For nearly three decades, Santa’s Magical Kingdom has been a top wintertime attraction in far West County. Located on 35 acres near Six Flags in Eureka, more than four million lights and dozens of animated characters dazzle and delight thousands of visitors each year.
From April to October, the property operates as Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, a family-friendly and award-winning resort offering a “back-to-nature vacation,” with amenities including a pool, free wifi, train rides, miniature golf and a chance for kids to interact with Yogi himself.
Scott and Kathy Jones bought Jellystone Park in 1989 and admit they knew absolutely nothing about working in the hospitality industry or running a campground. Their sole intent was to find a space large enough to provide an annual Christmas light show each season.
Scott recalled that when he was young his family would travel to downtown St. Louis each year on Thanksgiving Day to view the Christmas lights and decorated storefronts. His dream was to provide families with a similar experience in the county, but on a much grander scale. Jellystone was just the right size and the campground would produce revenue during the Spring, Summer and Fall months.
Driving through 2.5 miles of glistening forest, visitors will encounter several light tunnels and fountains, life size cartoon characters, Elf Land, Santa’s workshop and much more. For a more adventurous experience, visitors can board the wagon at Kringle’s Store and take an open-air ride through the shimmering wonderland. Blankets are provided.
Planning for the light show each year begins in February. Kathy points out, “Everything we do is 100% designed for us,” and the design team continually strives to incorporate new ideas and technologies in their presentation. In August the decorating begins and by mid-November the show is in full operation. It takes 8-10 weeks around the clock to get everything assembled, and about the same amount of time to take it all down. Kathy discloses, “We’re lucky to get open by April 1st for campers!”
The first year that Santa’s Magical Kingdom opened, the region experienced one of the worst ice storms on record. The hilly terrain of the park was impassable for a good chunk of their season, but they were open long enough for the attraction to become a big hit. Now, 28 years later, Kathy reports that these early visitors are now returning each year with their own children and grandchildren in tow.
On their busiest nights there are approximately 50 crew members on-site to help run the show. Kathy advises, “I think it’s honest to God passion with which this is done. This is done because we really care about doing something wholesome for families.”
That said, the couple puts a lot of effort into serving local charities by providing contributions and offering free admission to underprivileged children and families. This year’s efforts will benefit the BackStoppers, Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis and the St. Louis Area Foodbank. As in past years, visitors who bring a toy for donation, Mondays thru Thursdays, will receive $5 off of their admission.
Santa’s Magical Kingdom is open every night through January 7, including Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Hours of operation are from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. most days, and open until 11:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
General admission, per carload, is $22, with larger size vehicles like limos and buses costing up to $30. Private wagon rides are also available and require advance booking.
For more information, visit santasmagicalkingdom.com.