Last Updated on December 7, 2023

Santa Claus, Arizona is one of the most unique ghost towns you can find in the US.

First envisioned in 1937 as a year-round holiday-themed attraction along Route 66, this once-festive town in Mohave County has been completely abandoned for decades, leaving the festive spirit to rot in the desert.

As of 2022, the remains of the ghost town has been dismantled, with most vandalized buildings removed.

Sign in abandoned Santa Claus, AZ, reading: "THIS IS IT! SANTA'S LAND"
Sign in abandoned Santa Claus, AZ, reading: “THIS IS IT! SANTA’S LAND”

A (Failed) Festive Experiment

Santa Claus (or the Santa Claus Acres) was officially launched in 1937 by an ambitious estate agent who was operating a motel in the area with her husband.

Envisioned as a resort town centered around the theme of Christmas, where children could send letters and visit Santa Claus at any time of the year, the town was only known for its Santa Claus Inn and restaurant, and was eventually sold by the founder in 1949.

An Urban Tour of Abandoned Santa Claus, AZ before it was dismantled in 2022.

The new owners ran the inn with moderate success until the 1970s, when the popularity of Santa Claus started to decline altogether.

By 1983, Santa Claus had been removed from the official Arizona maps and the entire town had been listed as for sale — unsuccessfully.

Decades later, Santa Claus is officially considered a ghost town, home to families of rattlesnakes, vandalized buildings and a children’s train tagged with holiday-themed graffiti.

Santa Claus also inspired several works of fiction, such as Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “Cliff and the Calories”, which featured a fictionalized version of the town and its restaurant.

Another example is the 1984 horror film “Don’t Open Till Christmas”, which used Santa Claus as a filming location.


The End of Santa Claus

The final nail in the coffin for Santa Claus came in 1995, when the last operating business in the town, the post office, closed its doors.

The town’s main attraction, the ability to send letters with a Santa Claus postmark, was no longer available. 

The town became a curiosity for travelers and urban explorers, who documented the decay and vandalism of the once-merry place.

In late 2021 or early 2022, the remaining structures of Santa Claus were torn down, leaving behind only a few traces of the town’s existence. 

The land was reportedly sold to a private buyer, who may have plans to develop it in the future.

Santa Claus may be gone, but it will not be forgotten. It remains a unique and fascinating chapter in the history of Arizona and the American Southwest.


Read also: This Woman Revived a Ghost Town in Utah’s Desert


Photo Gallery: Santa Claus Then and Now

Building in Santa Claus, AZ in the 1960s
Building in Santa Claus, AZ in the 1960s
Christmas Tree Inn in Santa Claus, AZ in the 1980s
Christmas Tree Inn in Santa Claus, AZ in the 1980s
Santa Claus, AZ: For Sale Sign. 2020s
“Santa Claus, AZ: For Sale” Sign. 2020s
Santa Claus Ghost Town, AZ desert, 2020s.
Santa Claus Ghost Town, AZ desert, 2020s.
Abandoned Children's Train in Santa Claus Ghost Town, AZ desert, 2020s.
Abandoned Children’s Train in Santa Claus Ghost Town, AZ desert, 2020s.

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