I LOVE a good Christmas store, LOVE it! Check out the video of my lost hours shopping at the largest Christmas store in Texas
and you’ll see what I mean. So when we were on our family vacay in Colorado and billboards along Pike’s Peak Highway were touting the awesomeness of the North Pole Christmas Village, I was nearly giddy that the hubs somewhat agreeably said we could stop. (Mind you, this would require him waiting in the car with our fur family while we investigated said Christmas village cut into the side of Pikes Peak. Proof he loves me.)
I envisioned a quaint mountaintop burg bursting with holiday greatness, themed snacks, and an over-abundance of gram-worthy photo ops at every turn. I dragged my teenager in (she’s a bit less of a Christmas décor enthusiast than her mama) while the hubs and pups dutifully babysat the doggos.
The closer we walked to the entrance, the more suspicious I became to this potentially falling short of the sensationalist experience I had in my head.
In fact, once we passed through the gate with a sign reading, “free admittance if not ‘purchasing ride tickets,’” it became quickly clear that was not the North Pole of my holiday dreams. It was more like a creepy, uncomfortable real-life experience of the animated movie, Wonder Park. I promise you, this is where kids’ fear of Santa begins.
True, this was an honest-to-God amusement park, bustling with families enjoying what appeared to be local-fair-worthy versions of Christmas-ish rides that IMO, looked dated enough to have questionable safety reviews. No way was I getting on the gondola, that is FOR SURE. This was far from the holiday shopping mecca I anticipated, I mean… there WAS shopping but I’ll get to that in a bit. This was more like a Christmas-themed amusement park that time forgot. Except, there were families everywhere enjoying it so hey, you do you.
The vibe of the North Pole Christmas Village was squarely on the line between nostalgia and fright factor. With enough capital improvements to give it an absolutely thorough facelift (and pressure wash), ride safety assessment, I can see where this has the potential to be a jewel of a Christmas in July destination – but I predict the break-even on that would take some time. Perhaps Disney could snatch this one up as a tax write-off and sprinkle its fairy dust all over it to give it the sparkle back. And I do mean all the fairy dust. There were a few things I can give a nod of appreciation to. I did like the village feel to the park. Because it’s on a hill, the levels and winding paths were impressive. I’d love to see this all draped in winter snow – but confident my fellow Texans on road trips couldn’t venture up an icy mountain to it and obviously, the rides would be a no-go in winter. Fake snow could be a viable option, and hey, where was the ice skating anyway? The downside to this layout is that it’s difficult to social distance, and for anyone with mobility problems, this would be a challenging venue to enjoy.
There were tiny (and I do mean TINY) shops throughout the village.
Sadly though, the merch looked dated as well, as if the shelves were stocked with the best of Goodwill and garage store treasures — NOT that there’s anything wrong with those special finds, but the inventory was not deep and not fresh. A fairy Godmother’s magic wand could merch this better and new, sparkly lighting would do wonders. The staff though – very friendly in a non-scripted manner, and super helpful when I had questions. Kudos to them for embodying a welcoming way with all those tourists in their midst. It was difficult for me to enjoy this visit as my many years of M&A and marketing experience were spinning the wheels in my mind so fast, flooding my thoughts with all of the ways to make this a money-making machine. I couldn’t get beyond feeling this was a stale representation of a family-owned business that desperately needed a new set of eyes and a bigger wallet to keep it competitive and in the black. I’m making assumptions here – I have no idea what the financial situation of this particular business is. It could be a cash cow for all I know! But we got to experience it for free and that’s the first sign that a new business model might be a jumping-off point for discussion. Since we were only walking through, I was genuinely hoping to fall deeply in love with our accidental discovery and contribute to the local economy with a Christmas memento — and maybe grab a funnel cake. We ended up leaving after only a few minutes, empty-handed, without selfies, hungry, and shaking our heads like, “What just happened?!” Actually, as soon as we passed through the gates on entry, my teenager begged me to leave but teenager… so I vetoed her request.
So overall impression…. Our experience definitely provided loads of discussion for our trip back down the mountain. If you want to know my honest opinion of North Pole Christmas Village, I’d recommend passing on this tourist stop if a) you have kids over the age of 7, or b) they scare easily. If you happen to be a frequent visitor, I’d really love to hear what your thoughts are about it. If you’re just curious and want to experience it for yourself, there’s a map below in case the many roadway signs escape you.