By Elaine Kish
Nothing like a typical museum, Castle Noel in Medina, Ohio holds the distinction of being “America’s Largest Year Round Indoor Christmas Entertainment Attraction.” Owner Mark Klaus, who has a beard that reminds you of Santa himself, got his inspiration from his father who would create elaborate Christmas displays each year. Klaus and his wife, Dana, purchased a large portion of a city block to make a dream come to life. This former church turned attraction houses the world’s largest privately-owned collection of Hollywood Christmas movie props and costumes scattered throughout its 40,000 square feet. The Grinch, Elf, Santa Claus the Movie, Fred Claus, The Santa Clause 1, 2 & 3, Jingle All The Way, A Christmas Carol, Deck the Halls, and many others are represented. In addition to movie memorabilia, Castle Noel has animated Christmas window displays from Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor and Macy’s in New York City. Mark and Dana’s motto is: “The memories we make are the true treasures of life.” Their absolute goal is to make you feel like a kid again.
Upon entering the storefront ticket counter/gift shop, the tour starts with a trip down memory lane in a room that displays numerous Christmas albums. The fun starts with finding ones you listened to as a youngster and then wondering if they may still be stored away in a family attic. Next, you’ll see the “Wall of Fame” covered with photos of visitors over the age of 80 who have ridden the slide made famous by Ralphie in A Christmas Story. To date, the oldest rider is 101½ years old. Out the door and leading to the museum entrance you are reminded that you can’t pick your relatives when you see Cousin Eddie’s RV from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Inside the museum you enter Santa’s home, passing by faux wooden beams carved by Klaus, and soon you are in the mail room, part of a Macy’s window display from 2013. You’ll pass through the Blizzard Vortex tunnel and the I Had That Toyland Experience, where you will see toys you played with as a child. Dana Klaus says, “People donate childhood toys and return to see them. Each time they visit, it reminds them of the happiness that toy brought them in the past.” Santa’s Chimney Squeeze lets you wiggle through an inflated chimney. This room is decorated with 100,000 glass ornaments hanging from the ceiling with a dazzling light show.
The second floor of the museum holds the beautiful windows and as you walk through, you can picture yourself on the sidewalks of New York with a light dusting of snow coming down. One of the most interesting windows is the original set of Cindy Lou Who’s bedroom from The Grinch. You can almost hear her singing as you pass by. For 2017, “The most amazing things you’ll ever see are at Castle Noel in ’17.” It starts with five new incredible window displays being installed from 2016 Sak’s Fifth Avenue of New York City. Although this is normally done behind closed doors, Klaus felt that the public would be interested in the process and so for the first time, tours are continuing while the work is in progress.
Most of the displays arrive at Castle Noel in various stages of disrepair. Klaus and his crew spend numerous hours restoring each display to its original design. The workshop, restoration area contains parts of window and mall displays as well as figures which will be used in future displays. Sitting amongst the figures waiting to make their debut is Rusty, the Christmas Bear who for many years was a part of the Canton Mellett Mall Christmas display. In the restoration area is the elaborate Lord & Taylor 2015 Sweet Shoppe window display of a bakery filled with Christmas pastries complete with a moving conveyor belt of treats. This area will soon be transformed into an event room available for Christmas parties, receptions, showers, etc.
The tour culminates with the Grinch’s 16-foot sleigh, which was in storage for ten years after Klaus obtained it before it found its permanent home, a Whoville vehicle actually used in the movie and a fully decorated 25-foot Christmas tree. Making your way through more original costumes you arrive at Santa Klaus Mountain where you’ll ascend the steps, have your picture taken either with Santa or in his chair and slide down the giant red slide, just like Ralphie. Souvenir photos of the events memorialize them forever. Mark Klaus is transforming Santa Klaus Mountain into the Enchanted Forest, sculpting giant caves to house the 2016 New York City Lord & Taylor Christmas window displays. A master sculptor, Klaus carves Christmas ornaments and gifts that have been featured on the Home Shopping Network. The tour ends in the gift shop where numerous sculptures and carved ornaments are available for purchase. Throughout the year Castle Noel conducts Elf Labs, hands-on experiences for kids 5-12 years old. They feature fun with science, crafts and Santa.
Klaus says, “Castle Noel is a project that was never intended to be completed.” He is always looking for things to add to the tour and hopes to acquire the original set used by the Cleveland holiday legend Mr. Jingeling. Klaus is also committed to adding to the local economy by eventually adding a 2-story parking garage and a hotel to the property to accommodate additional visitors and overnight guests. While bus tours visit the area all year long, the Holiday season is by far their busiest time. They have had visitors from as far away as California stop in Medina to see this elaborate and ever-changing collection. If you have toured Castle Noel in the past, a return visit will reveal new displays as well as things you missed the first time around. For more information about Castle Noel, including hours, tours, tickets, and Elf Labs, see their website at www.CastleNoel.com.
Castle Noel Medina Ohio