For the 50+ Traveler

You might be familiar with Santa Claus, Indiana -- one of the best places to visit for Christmas -- but did you know there used to be a town called Santa Claus in Arizona, too?

At its height, families flocked to the town to send mail to their loved ones addressed “From Santa Claus.” However, if you drive through the area now, you may not even think twice as you pass its abandoned buildings.

Where is Santa Claus, Arizona?

Kingman, Arizona, which has a population of 30,000 people, is the closest city to Santa Claus. A 14-mile drive from Kingman along Route 93 will bring you to what used to be the town of Santa Claus. To make sure you don’t miss it, watch the mile markers as you drive. Santa Claus is located between mile markers 57 and 58.

Officially established in 1937, Santa Claus was created by a real estate agent, Nina Talbot, who was eager to populate this section of the Mojave Desert. She bought 80 acres of land that she planned to divide into multiple plots for family homes. Her idea was to attract buyers to the town, and it flourished as a holiday-themed destination during her 12 years of ownership.

Abandoned entrance to Santa Claus.

What Did The Town Look Like?

Santa Claus used to be a small roadside town consisting of peppermint striped buildings with green shingles and red trimming. Santa Claus had a Christmas Tree Inn, a gift shop, a post office (where you could send letters that would be postmarked “From Santa Claus”), and other festive attractions.

The Inn was one of the main appeals of the town, especially after restaurant critic Duncan Hines commended it as one of the best places to eat along the then widely used Route 66. It’s said that the Rum Pie a la Kris Kringle was one of the most popular and tasty dishes served at the inn’s restaurant.

The town’s popularity grew in the 1950s thanks to Hines’s critique, in addition to being featured in a short story and receiving publicity when actress Jane Russell hosted a dinner bash at the inn. Nonetheless, the excitement around the town waned in the 1970s.

Abandoned building in Santa Claus, Arizona.

Why Was Santa Claus, Arizona Abandoned?

Santa Clause remained a themed attraction until it was abandoned. Although travelers were still intrigued by the town, most preferred to visit for a bit and pass through. No one, other than the theme town workers, was interested in residing there permanently. Nina Talbot didn’t succeed in populating her section of the Mojave Desert and sold the land in 1949. The last attractions closed in 1995 and the workers mostly moved away. The population of Santa Claus, Arizona, was just 10 people in 2003.

Abandoned roller coaster ride.

What Does Santa Claus, Arizona, Look Like Today?

As of today, just a few buildings remain at the previously popular roadside attraction. The buildings are decaying with corroded floorboards, missing shingles, and walls full of graffiti. Even the pink train that used to caravan children through the acres of holiday-themed land is tagged with spray paint. Half of the sign, which previously read “This is it! Santa’s Land Office” remains while the other half has rotted away.

Santa's Land sign.

Other Things To Know Before Visiting

If you’re driving Route 93 southeast of Las Vegas, Santa Claus is an interesting place to stop by. However, there’s not much left, so it’s best thought of as a destination that can spark your imagination.

Because there’s lots of rotting wood, you need to be careful walking through any buildings if you choose to explore. Signs around the property warn visitors of poisonous snakes in the vicinity, which may be hiding under shady parts from the unforgiving sun.

Unfortunately, it seems that Santa Claus isn’t coming to this town anymore. Instead, the desert is reclaiming its property.

Interested in abandoned places? Meet Centralia: Pennsylvania’s abandoned ghost town that’s burning from beneath.