The Mohave Desert is famous for many things – the innumerable Joshua trees that dot its parched landscape, the indescribable heat of Death Valley, the bright lights and bad decisions of Las Vegas. But long ago, this vast desert had another claim to fame in the tiny village of Santa Claus.
In 1937, the Christmas-themed town popped up along Route 93 as a clever ploy by real estate agent Nina Talbot to sell surrounding parcels of land. Several holiday-inspired buildings were erected on four acres, including an inn, a restaurant, and a post office. The cheery oasis quickly became a popular destination for families and celebrities alike. Jane Russell, Duncan Hines, and science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein all have ties to Santa Claus. Families enjoyed Christmas-themed meals, meeting Santa any given day of the year, and having their holiday mail stamped at the town’s post office.
Eventually, the charm of this roadside attraction fizzled, and the buildings were boarded up and left behind. Despite the popularity of Santa Claus, the surrounding parcels of land never sold, so the ruins of the town stand alone in the sprawling desert. Some of the most iconic pieces of memorabilia, such as the Santa face that adorned the side of the building and the “Old 1225” children’s train, have vanished from the property. All that remains today are two heavily-graffitied buildings, a creepy little well, and a large billboard on the south side of the property announcing that all this can be yours for some undisclosed (and likely overly ambitious) price.
When we visited, the structures were fenced off with a hefty amount of barbed wire and the buildings seemed pretty well boarded up. There are also numerous ‘No Trespassing’ signs displayed. While there was no one else around, the town is right off a heavily trafficked highway, so slipping through the fence isn’t likely to go unnoticed. As we were snapping some pictures, I realized that there were a ton of water bottles scattered all over the ground in front of the larger building…all filled with some mysterious yellow liquid. Turns out, this is a popular dumping ground for pee bottles among the trucking community. So yeah…watch your step.
Location: Southbound Route 93, between mile markers 57 & 58 (approx. 14 miles north of Kingman)
Hours: Permanently closed
Similar: Nothing, AZ