I most often write about the big theme parks in this column, but I also think it’s important to remember the smaller local parks around the country. I’m lucky enough to live in a place where I now get to visit the big parks frequently, but that wasn’t always the case. I grew up in the northeast and had a decent amount of local amusement parks to enjoy. I recently made a trip back east and visited two parks that I haven’t been to since my childhood, and it was a true delight to return to Santa’s Village in Jefferson, N.H. and Story Land in Glen, N.H.
Let’s begin with Santa’s Village, a very cute and well-maintained park with lots to do, including a visit with Santa Claus and his real-life reindeer in the middle of summer. If you’re the type of person that loves the holiday season and wishes that it lasted all year long, you would love Santa’s Village. It has all of the holiday offerings waiting for you off-season.
One of the first things you’ll see when entering the park is Elf University. This is where children can go to pick up their Elfabet punch card. The goal is to find all of the elf statues throughout the park and punch each letter of the alphabet on your card. When the children complete their card, they can turn it in for a prize. This is a free offering, and it was a lot of fun watching the kids (and sometimes adults) get very excited when they would find each of the elves.
The newest ride in Santa’s Village is a traditional dark ride called The Great Humbug Adventure. In this attraction, you ride through old Scrooge’s house and use your blaster to “tickle” the humbugs. It’s a cute name for the ride, but has very little to do with the “A Christmas Carol” storyline we all know Scrooge from. I must say that I was impressed with this bright and fun attraction, and that the Scrooge animatronic figure throughout the queue and ride was quite impressive. As a lover of dark rides, this was a can’t miss for me.
Speaking of “A Christmas Carol,” I love that the park pays tribute to one of my favorite stories through not only The Great Humbug Adventure, but also with some of the shop names like Full o’ the Dickens Bookshoppe and Fezziwig’s Custom Embroidery and Personalization, where you can get your name embroidered into a stocking. The holiday tributes continue with locations like Burger Meister Food Court, named after the iconic character from the Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated classic “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” And of course, it wouldn’t be a proper park without some location names being puns; I found the Polar Expresso coffee shop and The North Bowl restrooms to be particularly clever names.
The park has many traditional rides like a carousel, antique cars and train, but it also has some unique offerings that I’ve never seen before. There is a ride for children called the Hot Shots Fire Brigade, where you get onto the back of a fire truck and aim your water-spurting hose at a building on “fire” as your truck circles the building while raising and lowering. It was pretty darn cool. I also liked the Skyway Sleigh Monorail where you could get a bird’s eye view of the whole park while “flying” in a sleigh. In addition to all of this, the park has a sizable water park area included with your cost of admission.
One thing that I love about the holidays is the twinkling lights. Considering that it gets dark late in the summer and the park closes before the sunsets, I was happy to see that Santa’s Village offers an indoor holiday light show with choreographed, dancing Christmas lights.
If you can’t get enough of amusement parks, luckily there’s Story Land less than an hour away. This park is definitely geared more toward younger guests, but it is also well-maintained and an enjoyable visit for the family.
A large portion of the park is dedicated to children’s stories like “Three Little Pigs,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and so many more. This area is primarily set up with locations to visit from favorite fairy tales and less about rides. Nevertheless, children visiting the park love the opportunity to step into their favorite stories.
But that’s not to say there aren’t any rides. One of my favorites was an attraction called Splash Battle: Pharaoh’s Reign, where riders on a boat are armed with water cannons to shoot guests on the land shooting back at them. Both parties end up soaked by the end. The newest addition to Story Land is the Rap-Tour Safari. I enjoyed this ride, but I’m biased because I’ll basically love anything related to dinosaurs.
Overall, I had a great time reliving my childhood at both Santa’s Village and Story Land. It was wonderful to see the park teams take such good care of the parks and continue to offer reasonably priced entertainment for families. Now more than ever, it’s important to support your local amusement parks to ensure their longevity. Many were shut down entirely last year and could really use the support now in order to stick around for generations to come. You can learn more about Santa’s Village at SantasVillage.com and Story Land at StoryLandNH.com.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles, California. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” a Disney fan podcast. He is offering the free gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.