New attraction gives visitors a walk through Christmas
Published at | Updated at
MENAN – Over the river and through the woods to the Christmas River we go!
James and Teresa Stoker’s new Christmas-themed attraction, The Christmas River, opened to the public Friday with rave reviews.
“Two days after Halloween, we decided to go with the Christmas attraction and I’ve just been going nonstop to get it ready,” James Stoker tells EastIdahoNews.com.
You may remember when it opened this fall as The Haunted River, a Halloween attraction, but now it’s decked out with the sights and sounds of Christmas.
The Christmas River follows a half-mile trail on the dry bed along the Snake River. It begins with a jaunt over a bridge. Jack Skellington from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is there to greet you on the other side.
“As you walk across the bridge and go into the attraction, hopefully, people will make the connection they’re going into the Christmas section from one theme to another,” Stoker says.
Head down the trail dotted with lampposts and seasonal signposts such as “Walking in a Winterland.” You can get a photo with Elsa and Olaf from “Frozen” before heading through the village. It’s an old-fashioned walk through Christmas past.
“Christmas lights are all throughout the village. We’ve lit up the trees, the buildings and tepees, even,” says Stoker.
The attraction also includes other “Frozen” characters, the Grinch, Santa and a manger scene.
“There’s a pathway that leads you through the whole village and back out, but people can walk at their own leisure. There’s no reason to rush,” Stoker says.
Live singers are there to serenade you at the gate. After your walk through the village, you can come back for hot chocolate, cider and doughnuts. See a tour of the attraction in the video above.
About 8,000 people throughout Idaho and Utah visited the haunted attraction this fall, and after seeing its success, James and Teresa decided to continue with Christmas.
The vision for this attraction began about five years ago when the Stokers moved onto property that’s been in James’ family for several generations.
“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and do something on my own. I just never knew what to do,” says James. “We built a place called Stoker Hollow on the other side of the river. It’s a peaceful place where I would always go to meditate, ponder and pray. There’s something special about this area.”
That’s when the idea for a Halloween attraction came to mind. After a lot of soul-searching, James decided to quit his full-time job with benefits and work to turn his idea into a reality.
It was a risky move with six kids to feed, but Stoker says fulfilling dreams are never convenient and always require sacrifice.
“I told my wife (initially), ‘Let’s do it when the timing’s right.’ She said, ‘The timing is never right. Go after your dream,'” he says.
There have been some setbacks along the way. The last two weeks of October were the coldest on record, and that hurt business. And the Stokers 4-month-old son has had some health issues that required surgery and a 12-day stay at Primary Children’s Hospital.
But James holds his head high and maintains a positive outlook on the future.
“We see the future and how great it will be, but getting there is tough,” he says.
James says he wants to expand the Halloween and Christmas attraction and make them even better for next year. He eventually wants to transform his business into a themed attraction for every season of the year, and is considering an Easter theme for the spring and something pioneer-related during the summer.
“Many people have talked so highly of it and were so positive,” he says. “The potential is there. I know it will become a staple in the area.”
The Christmas River is at 501 North 3100 East in Menan. Admission is $5 per person or $20 per family. It is open nightly through Dec. 23, excluding Sundays. Hours of operation are 6 to 9 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to dress warm. Visit the website and Facebook page for more information.