BRACEBRIDGE — It was in 1955 that Santa Claus—not as young as he once was—decided he needed to vacation in a warmer climate and selected Bracebridge, located exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole, to be the site of his summer home.
True to his nature, he opened his cottage to youngsters.
For six decades, the attractions at Santa’s Village have caused children’s faces to light up with that glow usually reserved for opening presents on Christmas morning. What little one wouldn’t enjoy riverboat and train excursions, a splash pad, petting zoo, and of course, a visit with St. Nick himself?
Nevertheless, in an effort to maintain the excitement, a number of new attractions have been added this season.
For decades, children have hopped into swan paddle boats to leisurely steer around the little bay. I recall happily doing so as a child. But the fowl have grown old with the passage of time, and needed to be retired in favour of something newer.
In came pirate ship paddle boats, allowing young scallywags to sail in search of booty and adventure. It’s the stuff of imagination.
Not far away is another newly launched attraction, Jolly Bumper bumper boats, which you enter by way of a striking lighthouse. Kids will giggle gleefully as they good-naturedly bounce their cars off one another.
Parents can laugh at the aquatic antics from the comforts of the patio of Riverside Rotisserie, the park’s new, full-service rotisserie restaurant.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the dishes, which was an Abominable Snowman-sized step above most theme-park food and wouldn’t have been out of place in any family restaurant.
I enjoyed a delicious barbecue chicken wrap while my wife savored a rotisserie chicken sandwich on a focaccia bun, both of which were served with coleslaw and kettle chips.
Even the hotdog ordered by my daughter, Claire, was delicious.
In another first for the park, this restaurant now serves alcohol.
Also new for 2019 is Santa’s Farm Tractors, which competed with the historic Candy Cane Express train ride as the highlight of Claire’s day.
A petting farm, for many years known as Old McDonald’s Farm after the children’s song, has been an attraction at Santa’s Village since its opening day. The attraction was given a welcome jolt of energy this year with the addition of Santa’s Farm Yard Tractor Tour, where children take the wheel (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) and drive along a 270-metre track that weaves among farm animals and whimsical displays. Claire loved every moment of it.
A number of new interactive games have been added as well. On Elves Island, young and old alike get swept up with gold fever and mine for precious gems at a mining sluice attraction. Elsewhere, at the teen-centric Sportsland facility, we find new bowling and soccer games alongside popular existing attractions like go-carts, batting cages, and mini-golf.
On hot days, the beach front and waterpark—with slides and red-striped candy-cane fountains to frolic under— are hives of activity. Just in time for summer, the beach has been upgraded with more space, new chairs, and large umbrellas. Now, there’s more space and comfort.
With the new additions joining existing attractions, even the most jaded scrooges will be filled with a little bit of Christmas magic when they visit this iconic Muskoka attraction.
Pick a date to visit Santa’s Village. Then circle the calendar and count down the sleeps.
Just the Facts:
1624 Golden Beach Rd., Bracebridge
10 a.m. to 6 p.m., except on Saturday (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) in July and August
Cost is $37.95 per person.