Keeping History Alive
Posted on February 21, 2023 History runs deep in Santa Claus, Indiana, and at sites throughout Lincoln’s Indiana Boyhood Home. From the spot where a young Abraham Lincoln once lived with his family to the world’s first themed attraction, you’ll find pieces of the past around every corner.
Visits to historical sites can be both educational and fun for the whole family. Children (and adults, too) have the opportunity to get a glimpse of the people, places, and eras they’ve only read about in books.
Whether you’re a history buff or just have an appreciation for a “simpler time,” you’ll want to include these historical sites and attractions on your itinerary.
Commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Years
Kentucky gets credit as Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, and Illinois is where he became a great statesman. But Indiana is where a young Abe spent his formative years, from 1816 - 1830.
It’s where the boy developed a love for books and reading—and learned about personal responsibility. A young Abraham once borrowed a book from a neighbor and left it near an open window during a rainstorm. He provided restitution by working for the neighbor for two days “pulling fodder.”
This area is also where the young adult Abraham discovered his talents as an entrepreneur and future lawyer. Not only did he operate his own ferryboat business during his time in Indiana, he also tried his first case—without formal training!
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana years come to vivid life at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. You can see the spot where the Lincoln family’s cabin stood and pay your respects at the gravesite of Abe’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Take a leisurely hike along The Trail of Twelve Stones, which commemorates significant events in Lincoln’s life. Explore a re-created and working pioneer homestead, complete with animals and costumed rangers. And tour fascinating exhibits and watch an informative film at the park’s Visitor Center.
Lincoln State Park
Nature lovers flock to Lincoln State Park to enjoy camping, hiking, swimming, boating, and more outdoor fun in a scenic setting. What they might not know is that they’re having fun on the same grounds where a young Abe spent part of his youth. The park was established in 1932 as a memorial to Abe’s mother. His sister Sarah is buried at the Little Pigeon Creek Cemetery on the park’s property. And the Lincoln Bicentennial Plaza, located right inside the park, was built in tribute to his 200th birthday—and features a fun way for kids to compare their height to Abe’s.
Colonel Jones Home
Colonel William Jones operated a store in the Little Pigeon Creek Community (Lincoln City), and a young Abraham Lincoln was an employee. As Jones’ wealth grew, he built a house in Gentryville, now known as the Colonel Jones Home. Standing on 100 acres of forest, the restored 1834 Federal-design home hosts guided tours and themed events.
Lincoln Pioneer Village
Visiting Lincoln Pioneer Village & Museum is like taking a step back in time! Thirteen Lincoln-era replica cabins stand in memorial to Abraham Lincoln’s years in southern Indiana. Visitors can walk through cabins like the “Pioneer Schoolhouse” and “Old Pigeon Baptist Church” decked out with period-appropriate details. Inside the museum, hundreds of fascinating pieces celebrating Lincoln and the area’s historic past. Highlights are a hutch made by Abraham and Thomas Lincoln and a rare Rocker “Beater” Loom.
Other Lincoln Points of Interest
As you’re traveling throughout the area, have a picnic at Lincoln Ferry Park, located where Abraham Lincoln operated his ferryboat business on the Ohio River. This ferryboat business is what prompted the first lawsuit he ever tried. Two existing ferry operators accused him of infringing on their business, but Lincoln argued his own case—and won!
Stop at Lincoln Landing to visit the monument marking the spot where Lincoln launched his fateful 1828 trip to New Orleans where he first came face-to-face with the cruelty of slavery. This experience helped to shape his views on the subject and informed the anti-slavery positions he held during his presidency.
And walk (because you can’t drive) across the Huffman Mill Bridge, which was built in 1864 near the Huffman Mill where Abe and his father brought grain from their farm.
History and Holiday Spirit in Santa Claus, Indiana
In Santa Claus, Indiana, history and the holidays go hand in hand. That history can be found in the local museum—and in the curves of a roller coaster and the aisles of a candy store!
Santa Claus Museum & Village
The history and holiday spirit of Santa Claus, Indiana, are alive at the Santa Claus Museum & Village! Tour the museum to learn about how the town got its unique name and see memorabilia from the area’s festive past. Grown-up guests might just find one of their letters to Santa on display. Kids can write their own letters in the town’s first post office (and get a response by Christmas). And the whole family can pose for a photo with the huge historic Santa Statue—a tradition that dates back to 1935!
Read all about The Story of Santa Claus, Indiana, before your visit!
Santa’s Candy Castle
It doesn’t get much sweeter than the story of the nation’s first themed attraction, Santa’s Candy Castle! Dedicated in 1935, Santa’s Candy Castle was the first building in what would become known as “Santa Claus Town” and drew thousands of visitors to the area. The “Santa Claus Town” attraction officially closed in the 1970’s. But in 2006, Santa’s Candy Castle was restored and reopened to the public. Today, this magical store is filled to the brim with nostalgic candies from decades past and trendy treats made famous by TikTok. And of course, no visit is complete until you’ve tried the famous frozen hot chocolate!
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
With its award-winning roller coasters and sprawling water park, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari doesn’t seem like it belongs on a list of historical sites. But before it was called Holiday World, the park was known as Santa Claus Land… and it was the first themed amusement park in the world! Opened in 1946 (and predating Disneyland by nine years), Santa Claus Land began not with coasters and water slides, but with a house of dolls and a miniature circus. And of course, with Santa himself. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari boasts such a rich history, you’ll often find multi-generational families visiting—from the grandparents who discovered the park in its early days, to their grandchildren experiencing its magic for the first time!
Hidden Historical Gems
Abraham Lincoln and Santa Claus are perhaps the most famous parts of this area’s history. But if you look a little closer, you’ll find history hidden in some unexpected places, too!
Saint Meinrad Archabbey
Founded in 1854 by a group of monks from a Swiss monastery, Saint Meinrad Archabbey is one of the most unique places in the area, in the country, and in the whole world. It’s one of only two archabbeys in the United States and one of 11 in the world! The monastery has grown since its founding, with the stunning Archabbey Church being completed in 1907. The church welcomes guests for mass with the monks throughout the year. And when you visit, be sure to stop in the onsite gift shop or guest house to pick up a free visitor’s guide and take a self-guided walking tour.
The classic drive-in movie theater has become a rare sight in the United States. Recent data suggests there are only a few hundred still operating across the country. How fortunate then that this area has the Holiday Drive-In Movie Theater! The Holiday Drive-In opened in 1955, debuting with just a single screen. Today, six screens offer a nightly double feature from May through September.
Let Us Help You Plan Your Visit
If you’re planning a visit to the historical sites in Santa Claus, Indiana, area and throughout Lincoln’s Indiana Boyhood Home, we can help! Download the visitor guide for information and inspiration. Or contact us with any questions.