Santa Claus is always coming to town, but wouldn't it be nice if he could save himself the holiday travel and have everyone come to his town instead? Maybe the man in red — and his reindeer — could use a break.
Luckily for Bakersfield, it's easy to visit Santa at his cottage in Christmas Town, and you won't even need a sleigh to get there.
Christmas Town returns to its Riverlakes location on Dec. 1 for a full month of yuletide fun, but holiday fans, take note: This season will likely be the final one at the North of the River park. The event's three-year contract with the county is up, said Christmas Town owner Mike Ross.
"This will probably be our last year here," Ross said of the park. "We've known all along that this hasn't been permanent."
Ross started the first incarnation of Christmas Town 13 years ago when he opened Santa's Playground to help him sell trees from his Christmas tree farm. He said it's too early to say what next year might hold for Christmas Town and its visitors, but he said he has a few different options he's currently weighing and is "actively looking" for a new home for the holiday event that has become a tradition for many in Bakersfield.
Still, Ross encourages guests to come to Christmas Town at Riverlakes while they can.
"It won't look the same" again, Ross said. "Every time it's somewhere different, it has a different look."
This year's Christmas Town will include all the activities guests have come to know and love, like hay rides around the holiday village, sledding down the snow hill and ice skating. Of course, Santa will be around every night to hear boys' and girls' Christmas wish-lists too.
Light shows, like the one on a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree, have always been a big part of Christmas Town, and Ross said there will be three new ones this year, with different displays and programming.
"We've changed some of the light shows and added some light shows," Ross said. "It's the same activities, dressed up differently."
Although there's plenty to do at Christmas Town, some attractions have stood out as guest favorites.
"It's got to be the snow hill," Ross said. "Or the hay ride. Who doesn't love a hay ride at Christmastime?"
All activities are included in Christmas Town admission.
The Christmas Town crew has been working on the event all year, Ross said, and started work at the park last month. After changing venues a few times (the event was held at the Kern County Museum in 2013 and Sam Lynn Ballpark in 2014), the crew was happy to have a steady home.
"It's a lot easier when we don't have to move," Ross said. "It's easier when you know what to expect."
Around 35,000 guests come to Christmas Town over the monthlong season, Ross said, many of them returning each year.
"Every year we see a lot of the same faces," he said.
Ross is hopeful Christmas Town will find a new home for next year because he knows how much the event means to people.
"It's really become a holiday tradition in Bakersfield," Ross said. "It's not just looking at lights. It's doing activities, having hot chocolate. We're trying to create a Christmas tradition and Christmas spirit."