At Sky Park at Santa’s Village, a true hybrid of family fun is on tap. Seasonally a rich North Pole kingdom, the park also includes a variety of attractions for other months of the year including a zipline and interactive edutainment experiences that make the most of the park’s wooded, mountain setting in the San Bernadino National Forest. Located about 90 minutes from the heart of downtown Los Angeles in Skyforest, Calif., the park invites guests to experience nature with hiking, biking, archery, ziplining, and climbing, as well as taking in a full winter wonderland during the holidays.
Brad Lofland, the park’s marketing manager, explains the newest additions to the park, and visitor favorites. “For 2018, we are finishing up our Meadow Trail,which is an edutainment experience with an educational value, that takes you on a walk through our meadow rehabilitation project. And we are going to have fly fishing in the pond that we’ll take people out to enjoy. We want to bring people here in the spring, summer, and fall to be a part of our meadow and the stream system that circulates through a series of ponds that can be fished.”
Lofland explains that Sky Park at Santa’s Village has a strong ecological bent. “The old meadow was used for logging and storage. We have cleaned it up and replanted it and are working with local biologists to bring things back to life. In regard to the trail, there will be interactive experiences for visitors to learn about the local plant and animal life and insects, and then we will also have character experiences and tours that will take you through the meadow.” The characters are costumed employees trained about the local environment so that they can “break down the experience in a way that anyone can relate to. All ages, all family members will enjoy the trail, it’s an ADA trail so anyone can go on it.” Lofland adds that the costumed characters on the trail will reflect characters seen throughout the year in the park, such as Princess Evergreen, also known as Princess Evie, King Kelwin, and Arrow, Santa’s dog. “Santa himself is of course a part of the park, but he won’t be leading tours through the meadow,” Lofland laughs.
Other plans in place for the park include conversion of the winter-season outdoor ice skating rink to roller skating at other times of the year. “We will change it from roller skating to ice skating seasonally, with the idea being that we will never stop skating on the rink.”
Another new feature: a mountain bike park, just opened. “We keep improving on our trail system. Mountain biking is a very popular activity, and we have rental bikes available, or you can bring your own bike to explore ten miles of trails for every level, from beginner up to the advanced rider.”
The new and on-going additions to the park are carefully planned: the park itself is just over a year old. “Originally, we were open in the 50s, even before Disneyland,” Lofland explains of the historic venue, which at that time had a solid all-things Christmas theme. “But then the park closed in 1998, and the property changed hands several times. We had a bark beetle infestation at one time, and the park became a logging facility that cut down trees all around the mountain, and essentially decimated the meadow.” With lumber stored on the meadow land and park buildings ignored and run down, Sky Forest at Santa’s Village needed a complete make-over before it reopened in December of 2016.
“During the holiday season we still focus on the really magical, full-immersion holiday experience; but in the summertime, we are fully an outdoor adventure park for the whole family, with all the activities from archery and zip-lining to rock climbing and pedal cars. There is always a lot of fun stuff to do for everyone all year long.”
Throughout the year, Lofland reports, “Santa is in and out of the park for special events, and the whole North Pole village remains in place, you’ll get the whole feeling of it, with the bakery full of goodies, the coffee shop, and Santa’s shopping areas. But during the holiday season, it is a full Christmas experience.”
He describes the park’s attractions overall as being a “kind of ‘get out there and do it’ scene. Most of our rides are people-powered, for example, we have Arrow’s Adventure, which has pedal cars that you power around the track and through a tunnel yourself. The only really passive ride we have is a train ride through the park that is kind of a tour. The conductor takes you on a journey and tells you about the history of the park,” he says. Coming to the park soon is the SkyPedal Monorail on a suspended bike track above Santa’s Village.
Other more active attractions include a rock climbing wall, and an indoor bouldering room. “We also have a Strider balance bike for little kids, which they can use to learn to ride right in the park; and a trampoline ride, Blitzen Bungee, where riders are attached to bungees and can bounce up and down.” There are also hiking trails that allow park guests to take a variety of nature walks.
And to promote the park? “To reach out to folks, we are very active on social media. People can get the most up-to-date information about the park on Facebook and Instagram; we’re also on Twitter and Yelp. We’re marketing to families of all ages but going a little higher in age than an average amusement park. Even within activities here, there are different levels of skills, things for the little ones all the way up to parents and grandparents,” he attests. “In fact, we have a lot of grandparents that love ziplining. The zipline course is 600 feet long and 30-feet off the ground.”