Catering to those looking to spend time with Santa, view light displays and absorb all the wonders of the holiday season, The Castle Christmas will knock your stockings off.
Many folks in Northeast Oklahoma know The Castle of Muskogee for its unforgettable Renaissance Festival, and some may have even been there to enjoy the creepy fun at the Halloween Festival. But wrapping up the calendar year is an experience to help ring in the Yuletide for you and your family: The Castle Christmas.
There’s a little something for everyone at The Castle Christmas. If Christmas lights and inflatables are your thing, well, there are plenty of them. In fact, that’s how everything got started for this holiday event about 12 years ago, says Matt Hiller, co-owner of The Castle.
“A friend of mine had all of these yard inflatables, and they were spilling out of his yard,” Hiller says. “There was a lot of traffic in front of his house, and he said, ‘Before the neighbors start yelling at me, I need to find somewhere to put it.’”
The Castle became the new home for Hiller’s buddy’s inflatables, and Hiller’s team added lights to build on the festive feeling. Soon, a company that makes inflatable Christmas decorations heard what The Castle was doing for the community and offered them promotions, which they added to their inventory.
To this day, the drive-thru tour outside The Castle, with its array of lights and inflatables, is free to those coming from near and far to see the fabulous display. Donations are encouraged, of course. “Because we have to pay the electric bill somehow,” Hiller says.
Over time, people started asking what was happening inside The Castle during the Christmas lights show. The answer was, “Nothing,” Hiller says. So, eight or nine years ago, The Castle started opening up the building and adding something new every year to entertain crowds.
Today, there is a great variety of fun for young and old. You can find everything from ornament making with elves, pictures with Santa, vendors selling items made in Oklahoma, to camel and pony rides.
There is even a train ride and a hay ride through the Christmas Village. The train ride launched last year with great success. “It will be running every night that we’re open this year,” Hiller says.
The Castle Christmas is also a great place to do some of your holiday shopping. Many of the vendors selling handcrafted items are from Oklahoma, offering fantastic wares such as local honeys, candies, leatherwork and jewelry. If someone is interested in becoming a vendor, applications are available on The Castle’s website.
As far as fun for young ones, The Castle offers that too. The ornament making activity is a favorite for children. “We supply an ornament for a nominal fee [$1] and then you paste it together. The elves help you assemble it, and you can label it,” he says. “It’s become a tradition for a lot of children to come out here to make their yearly ornament.”
And of course, the children — and those who are still children at heart — won’t want to miss their chance to get a picture with Santa. The Castle has two versions of Santa: Father Christmas and Workshop Santa. Father Christmas is decked out in the big delivery suit, while Workshop Santa is in his “work” clothes, building toys. You can find the different Santa appearance schedules on The Castle’s website.
There are also plenty of places to rest and enjoy some tasty holiday snacks. Inside The Castle is a café serving cookies, hot chocolate and fudge. They also play old Christmas movies like It’s a Wonderful Life.
The Castle Christmas opens on Thanksgiving, Nov. 23. However, the inside event (everything except the lights tour) is only open Thursday through Sunday for the first three weeks, through Dec. 10. “The drive-thru is still open and the lights are still on,” Hiller says. From Dec. 14-31, The Castle is open every day for everyone to enjoy.
“The weekends are the busiest times with the most activity going on,” Hiller says. “You never know what kind of guest performer may show up.”
Although most of the people working the event are getting paid in some capacity, there are a few volunteers. For example, volunteer actors from The Renaissance Festival’s Red Guard will greet guests at the entrance. Guests will likely see several other Renaissance-themed characters at the event as well, making the whole environment festive and delightful to explore.
During your visit to Muskogee, be sure to stop by the beautiful light display at Honor Heights Park, located not far from The Castle. “We invite people to come inside, relax, and spend some time with the family and children,” Hiller says. “Our event is fun and quirky and crazy, and Honor Heights is really beautiful. It makes a good trip to Muskogee.”
The Castle of Muskogee | 3400 W. Fern Mountain Road | Muskogee
Nov. 23-Dec. 31
Check website for more details on which events are available each day.
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