This is a must-do attraction if you are traveling with kids and an entertaining diversion if you don't have kids with you and happen to be in the area. The attraction is open all year round and it might even be preferable to visit when it is not Christmas time to avoid the crowds. Although perhaps a tourist trap you can't deny the charm of actually visiting Santa at the Arctic Circle!
Norway, Sweden and Finland each have a claim to the "home of Santa" but Finland's Santa Village in Rovaniemi is the most popular and recognized home of the old man and his elves. When you arrive in the village you will see several buildings spread out over an easily walkable area, each of the structures presents a Santa related attraction and each activity comes at an additional charge so let me walk you through what to expect and what you can do when you visit Santa.
Entrance to the site is free so you can walk around and visit the restaurants and stores without paying anything but start partaking of the on-site attractions and this can end up being an expensive day out. There are six restaurants ranging from fancy sit-down style to fast food type places and at least 5 stores. You can also stand on the red line marking the Arctic Circle and get a photo in front of the stone proclaiming that you are now entering the Arctic Circle (free). Within Santa's office you can find the Santa Post Office where you can send a post card off to your family or friends for a fee. The card will arrive with the Santa Village post mark and stamp.
Believe it or not visiting Santa's Office is free but you are not allowed to take photos inside his office and if you want the official elf photographer to take your photo with Santa it will cost you quite a bit. There are a number of photo packages (one photo, two photos, etc). Visitors enter a dark walkway through Santa's kingdom, the path winds around a large metronome ticking away the days before Christmas. Visitors go up stairs and wait on benches until they are presented to the big man himself. Each group of guests, family or individuals gets a private meeting with Santa.
Within Christmas House is an exhibition of Christmas traditions and historical artifacts to do with the holiday (€5). In the Santa Claus Gift House is an information desk where you can buy a certificate attesting that you crossed over into the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle Cabin (Napapirin Maja or Roosevelt Cabin) is a small cabin on the site where you can see an exhibition about the history of tourism in the Arctic Circle and Rovaniemi in particular. It is named after Eleanor Roosevelt who visited the city in 1950.
In Santa Claus' main Post Office you can send cards, letters and gifts to friends or cards specifically for Christmas. You can also post letters here to Santa himself.
One of the best restaurants in the village is Santamus a "restaurant of sensations" with atmospheric scenery, music and activities. There is a stream flowing through the restaurant and guests can pan handle to find a nugget of Lemmenjoki gold. There is also a wellness center here and the venue is popular for group events.
At the Arctic Circle Husky Park you can take a sled ride for €25-€35 (€15-€25 for kids), pet the dogs and arrange longer husky safaris. The on-site Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park also offers a range of activities and snowmobile safaris in the area starting from a 30 minute snowmobile ride for €55 (€20 for kids) on a shared snowmobile. This site also offers ice fishing, rally car driving and ice carting. The Sirmakko Reindeer Family introduces you to the Sami culture, reindeer farming and Lapland customs. You can take reindeer sleigh rides for 400 meters (adults €15, kids €12) or 1000 meters (€25 adults, kids €20).
Every winter next to Santa's Office Arctice an ice amusement park is built out of snow here you can visit the ice bar, go down an ice slide, ride the sleigh-go-round, see an ice bedroom, go skating and enter the snowball pit. Entrance to the site is €12.
In 2011 Santa Claus Holiday Village opened on the edge of the village, there is not enough to see in the village for more than a couple of hours so the only reason to stay here would be to use it as a base to explore the area or if you have kids that just have to be immerged in the Christmas theme full time.
Santa Claus Village is 8km north of Rovaniemi on highway 4 there is a regular bus service (#8) from Rovaniemi where most visitors stay. There are regular flight connections from Helsinki and other Finnish cities to Rovaniemi. Santa's village is open January to May from 10am to 5pm, June to August daily from 9am to 7pm and September to November form 10am to 5pm. Of course the Christmas season is the high season and the village is open from 9am to 7pm. Official website: http://www.santaclausvillage.info/
Don't confuse Santa Village with the nearby Santa Park which offers very similar attractions.