Active Dad Review: Santa’s Village v. Storyland

This week, Liss and I took the kids up to North Conway for a few days of fun in the mountains. From the picturesque downtown with its signature railroad station set among the Moat Mountain range to Cranmore Mountain to the Sacco River and White Mountain National Forest– there’s a lot to do when you’re in town.

For me, North Conway is hands down my favorite place in New England, and brings back wonderful memories from my days as a kid staying up there at our family cottage with my parents, cousins, and grandparents.

Andrew, William, and Olivia at the Conway Scenic Railroad

Some of my fondest memories up north were at the two main theme parks – Storyland and Santa’s Village! This week, Liss and I had the pleasure of reliving these memories, while creating new ones with our kids. After our trip, I thought it would be fun to write a blog trying to compare our experience at these two parks this week. Let me know what you think!


Santa’s Village: First of all, this place is not close to North Conway. Anticipate an 60+ minute drive to Jefferson, NH IF YOU DON’T get lost! This has happened to us a few times in the past. If you go, be sure to drive on Route 302 through Crawford Notch…it’s a faster drive.

Admission: $78 for a family of four (4 and under free). Parking was free. Seeing that we went on Monday, we parked right in front of the park and the attendance was pretty light. The lines were pretty short, too.

Enjoy a view of the mountains from the Skyway Sleigh

Highlights: First off, the Christmas theme in July is great! I love the vibe in the park, from the christmas music to the elves to the themed rides. Seriously, what’s not to love about seeing Santa? Some of the big kid rides are pretty solid, too. The Yule Log Flume Ride and the Ruby’s Rapid Transit Roller Coaster are excellent rides that do not disappoint. The Skyway Sleigh is another great attraction that allows you to get a bird’s eye view of the park. Most rides didn’t require an adult, which also was a benefit for parents with little kids.

Me and Andrew on Ruby

Seeing that we brought along our newborn daughter, we also enjoyed just how shaded and spread-out the park seems. You never feel like you’re one in a crowd here. When it got too hot for us, we put on our bathing suits and spent a few hours at the park’s new Ho Ho H20 Water Park (which is free with admission, another great feature!). The boys couldn’t get enough of this place and added a few more hours to our stay.

The Ho Ho H20! A perfect way to cap off our trip to the park. Be sure to pack a bathing suit.

Lowlights: Frankly, there’s not too much to complain about other than the commute. If you can get over the drive, the trip is well worth it. Again, if you go, make sure you follow directions closely. As I learned, my car GPS took me on some long backroads to get there, so pay attention. The only other may be to stay away from the reindeer. As much as it fits in with the Christmas vibe, the reindeer petting area is pretty hot and stinky – but that’s being picky.

A great park with lots to offer, but it can get crowded so plan accordingly

Storyland: Storyland is much closer to North Conway and better known, which can mean big crowds at times. Planning ahead of time is important if you’re making the trip here.

Admission: Price is $27.99 for ages 3+. This cost us $111.96. We also had to pay an additional $10 for preferred parking, largely because we had an infant and both parking lots were packed early. $122 before we event stepped foot inside the park. One thing that helps mitigate this price is if you attend the park during the last three hours the day beforehand. You pay full price, but also get freed admission for the next day.

Highlights: This year, the park added a new attraction – Splash Battle – which is a great four-seated boat ride complete with water guns! On this ride, you get the chance to shoot water at visitors walking around the park as they can shoot at you from guns stationed outside the ride . You can also shoot at other boats – which means you will get absolutely soaked! We had a blast on this ride, and it was much needed relief on a very hot July day.


We got on the Polar Coaster, Crazy Barn, Tea Cups, Buccaneer Pirate Ship and the Farm Tractors relatively easily which the kids enjoyed. They also enjoyed the Cinderalla’s Coach Ride up to her magic castle! The Loopy Lab is also a big hit with the boys, shooting nerf balls all over the factory with a wide variety of air pressured guns. Note: Both the roller coaster and flume rides are much better at Santa’s Village.


Lowlights: Some of the best rides in the park, including the Bamboo Chutes and Dr. Geyser’s Raft Ride, had lines that were simply too long for us to wait in with little kids – even on a Tuesday morning. Same was true for the Great Balloon Chase, Turtle Twirl, Antique Cars, and Swan Boats. This was extremely frustrating. Other rides that we got on, such as the Flying Fish, Dutch Shoes and Whirling Whales, took forever to wait in line for a relatively short ride.


Given the high heat, there’s not a lot of shade at the park and several of the mist tents weren’t working that day. The Sprayground is also pretty weak and does very little to cool you off. If you’re taking little kids, be sure to pay attention to the height restrictions beforehand…numerous times, we found that the kids needed an adult for certain rides, more so than we thought.

Conclusion: Both parks have their pros and cons. If you are to hit Storyland, the key is to get there off season at an off-peak time….otherwise you should prepare yourself for a long day in lines. Santa’s Village is a great park that has get up a well-thought out expansion, but is a bit out of the way. Odds are that we’ll be back to visit both parks next year!

10 Responses to “Active Dad Review: Santa’s Village v. Storyland”
  1. Jessica says:

    Great run down, thanks:) I shared it on our Baby Go Round Facebook Page, I hope you don’t mind.

  2. Will says:

    Just on our way back to Ottawa from Owls Head in Maine and was wondering which of the two to stop at. Looks like it’ll be Christmas in August.

    Thanks for the comprehensive review.


    • Will,

      Thanks for the visit! I hope you have fun…let me know how it goes!


      • Will says:

        Forgot I wrote this (Dad memory kicked in).

        It was awesome. I think I enjoyed it more than the kids. Well, maybe not, but pretty damn close.

        We arrived at 2pm, so only had an afternoon – not nearly enough time and could easily have done the whole day. Will definitely be headed back if we’re ever remotely near that way again!


  3. zaggora says:

    Seems like you had a fun time, wish we could have joined! What was the highlight of your trip? πŸ™‚

  4. zaggoraz says:

    Wow, cool article looks like you all had a wonderful time! πŸ™‚ What was your highlight of this trip? πŸ™‚

  5. Kim S. says:

    This is great and helpful! I am planning a Christmas time trip with my son who will be turning 2 at the time and we will be getting to Santa’s Village and staying in North Conway. So glad I found this post!

  6. Fran says:

    Excellent article, I had taken rt 16 up to Santa’s village and had found it awfully slow. I’m taking your recommendation to go up 302. And hopefully make my roundtrip slightly faster. Thank you.

  7. Ryan says:

    Thanks this fall we’re headed up to north conway with a 2 & 4 year old. I had been leaning towards Santa’s Village and will keep with that plan. Storyland gets all the publicity, so I was nervous I was making the wrong decision, but multiple people’s personal reviews tip to Santa’s village. Plus Santa’s Village welcomes you to bring your own food/drinks in! Money saver!

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