MIAMI (AP) — Though the Thanksgiving turkey isn’t thawed yet and the last hurricane only recently departed the premises, the holiday season is officially here in Miami.
Santa’s Enchanted Forest is now open for its 39th year, iconic entrance and all.
The Christmas-themed attraction, back with rides, games, food vendors, dioramas and the famous light-up tree that hopes to unshrivel even the most wrinkled Grinch heart, left last year’s Hialeah Park location and has set up for 2022 in Medley.
They say there’s no place like home for the holidays, so here’s some good news: Santa’s fits comfortably into its new and bigger home at the corner of 87th Avenue and 74th Street, close to Doral and not far from the continuously jolly Palmetto Expressway.
The sprawling 40 acres accommodates crowds more easily than the congested Hialeah Park location. There’s room to navigate without tripping over a stroller (although parents, be warned: toward the back of the park, the ground is a little rough and less packed down, so prepare to push).
And lest you worry Santa’s is uncomfortably close to the Covanta waste-to-energy plant and the Medley landfill, let us give you an early holiday gift: You don’t need to worry about those jingle smells. On the night we visited, there was no odor whatsoever, unless it was the fragrant fried aroma of elephant ears.
The new location also offers more parking, a necessity after last year’s complaints (hint: enter on 87th Avenue for best results). You can even reserve VIP parking if you buy tickets online ahead of time. And you should buy tickets in advance to avoid grueling and lengthy wait times to get to the ticket booths when you’d rather be riding the Ferris wheel or posing in front of a diorama of Santa and some aliens.
What’s different about the park? The enchanted forest is more like a grove, with lighted trees shorter than the former towering Florida pines at the original Tropical Park location (the attraction lost its space there in 2020). But in the spirit of Christmas, let’s be fair: this was a vacant lot, and trees had to be brought in.
There are also plenty of benches for resting (for older visitors, parents awaiting kids in long ride lines, the hungry and the unsteady who need to sit before tearing into a giant roast leg of pork). There are 50 food vendors, more than before, hawking everything from spinning meat to pizza to crepes on a stick.
Does this mean Santa’s will return to this vacant lot? Stay tuned. The future location of the attraction, which opened in 1983 in Tropical Park and is owned by the Shechtman family, has not been determined. But spokesperson Maritza Gutierrez said the discussions are ongoing.
“The investment in this site has been huge,” she said.