Q&A with Alabaster the Elf of the North Pole Experience

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Alabaster Snowflake has a full-time job managing the elves at Santa’s workshop at the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff. Although this same-day experience started six years ago, Alabaster has spent 338 years working with Santa. He runs Elf University, oversees the elves and mingles with children and parents when they walk in the doors of Santa’s workshop. Alabaster described to AFM a day in life working alongside Santa, the elves and why people come from near and far to participate in the “Disneyland” equivalent of Santa’s workshop. 

AFM: What is the North Pole Experience?

AS: They can expect the Christmas experience of a lifetime. It’s a 12,000-sq.-ft. interactive workshop, where children and their families come in to work alongside elves to help assemble toys. They get a chance to see Santa’s toy hall of fame, a lot of toys throughout history that Santa is especially proud of. There are also other activities like Santa’s bakery. And elves make candy canes. Children and guests have the chance to attend Elf University, which is a class where we teach life values like doing homework and working hard, working with others, respecting your parents. A lot of kids have probably already written or texted or “Facebooked” Santa, but we give them an opportunity to write their letter to Santa (in the mail room). After a few more activities they have the chance to see Santa’s 400-year-old sleigh. It’s pretty impressive. They also have personal time with Santa.

AFM: How long does it take to go through the experience? How do you get to the workshop?

AS: It takes about an hour and a half to go through once you walk in the door.  The shuttles, which travel through the portal to the North Pole, emanate from the Little America (NPX Trolley Station) in Flagstaff, which is where you start and return back to after the experience. The experience is not only set up for children, but for parents as well.

AFM: How did you become Santa’s head elf?

AS: I was brought to the North Pole in my youth by the Magic Snowflake. I stumbled upon one of Santa’ s portals and was invited by Santa to come to the North Pole. The world was growing larger and was becoming more and more difficult for him to manage toy production. So I was invited by Santa to help organize the workshop. Anything North Pole related falls under my belt.

AFM: What is Santa really like as a boss?

AS: Santa is an awesome boss. He is the boss everybody wishes they had. He’s jolly and he’s merry, but he’s stern when he has to be because we only have one year to make all the toys we need for Christmas. We’re under deadline, but he does want to foster an environment in the North Pole where the elves become more and more educated each year and become more and more handy, useful, all of those kinds of things. And he rewards us graciously with candy canes and syrup and any kind of candy you can imagine. But mostly we’re rewarded with all the kids who come to visit us each year.

AFM: What’s on your wish list this year?

AS: It’s sounds really cliché, but I would like for children to perhaps get what it is they need in their lives to empower them. Not necessarily just the things they see that they think (they need) like the bubbles, the lights and all that. We have so many children that actually travel to the North Pole and they write their letters to Santa while they’re there. And the smallest children can have the biggest hearts.  We get children who write letters to Santa who are thankful for him finding a job for their dad or for keeping their family together. I would just want for every child’s wish to come true this season.

AFM: What’s your favorite Christmas memory?

AS: All the Christmases are special to me. More recently, I just found out that there are actually children that travel to the North Pole to see me. They do come to see Santa Claus, but it makes me feel very humble to be in that position and have that responsibility.

For more information on the North Pole Experience, visit


Off to the Races: Del Mar's Extended Racing Season

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Luxury boutique hotels anchor the coastal paradise of Del Mar, which just introduced an expended racing season this fall.



Where to Enjoy Fall in Arizona

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There is no better time to be in Arizona than during the beautiful fall season. Whether you’re looking for a fun outdoor activity or some sightseeing around the Valley, we’ve put together some of the best places for locals to enjoy fall this season —from apple-picking to ski lifts to corn mazes and more.


Discover Tucson’s Food Culture

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To start the morning off right, stop at the award-winning Cup Café inside the historic Hotel Congress on Congress Street in downtown Tucson. Options include traditional breakfast fare served from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., as well as crepes, quiche and the famed Congressional Omelet Bar. The “build-your-own” Bloody Mary bar is one of the best in town and offers up a bevy of condiment choices from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.


Another must-eat hot spot, Café Poca Cosa where chef and owner Suzana Davila pairs her culinary genius with an upscale, yet casual, urban setting. A true master of chilies, chef Davila artfully infuses a wide range of Mexican flavors and ingredients into every dish, creating one of the most authentic dining experiences you’ll ever have.


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If ambiance is what you seek, be sure to make a point to dine at the AAA Four Diamond The Grill at Hacienda Del Sol. The Grill has won countless awards, including “Tucson’s Best Dining with a View” and “Tucson’s Most Romantic Dining,” as well as being recognized as a Gold Culinary Award Winner for its supreme Sunday brunch. Whether you’re there for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, opt for an elegant indoor meal or soak in the sun by dining al fresco on the patio.


Your last stop on this Southern Arizona food adventure should most certainly be dinner at El Charro Café. Savor traditional Northern Mexico Sonoran-style specialties from chimichangas and handmade tamales to the famous carne seca. Established in 1922, El Charro Café is the nation's oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family. El Charro Café is a Tucson treasure not to be missed.


Whatever your food favorite, there’s something for you in Southern Arizona so commit to spending at least one weekend on the road this summer to see all this great state has to offer. For more information on where to stay and play, visit


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Iconic Arizona Hotels: Best Places to Lay Your Head

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Arizona is full of sightseeing adventures but after a long day of exploring, weary travelers are sure to need a relaxing place to catch some shut-eye. Luxurious accommodations with everything from waterfront views and scenic desert surroundings to historic experiences are aplenty throughout the state.


If you find yourself exploring Arizona this summer, be sure to check out some of these iconic stays:


The Nautical Beachfront Resort. Views of Thompson Bay, an infinity pool and an island-style bar and grille make this Lake Havasu resort a not-to-miss spot. There are plenty of comfy guestrooms and suites, all with patios or balconies overlooking the water. Best of all, you don’t have to leave your four-legged friends at home to enjoy a piece of paradise.


Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. Located just a block from downtown Williams, this relaxing retreat provides a picturesque Western setting. Designed to resemble the century-old train depot that housed the original Fray Marcos Hotel, this is the place to stay if you’re hoping to catch a train to Grand Canyon National Park.

Hassayampa Inn. History buffs will love this first-class hotel near Courthouse Square in Prescott. Open since 1927, the 67-room inn offers guests a charming piece of nostalgia paired with modern amenities and a full-service restaurant.

Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort. Originally a school for the daughters of society’s elite families, Hacienda Del Sol is now a luxury resort nestled in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains in Tucson. Surrounded by more than 34 acres of desert, resort guests are treated to an oasis of luxury with elegant guestrooms, award-winning dining and a full-service spa.

Enchantment Resort. Set in secluded Boynton Canyon of Sedona, the five-star Enchantment Resort expertly combines tranquility with sophistication. Visitors are sure to receive world-class service and breathtaking red-rock views.

Visit for more ideas on where to stay and what to do this summer.



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