Family Road Trip Guide: Santa Claus, Indiana

Get in the holiday spirit in a December wonderland.

In the heart of southern Indiana, nestled among gently rolling hills, lies a magical little town where Christmas isn’t just a season, but a lifestyle. Each December, Christmas enthusiasts from far and wide make their way to the otherwise sleepy little town of Santa Claus, Indiana, to celebrate her namesake, Santa Claus.

For families looking to make unforgettable holiday memories, a trip to Santa Claus, Indiana, in December is a journey into the heart of Christmas itself.

Getting to Santa Claus, Indiana

The trip is about 400 miles and takes around six hours from Detroit, depending on traffic, so jam to your family’s favorite holiday playlist in your Ford SYNC 4 system while you drive.

Head south on I-75 until you reach Cincinnati, where you’ll switch to I-74 W. Follow I-74 W into Indiana, then merge onto I-275 S. Next, take the I-64 W exit towards St. Louis, continuing through Southern Indiana. Finally, take exit 63 for IN-162 toward Santa Claus/Lincoln City. Follow IN-162 S directly into Santa Claus. 

Carmel, Indiana, makes an excellent holiday stop along the way. Stay the night at The Hotel Carmichael, just steps away from the beautiful Carmel Christkindlmarket, winner of USA Today’s “Best Holiday Market” for the last three years. Other must-see attractions include The Cake Bake Shop, also within walking distance from the hotel, and for dollhouse enthusiasts, the Museum of Miniature Houses.

What families will love about Santa Claus, Indiana

Photo courtesy of Spencer County Visitors Bureau

As you enter Santa Claus, the first thing that hits you is the feeling of pure joy being in a town steeped in yuletide cheer. Streets are decorated with festive lights and the air buzzes with excitement. While Santa Claus truly qualifies as a small town with its dainty population of just over 2,400, it punches well above its weight in festive cheer.

Begin the day at the Santa Claus Museum & Village, where the history of the town unfolds, including the part of the story that brought your family here — how it got its happy name. The highlight for many visitors is the century-old, yet still-operating post office where thousands of letters to Santa from all over the world are received and answered. Yes, Santa visits this post office in Indiana to receive his very important mail.

Photo courtesy of Spencer County Visitors Bureau

As the afternoon unfolds, make way to the Santa Claus Christmas Store. It’s a wonderland of ornaments, gifts and all things Christmas. The sweet aroma of freshly baked cookies fills the air and the soft trill of classic Christmas songs dances down the aisles.

Grab dinner before evening sets in when the town lights up in its full glory. The Santa Claus Land of Lights is a must-see – a 1.2-mile drive-through LED Christmas light show that tells the story of Santa’s wingman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Where to eat in Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus offers a variety of dining options. For a hearty family meal, the Frosty’s Fun Center serves up pizzas and reindeer games. Those looking for a quick bite can head to Fat Santa’s Pizza and More, a recently opened pizzeria with the perfect name. For a more upscale dining experience, The Overlook Restaurant in nearby Leavenworth offers breathtaking views of the Ohio River complemented by a diverse menu.

Where to stay in Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa’s Lodge provides a cozy and affordable hotel option, it comes complete with basic amenities and a warm, festive atmosphere.

For a unique, and incredibly peaceful stay, consider Saint Meinrad Archabbey and Guest House. In the 1850s two Benedictine monks came to Indiana to start a monastery. Saint Meinard is still a fully functioning monastery, where young men learn to become Catholic priests at the seminary on site. The guest house, while very modest, is at the same time one of the most comfortable and beautiful places that I have ever stayed.


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Steffy McCourt
Steffy McCourt
Steffy McCourt brings over 15 years of experience in education, parenting, and travel writing for esteemed publications like We Are Teachers and LA Family Travel. Recognized for her commitment to advancing literacy and writing skills, Steffy is honored to be a Fellow of the National Writing Project. She collaborates with educators nationwide to enhance teaching practices and empower student writers.

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