One of my favorites is located here in Colorado. The North Pole in Manitou Springs, Colorado is a fun visit any time of the year, but you don't have to visit in person to get a response from Santa. Have your students write a letter to Santa (using any language arts skills, standards, or requirements that fit your curriculum). Make sure each child has written his or her first name clearly on the letter. I always made copies of the letters to send home as well. Put them all in an envelope and send it to:
5050 Pikes Peak Hwy
Cascade, CO 80809
If your letters are received by December 10, your class will receive an envelope of personally addressed post cards from the North Pole in return! (Letters received after that date will not be answered.)
Another wonderful site that provides an instant response, but does not allow for letter writing skills, is http://emailsanta.com/email_santa.asp. Children enter information in boxes on a form letter (they can skip the email address, which is not required), check boxes, and choose responses from drop down menus. There is a place at the end for them to type a personal message as well. I always made a copy of the form so they could be prepared with correct spelling, capitalization, and a list of gifts for which they were asking before they entered their information online. (The response from Santa uses their exact spelling and capitalization, of course). Choose the second option for sending the letter (it suggests that option for classrooms of students sending letters). Your children will watch as a picture of Santa appears along with immediate messages telling them that Santa is reading their letter, writing back to them, and to click the candy cane to see his letter! In a matter of moments, a personalized letter from Santa appears, including responses to the specific details in the child's letter. Before closing the window, be sure and print out both their letter to Santa and his response to them.
One of my personal favorite sites does not provide free letters back from Santa, but provides a glimpse into, perhaps, the actual North Pole in the Arctic Circle where Santa lives! Located in Rovaniemi, Finland, Santa Claus Village is a place I would love to visit! The website has links to marvelous videos I have used in my classroom. My second graders had been reading books by Jan Brett, including The Wild Christmas Reindeer, when questions arose about where Santa actually lives and how reindeer fly. As we researched, we came kept coming up with the same answer: Rovaniemi, Finland. We were lucky to have pen pals in Finland, so the kids were familiar with Scandinavia, and knew it was located in the far north. The illustrations in the book, as well as The Christmas Trolls and Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?, also by Jan Brett, were definitely Scandinavian in design, further supporting the research.
The delightful videos included information about reindeer and glimpses into life in Santa's Village. Although you will not receive letters back, your students can send their letters to Finland at this address:
Santa Claus Main Post Office
96930 Arctic Circle
What could be more authentic than that? And, regardless of where you send the letters, videos like this will inspire and motivate your young students to do their best writing, perhaps of the year!