It’s that time of year again. The time when we see millions of dazzling lights from the Palmetto Expressway and hear sleighbells on TV that signal the opening of Santa’s Enchanted Forest.
Miamians have been going to this holiday-themed amusement park since the ’80s and those of us who were there can recall its humbler beginnings. Back then, mom or dad would put fifteen sweaters on you and then walk you through Santa Claus Lane to take Polaroids of you and your siblings in front of the numerous holiday-themed displays. This was long before smartphones, social media, or selfies, of course.
Just stand there and smile, kids!
Through the years, the owners of Santa’s realized that locals wanted more than just a few twinkly lights and a photo with ol’ St. Nick. In true Miami fashion, the Forest sprawled out across Tropical Park, adding carnival games, live entertainment, and numerous rides that often have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas but you know, who cares as long as it’s fun?
Then they created that hypnotic commercial featuring vocals by Miami local Gigi Diaz (who is now a journalist, radio show host, and owner of a dance academy), and the rest, as they say, is history.
This week, Santa’s re-opens to the delight of Miami’s Christmas-loving masses for plenty of “games, food, shows, nativity” as that earworm of a theme song promises. The self-professed World’s Largest Holiday Theme Park is celebrating its 34th year with over 100 rides, games, shows, and attractions, including seven roller coasters, numerous fun houses and all your old favorites like the Gravitron and Himalaya.
Santa’s also features a mechanical bull, a rock climbing wall, water gun races, a surfing santa, pony rides, a petting zoo, and something called a 7-D virtual reality simulator (if you’re asking yourself what on earth that could even mean, we’re right there with you and suggest you go find out and report back pronto). There’s even a magic show, an aerial show, a kid’s variety show, and even a Motorcycle Globe of Death (which honestly is about as awesome as it sounds).
Maybe ride this before you eat chicharrones and an elephant ear.
Then there are those of us who strictly show up for the food. Santa’s is known for being the place to find everything you could possibly ever want deep fried, and Miamians can’t get enough of it. Deep fried chocolate bars, chicharrones, elephant ears, churros, and donuts, plus candy apples, carne asada, corn on the cob, and giant slices of pizza are just some of the heavy (but ultimately delicious) choices you’ll find that’ll have you ho, ho, ho’ing.
If that’s not really your cup of tea, you can also enjoy some of the more festive goings-on, like Christmas karaoke, Mistletoe Lane (the perfect place to take your date, especially when you’re both in junior high), life-size holiday displays, South Florida’s largest Christmas tree, and a holiday light show spectacular at the end of each night. This is a Christmas theme park, after all. And of course, if the millions (3 million to be exact) of tiny, sparkly lights all around you and the holiday music blaring from the speakers doesn’t do it for you, feel free to go sit on Santa’s lap and ask him to bring some Christmas magic into your life. You never know what might happen.
Don’t worry, Santa. It will all be over in January.