It's as unique as its name. The National Christmas Center in Paradise, PA lets visitors experience the history and traditions of Christmas customs and traditions throughout the world and the centuries. According to its mission statement, the Center is dedicated to preserving and sharing mementoes and memories of Christmases past. Exploring the museum is entirely by a self-guided tour which can take up to 2 hours because there's so much to see and read about. Life-sized indoor exhibits showcase Christmas history, traditions, customs and celebrations. The tour winds through 15 exhibit rooms that cover over 20,000 square feet. Grenville and I toured the entire exhibit space, but didn't take photos in every area. Galleries include a 1950's Night Before Christmas and 1950s Christmas Morning, Christmas Around the World, 1950's Woolworth's 5 & 10, Antique Emporium, Santa's North Pole Workshop, Tudor Towne Animated Storybook Village, a street of vintage Christmas Memories, The Art of the Nativity, and a realistic Journey to Bethlehem along a simulated cobblestone path.
In addition to the exhibit spaces, display cases are filled with hundreds of Santa figurines and Nativities, toys, collectibles, posters, and other holiday collectibles.
Several exhibits and displays trace the evolution of today's Santa Claus from Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, Turkey, 300 AD. My favorite exhibit was the Woolworth's 5&10 which was filled with so much vintage merchandise and fixtures some of which I remembered from my childhood. According to the display info, these items had been collected over a 10-year period and all are authentic.
This exhibit was filled with so much vintage memorabilia that I spent over 30 minutes in this room. There were decorations for the home and the tree.
The Woolworth store always included wrapping paper, ribbons and, of course, toys, including the "elf on the shelf."
The Toyland Train Mountain exhibit featured a tree so large that its branches extended to the four corners of the room. Nestled underneath a very large mountain is an assortment of villages and snowmen figurines. Several trains run throughout the mountain railways.
Several exhibits showed Santa in his workshop surrounded by toys and elves. Animated bears and reindeer made toys in "Santa's North Pole Workshop" exhibit.
The First Christmas exhibit led visitors through simulated cobblestone walkways to follow in Joseph and Mary's footsteps to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
The National Christmas Center is located in Lancaster County in PA Dutch Country. It's open weekends only in March and April, daily May through January. While very informative and interesting to adults like ourselves, very young children would have a difficult time. There's a wealth of information to read about the exhibits.