8 Things To Do In The Tiny Town of Santa Claus, Georgia

Experience the magic.

Looking for a dose of Christmas cheer? If you're on the road, swing by Santa Claus, Georgia, a tiny hamlet located just about halfway between Macon and Savannah, and pretty near the South's onion capital, Vidalia. Whether it's July or December, fans of Santa Claus (and who isn't?) will appreciate this town of just around 200 people that's Christmas-themed all year round.

Before you pass through, learn about this community's unique origin story, and how to make the most of your visit, from making your list and checking it twice, exploring Santa's garden, collecting a Christmas ornament, and more.

Learn How Santa Landed on U.S. Highway 1

The town was established in the 1930s, according to the Los Angeles Times. It started as a clever marketing ploy by a local farmer named C.G. Greene, who wanted to lure people off the highway to shop at his pecan stand. Greene was reportedly "a real jolly fellow with a red complexion and roly-poly figure who was always laughing and smiling" (sound familiar?) and had a real mind for business. To that end, he knew he needed to choose a name for the town that would make people laugh and then hopefully exit the highway to buy his farm goods. Naming the town Santa Claus did the job nicely.

Thomas F. Fuller, a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, helped get the new Toombs County town of Santa Claus incorporated in 1941. Greene served as the town's first mayor, and streets got names like Noel Street, Reindeer Drive, and Candy Cane Lane. Then came along William Salem, a real estate developer from the nearby town of Lyons, who helped design the town and worked to bring in residents and, hopefully, tourists. There were high hopes that Santa Claus, which sat right on U.S. Highway 1, would become a booming tourist attraction. Then the interstate came. Interstate 75 to the west and 95 to the east were far from Santa Claus and put a dent in the town's plan to become an easy-access tourist attraction.

Although the interstate detoured the town's original concept, the residents' spirit carried on, and the Christmas theme remains. As you plan your visit, here are eight things you can do in Santa Claus, Georgia.

Pose With Santa Claus

While Santa Claus, Indiana, may be more famous, Santa Claus, Georgia, has plenty of holiday spirit. The town adopted the motto, "Santa Claus ... The City That Loves Children" and put it on a sign that welcomes people to town. These days, the sign provides the perfect opportunity for Christmas card photos or Instagram shots. It is on U.S. Highway 1 facing north on the edge of town.

Find Your Favorite Festive Streets

Get your legs moving from your road trip and walk the town's Christmas-themed streets. From east to west, you'll find Dasher Street, Candy Cane Street, December Street, and Reindeer Street. And from north to south, there's Noel Street, Sleigh Street, Dancer Street, Salem Street (named after real estate developer William Salem), and Rudolph Way.

Catch the Spirit at the Chapel and Garden

The Chapel of Santa Claus, a 40-seat prayer chapel, built from the donations and hard work of locals, opened in 2014. The chapel is located at 15 Holly Street and is open during daylight hours. Come Christmastime, it is decorated with green garlands, red bows, and holly, transforming the quaint little chapel into an idyllic photo opp. Surrounding the chapel is Santa's Garden, a one-acre city park with winding paths marked with benches, a water feature, and a gazebo.

Stop by the Museum and Collect a Trinket

Pull up to the welcome center at 2317 Noel Street, which houses the historical museum to learn how the town evolved through its exhibit of clippings and photos. Then browse the gift shop for Christmas and Santa Claus-themed goodies. The gift shop hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Take in the Decked the Halls

In Santa Claus, Black Friday is celebrated not with a doorbuster deal at the nearby Walmart, but by decking the halls of their merry little town. Homes are strung with Christmas lights, white pillars get wrapped with red ribbon to become candy canes, and nativity scenes pop up alongside the many varieties of Santa Claus that appear across the town. The lamp posts have bright green banners featuring pictures of St. Nick. There's no need to decorate the Santa Claus City Hall, though, because according to Only in Your State, the decorations are up all year round at the building. which sits at 25 December Drive.

Write a Letter to Santa Claus

While the U.S. Postal Service will happily put a North Pole postmark on a child's letter to Santa—via the post office in North Pole, Alaska—if you want a postmark from Santa Claus, you'll need to address the letter down South. Each year the town's mailbox is flooded with Christmas cards waiting for that special Santa Claus postmark. The post office receives thousands of pieces of mail each holiday season, a Santa Claus spokeswoman told ABC News. People drive for miles to drop their Christmas cards in Santa Claus's bright red mailbox, emblazoned with the word "Believe". Each of those letters and cards gets affixed with the town's Santa Claus postmark and is then sent along its way to make someone's holiday a little more special.

See Santa's Runway

On Christmas Eve, the residents of Santa Claus line the streets with luminaries—paper bags with candles glowing inside—transforming Sleigh Street and Candy Cane Lane into well-lit paths for Santa Claus's arrival.

Take a Little Brake

On December Street and Dancer Street, enter the pavilion, park, and reindeer trail. This small park has some swing sets to entertain the kids, a pavilion with picnic tables to enjoy some shade and shelter, and a circular path to take a stroll.

Plan Your Trip

Since Santa Claus doesn't have any restaurants, hotels, or much in the way of amenities, do as the town's founder wanted and as you make your way from Macon or Savannah, just pop off the highway and see what the town has to offer. Or at least swing by the Santa Claus Minit Mart for some refreshments and a few photos of the town where it is always Christmas.

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