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Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Filtering by Tag: Santa Claus

Greetings from Rovaniemi - Santa Claus Village in Finland

Paula Gaston

Last summer we visited both SantaPark and Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland. This was not our first visit to Santa Claus Village; we have been there multiple times; during summer, winter, even at fall. Every time, seeing Santa is equally exciting. The best photos however, are hands down the ones from winter time when the snow covers the trees and buildings. So I decided to use the winter photos in this post for that reason. It makes me feel more Chirstmasy here in California too!

 
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A DATE WITH SANTA

The main thing in Santa’s Village is of course meeting Santa. The very best thing about visiting Rovaniemi in the summer time is that there are less people, and no lines to meet Santa Claus. Right before Christmas on the other hand, the line was TWO HOURS long! Meeting Santa in his office is free of charge, but they do sell a photo package after the encounter. On our first visit we did purchase the package. The photos were good quality and there were several of them with all of us or just Santa with our baby. The package also included some general photos of Santa’s Village and a video. Meeting Santa was rather pleasant. We didn’t feel rushed at all, even though the line behind us was long. So we did manage to give our Christmas list to Santa, and right before Christmas day!

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CROSSING THE ARCTIC CIRCLE AND PETTING REINDEER

Santa Claus Village is located right on top of the Arctic Circle at latitude 66°33′45.9″. So one can literally jump over the Arctic Circle line while visiting Santa. From the north of the line one can experience a phenomena called Polar night (kaamos in Finnish), when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon at all. At the longest the Polar night lasts for 52 days, depending on what part of Lapland one is in. And what a shock it was when we drove further on to Lapland! I felt like I couldn’t get over my jet lag at all, I just wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep.

If visiting Finland during the summer, there is the opposite phenomena to Polar night. It is called Polar day, or Midnight Sun as we Finns like to call it. During that time the sun doesn’t go down at all. It is a very special time, and big celebrations occur around the country on the longest day of the year.

After crossing the Arctic Circle, one should head behind the buildings at Santa’s Village and go meet the reindeer. They are fairly calm and docile animals who often let people pet them. We even got to take a photo with one of them. While driving around Finnish Lapland, one can sometimes see hundreds of reindeer as they herd freely around the northern parts of Finland.

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SANTA CLAUS Village MAIN POST OFFICE AND SOUVENIR SHOPPING

The holiday season is fairly busy at Santa’s Village. The stores are full of people from all over the world and one can hear all kinds of different languages. One of the busiest places is also Santa’s Main Post Office where one can buy some post cards and mail them from the Arctic Circle. Santa has his own special stamps and a postmark. Some people even stamp their passports with this special Arctic Circle stamp. We also sent some post cards to our family in the USA. They think that Santa lives at the North Pole so we had to send some to prove to them that he really lives in Finland!

There are many, many souvenir stores in Santa Claus Village, and one very small grocery store with a very limited selection. I love all the Lappish things and always like to buy something to take home, but I have to say that if you visit anywhere else in Lapland or even in downtown Rovaniemi, you will find most of these same things way cheaper. Same goes with eating. The food in Santa Claus Village is very expensive and we weren’t super impressed with the quality.

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STAYING THE NIGHT in SANTA CLAUS HOLIDAY VILLAGE

In recent years Rovaniemi has gotten many new and nice hotels, and some accommodations a little more unique too. Last summer we did not stay the night there, but on our first visit we stayed the night in Santa Claus Holiday Village. It is located behind Santa’s Village, so not far at all. We were two families traveling together, so we booked two rooms. In each cottage there are two rooms which share the same main door but are in other ways separate. So it was perfect for us. Both families had their own rooms, but we could knock on each other’s door when we wanted to hang out. Each room had it’s own kitchenette and a sauna. As you know, we Finns love to warm up in our saunas before showering. We were desperately trying to see the Northern Lights, since my husband had never seen them. So we went out a few times before bedtime to look, but we were not in luck! He is starting to think they don’t exist!

The visit to Santa Claus Village is a great memory and particularly special for kids. Santa’s Village is actually very close to SantaPark, and I definitely recommend visiting them both. SantaPark is a little more pricey, but is worth it! You can read about our visit to SantaPark from here.

TIPS FOR VISITING SANTA CLAUS VILLAGE IN ROVANIEMI, FINLAND

  • Consider visiting off season since it is less crowded, cheaper and equally beautiful

  • Downtown Rovaniemi has many nice restaurants, shops and hotels.

  • The local delicacy is reindeer stew which is served with mashed potatoes and lingonberries. A local dessert special is oven baked warm cheese with cloudberries. There are many other foods to choose from, and many international chains as well. Vegetarian food is not difficult to find and gluten free food is served in almost any restaurant.

  • When visiting during the winter, bring warm clothing since the temperatures can vary anything form 0C to around -30C. Use layers under your outer clothes. Don’t forget your hat, scarf, gloves and warm socks inside the shoes, especially for kids! Many Finns use wool socks (villasukka) to keep their toes warm inside the shoes and they are sold in most stores. They also might have wool gloves (lapanen) on top of their gloves.

  • Be prepared for the darkness if you visit during the winter. The few hours of light during the day looks more like dusk.

  • If you want to experience the Midnight Sun, the best time for it is in June. Nightless night is celebrated on the third weekend of June.

  • When visiting during the summer, be prepared to meet the local air force: mosquitos!

  • The best time to see the fall colours is September and early October

 

Finding the Christmas Spirit in Rovaniemi SantaPark, Finland

Paula Gaston

The time has now come to move on to a more Christmassy topic in this blog. Last summer we visited Rovaniemi in Finland, and we went to see Santa Claus in SantaPark Arctic World. And it was quite an experience! In my opinion SantaPark is a small piece of America in Finland. It was well made, well designed and entertaining. The entrance fee was a little bit pricey, but it was worth it. And I would go again if I get a chance.

SantaPark is inside a cavern which was quarried into the bedrock, 50 metres underground. To get into the park, one must walk through a long walkway where different kinds of elf shadows are reflected on the walls and noises echo in the air. It was very exciting, if a little bit scary for the kids. But we did make it to the entrance and got our tickets. SantaPark was first opened in 1998, and it is open from June to the first week of August, and from November to the beginning of January. Even while visiting in the summer time, we found the Christmas feeling again quickly at the park. And in the chilly, dark cavern, we totally forgot that it was warm and sunny outside.

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CHRISTMAS MAGIC SHOW AND THE ELF SCHOOL

When purchasing the tickets one should definitely check the schedule for the day in order to know what is going on. We happened to arrive right when the elves were starting their Christmas Magic Show on the main stage, so we stayed and watched it first. The show was a lot of fun and very entertaining. these elves of SantaPark are quite the acrobats, I would say! When the show ended, they walked in front of the stage to greet and pose for photos with the kids.

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Right after the show ended there was an announcement that the Elf School was starting soon, so we headed there next. The Elf School was kind of cute, but pretty long. Even so, the kids seemed to enjoy it a lot. There were two elves who ran it; one spoke Finnish and the other English. The elves told us about their lives and duties, then we sang and at the end everyone got a diploma and an elf hat. I guess I graduated then, since I also got myself an Elf School diploma! Woohoo!

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DOUBLE TROUBLE on the MAGIC TRAIN

The only real ride in SantaPark is the Magic Train which takes people into a snowy forest to see its animals, and then on to the elf workshop. The ride is not very long and will work well for smaller kids. Since there were no lines to the train while we visited, we rode it twice. It actually reminded me of Disneyland rides which are always well made. I wish that real train trips would be this much fun!

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UNDERCROSSING OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE AND MEETING THE ICE PRINCESS AND SANTA

SantaPark is said to be the only place in the world where instead of cross over the Arctic Circle, one can cross beneath it. One cool thing to do after that is to visit the Ice Princess in the Ice Gallery. Before going in, one can bundle up with a long white coat which is much needed. At least I was really chilly since I was dressed for the summer weather. The gallery is full of ice sculptures and there is also an ice bar. We didn’t stay very long, since it was so cold there, but we did talk a little bit with the Ice Princess and took a couple photos with her.

After that we went to meet the star of the park; Santa Claus. He was sitting in his office waiting for kids to come see him. Meeting Santa is always exciting, and the kids are able to tell him their wishes already during the summer. He promised he would come all the way to California to visit us! And of course we got our picture together with Santa. We did not purchase the photo package they were selling, but Santa Claus didn’t seem to mind that we took few pictures ourselves.

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The Ice Princess…

The Ice Princess…

Another princess that is about to turn into ice soon…

Another princess that is about to turn into ice soon…

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The last thing we did before leaving was a visit to the Elf’s Workshop. I loved it that they actually had this old fashioned arts and crafts corner where kids were able to make Christmas ornaments. It actually seemed to be the only place that was a little bit crowded there. We painted some elves and we nailed them on the wall of the workshop room. It was all part of the activity. We also got some elves to take home with us.

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This time we didn’t eat at SantaPark, but we did have some coffee and local pastries. While we adults were still sitting there and sipping our coffee, the kids ran upstairs to the Angry Birds Activity Park. Then it was time to say our goodbyes to the elves and start waiting for the return of Christmas. And here it is again, it came faster than we thought!

If you would like to read about Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, you can find the post from here.

 

Best Kind of Christmas Morning in Finland

Paula Gaston

The day before Christmas Eve went by as we were trying get settled in to my parents house and meet the family. On Christmas Eve I woke up again at 4 am. Oh well, I got some time to read all the Finnish gossip magazines while others were still sleeping. Eventually my Christmas Eve started in the best possible way; a morning trail ride with a group of horse owners. Thank you again for organising that and letting me join with the lovely giant horse, Eldon. It was nice to ride old trails we used to go to and sing some Christmas songs while hearing the snow squeak under the hooves. You soon get used to the darkness outside and after the horses had been taken care of, we all were in great Christmas spirits. 

In the evening we met at my brother's house for dinner and to celebrate Christmas Eve. In Finland that is the big night that we are all waiting for and when we share some presents. In fact, we don't just share presents but Santa comes to your house and delivers the gifts. It is very exciting for the kids. For me, the most exciting thing was the traditional Christmas foods I had been craving for a long time already. I always try to cook some in California, but they never taste quite like my mom's of course. 

As I mentioned, traditionally Santa comes to your house in person and not thru the chimney in the middle of the night. I am not sure how we will explain this to our kids in the future. It will be tricky. Usually we have been spending Christmas with my husband's family where the gifts are opened on Christmas morning. I'm sure we will come up with some kind of a solution... maybe next Christmas!