house and out of sight, Little E. was perfectly okay with driving the sleigh led by eight shiny reindeer!
There are several arcade style games to choose from. Kiddos can win tickets that they can redeem for fun, carnival-like trinkets. My son and daughter-in-law are supervising the choice of ducks, hoping for a winner. This game is where Little E. won her crown!
The magic show in the Jingle Bell Theater was geared toward the younger crowd and the magician did his best to include the youngest kiddos. He asked several youngsters to participate in some of the simpler illusions and they all did great! The show featured 8 – 10 tricks, and lasted about 15 minutes, just long enough so the little ones didn’t get too restless.
There are several playgrounds throughout the park that feature tame, vintage equipment and old-school ride-ons. Look! Even Grandpa wants to play. You’re never too old to have fun with the kiddos!
Fun for all ages can be had on the Ferris wheel! The view from the top looks out over the Smokies and is a unique look at the surrounding mountains!
And perhaps the star attraction, and suitable for most ages, is the Rudi Coaster! I have loved roller coasters as far back as I can remember and this one was a fun, zippy ride. Little E. loved it at first, but it probably was a bit too much for a 3-year-old. She did willing ride it again though, so maybe one day, Little E. will become the next great daredevil!
Little E.’s first trip on the Rudi Coaster was in the last car, last seat. She’s so tiny, you can’t even see her tucked under my son’s right arm. Her next trip was in the front!
We really enjoyed our day at Santa’s Land Fun Park and Zoo. We found the park to be clean and safe, and most of the staff were very helpful and appeared to enjoy their jobs. Typical carnival style food is available at Santa’s Land, but Little E. was way too busy running from ride to ride to sit still for lunch. The fudge in Mrs. Claus’ kitchen looked delicious!
Gift shops are also on site so you can take home a fun remembrance of your day at Santa’a Land.
Santa’s Land Fun Park and Zoo is located in the Smoky Mountains on US Hwy 19 just 3 miles north of Cherokee, NC and the southern entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They open every day from mid May until the end of October. Tickets are $23.25 per person with kids under two free. Discounts are available for groups, seniors, military, and AAA.
Have you visited Cherokee’s Santa’s Land? Do you want to? Let me know what you enjoyed the most, or which ride your little one wants to try in a comment below!