Santa's Villages were the first franchised theme parks in the world. The Santa's Village in Scotts Valley is one of three now defunct parks, the other two being in East Dundee, Illinois and Lake Arrowhead (Skyforest), California
. As of 2007, only the theme parks in New Hampshire and in Ontario, Canada remain open.
The park in Scotts Valley has been leveled and is open for redevelopment planning. The only remaining presence of Santa's Village is an exit sign off of Highway 17 for Santa's Village Road.
Excerpted from the Scott's Valley Santa's Village web site:
In 1958, Santa's Village was created in the wooded hills of the Santa Cruz mountains. This Christmas wonderland served thousands of park visitors each year with its holiday cheer!
The city we all know as Scott's Valley, was once the fertile valley of the 4400 plus acre ranch known as Rancho San Augustin. It's from this ranch's humble beginnings that the place we once knew as Santa's Village came to be.
The land that supported Santa's Village has it's own rich history, but the village that most interests us was established on June 13,1956. That's the day that's the day legal documents were drawn up for the sale of Lawridge Farm, which was a portion of the former Rancho San Augustin. From the Lawridge Farm estate came the leasing of the 25 acres that would house the new Santa's Village theme park.
The lease was to H. Glenn Holland, who was a southern California developer, and the Holland Corporation. Holland had already developed a Santa's Village in 1955, near Lake Arrowhead in San Bernardino County. The Santa's Village in Scott's Valley was to be his second one, and he would go on to develop a third Santa's Village near Chicago in Dundee, Illinois.
Santa's Village (Skyforest) Scotts Valley officially opened for business on May 30, 1957. Skyforest was the location Glenn Holland had originally used for his Lake Arrowhead locations, but soon the name found its self attached to the Scotts Valley location as well.
The official first Santa Claus of Santa's Village Scotts Valley was Carl Hansen, a native of Denmark. Hansen relocated from his home in San Bernardino when he was offered the job of Santa Claus for the new Scotts Valley theme park. Hansen occupied the red Santa's suit for about eight years, leaving for a staring role in the Hocus Pocus television show. Richard Bellack, who owned the actual rides, was the first resident-manager until 1958, when Bruce Prather took over the management of the park.
Residents of Santa's Village included Santa and Mrs. Claus, their elves and gnomes, who operated the rides and sold tickets. There was a baby petting zoo filled with goats, sheep, bunnies, ducks, deer and a Mexican burro. Children could feed the animals green feed pellets that they purchased from dispensing machines. Four reindeer from Unalakleet, Alaska, pulled Santa's sleigh. There was a bobsled ride, a whirling Christmas tree ride and a miniature Santa's Express train ride. Other attractions included a giant Jack-in-the-Box, an Alice in Wonderland maze, Santa's enormous boot, brightly painted cement mushrooms and a Queen of Hearts figure ... all part of Fairytale Land.
All the buildings were designed to look like log chalet-type structures, repleat with snowy roofs and gingerbread trim. The park had a gingerbread house, a elf toy factory, a lollipop tree and brightly colored gift shops. Around the village were tree-top tall wooden soldiers and candy canes. Santa himself had a huge mailbox to accept all the letters from children around the world.
Mrs. Claus had her own kitchen, where hamburgers, hotdogs and steak sandwiches were served. An egg-shaped cottage and a shoehouse were open for children's exploration and imaginations. There was a hook and ladder fire engine and a tractor to climb on, and a treehouse with a connecting slide for children to enjoy.
Creatures from Alice in Wonderland, Jack Pumpkin Head, the Easter Bunny, Little Bo Peep, and a Good Witch wandered throughout the grounds, greeting youngsters. Theme appropriate music flowed from speakers in the trees. In it's original splendor amidst the backdrop of towering redwoods, the pristinely clean Santa's Village of Scotts Valley was an inviting fairytale theme park for all ages.
In 1966, the Holland Corporation offered up Santa's Village of Scotts Valley for sale less than ten years after it's opening. Santa Clara County developer, Noorudin Billawalla, purchased the Santa's Village property from the Holland Corporation on August 22, 1966. Billawalla continued to lease the property to Santa's Village Corporation.
In 1977, after the Santa's Village Corporation had filed for bankruptcy, Billawalla bought the whole of Santa's Village for $615,000, speculating that he could build a more attractive theme park there. The City of Scotts Valley rejected Billawalla's plan to create a Knott's Berry Farm-type complex, which would have included a hotel, a shopping center and rides.
In 1978, Billawalla changed the park's name to "The Village" and promoted it as an Arts and Crafts Fair, but it failed to bring in the finances necessary to continue and in 1979, the park's gates were finally closed. The City of Scotts Valley was requiring the park to be brought up to current building code specifications, and the land's zoning was changed from commercial to residential for the back 100+ acres of the property. That year there were heavy rains during the park's peak season of November and December, coupled with the political bureaucracy of the City of Scotts Valley ... it proved to be the death knell for Santa's Village. As the last surviving theme park in Scotts Valley, the closing of Santa's Village marked the end of an era.