Best of Miami

The Best Carnival Food at Santa's Enchanted Forest

During the past 33 years, Santa's Enchanted Forest hasn't changed much. It has long held the title of largest Christmas theme park located in the warmest place on the East Coast. There are bright lights, large Christmas trees, games, animals, old-school rides, and an overabundance of fried carnival food we know we shouldn't eat but shamelessly devour anyway. 

As hundreds of revelers stroll among '80s-style attractions while listening to Christmas classics blasted throughout the seemingly never-ending park, they can view a wide variety of fried choices — pork, doughnuts, chicken, and Oreos — none of which adheres to that diet you said you'd start "tomorrow." Imagine your favorite food — fresh strawberries maybe? — submerged in a big pot of bubbling oil and fried to crisp, golden perfection. Tthat's how Santa's does food.

Hurry. This stuff is available only through January 3. Bring cash, because food isn't included in the $30 admission. Credit cards aren't accepted either. Act fast or risk waiting till next holiday season. 

See a slide show of this beautiful stuff here. 

5. Chicken on a Stick
This theme park treat is more sophisticated than a chicken tender. Raw chicken is prepped inside a food truck, placed on a stick, and deep-fried for about five minutes. Each stick is made to order, ensuring it's at its prime in terms of temperature and crispness upon eating. One chicken stick costs $7. 

4. Elephant Ears
Almost anything is possible at Santa's, like two-headed babies and women born with snake bodies. But the elephant ears have no relation to the pachyderm. These treats are made with a large circle of dough the shape of a medium-size paper plate and then deep-fried in a pot of oil in the back of a food truck. For $6, get your ear with cinnamon, powdered sugar, chocolate, and caramel drizzled on top. If you're gonna eat it, you might as well go all out.

3. Turkey Leg
This holiday-fair staple can be found at various booths scattered across Santa's. Making a turkey leg is simple compared to other theme park foods. The legs are thrown onto a large rusty grill. They take about ten minutes to make, and you can watch while they're cooked, adding another attraction to the list.

2. Fried Doughnuts 
These are straightforward. They are dough in a circular shape made fresh in front of you. These babies are fried in hot oil for two to three minutes before a new batch dives in. But what makes these worth second place on the list is that they're mini. They're offered at a steal too — $6 gets you 19 in a paper bag, and $10 gets you an entire bucket with about 30 doughnuts. Ask for a sprinkle of powered sugar and a drizzle of chocolate. 

1. Chicharrones
Most cities have fairs that offer a variety of fried foods. But Miami is one of few places where you can you crave fried pork skin at a theme park and actually find it. Chicharrones — fried strips of pork skin — are a Latin American delicacy, and apparently a Santa's one too. There are twice as many trucks selling chicharrones as elephant ears or turkey legs. Workers at several stations in the park said they cut skin straight off a pig's belly all day long and then leave it inside a refrigerator to prepare for the opening at 5 p.m. Throughout park hours, new pork skin is submerged in large pots of scalding-hot oil for about 20 minutes each. The key is to get the strips as crisp as possible but still chewable. Prices vary, but interested fairgoers can expect to pay $5 to $10.

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Clarissa Buch Zilberman is a writer and editor, with her work appearing in print and digital titles worldwide.
Contact: Clarissa Buch