AJ and Vanessa Miller – Bringing Love and Joy to All Who Visit Their Winter Wonderland

AJ and Vanessa Miller have offered a Christmas wonderland at their home at 163 Antiqua Drive for the past 7 years, decorating their yard with a plethora of Christmas lights, nutcrackers, and other Christmas splendor.

Thousands of people have walked through Reindeer Lane on the way to Santa’s Workshop, passing Santa’s Magical Mailbox where children mail their letters to Santa. Santa and Mrs. Claus personally welcome visitors on the weekends. On other days of the week, the Millers are joined by the Grinch and his sidekick, Max, who join in the spirit of Christmas.

AJ and Vanessa Miller have welcomed visitors to their home at 163 Antigua Drive in Lafayette for the past seven years. On weekends, Santa and Mrs. Claus greet their guests and offer hot cocoa and popcorn to all. There is no charge to experience this Winter Wonderland.

The Millers originally began this tradition when hosting a holiday party for Vanessa’s coworkers. They bought two 6-foot tall nutcrackers and a Christmas-themed sign, and AJ donned a Santa suit for the family-friendly party. When they saw up close the love the children had for Santa, “that was the spark that ignited the flame.”

The first time AJ put on the Santa suit, a little boy ran up to him, looked at him with his big brown eyes, and said, “Santa, I love you” and gave him the biggest hug ever. AJ realized what big shoes he wore and became determined to be the best Santa he could be. He wants to continue to spread that joy to children and adults alike.

Similarly, Vanessa shared her motivation for holding the annual Wonderland. The couple wasn’t fortunate enough to have children, so this is their opportunity to enjoy Christmas and see it through the eyes of children. “To see that look in the children’s eyes is what inspires me,” she says. You see that inner child come out in the adults. You should see the faces when Santa asks Mom and Dad what they want for Christmas,” AJ chimed in.

AJ Miller at his home at 163 Antigua Drive. Photo by Leslie Westbrook of The Acadiana Advocate.

Both enjoyed driving with their parents to view Christmas lights when they were children. AJ was particularly inspired by Dr. Jack Gani’s display of lights and decorations on Colonial Drive in White Subdivision which was a destination for Lafayette sightseers. But that experience took place in the car; the Millers wanted to provide a place where kids could immerse themselves in the experience.

Vanessa explained how this has become their Christmas “Field of Dreams….if you can dream it and believe it, it’s gonna happen.” She keeps a vision board in her head and works to make the experience bigger and better every year. AJ said, “If you can dream it, I’ll build it.” They are still on the upswing as to what it will eventually be.

The Millers can’t do this alone and they are grateful for friends and neighbors who volunteer to assist. It takes many, many elves to conduct this operation, and guests are greeted by “parking elves’ who help direct traffic, and elves who serve popcorn and hot cocoa on the weekends. Of course, there are elves who facilitate photo-taking so that every family member can be in the photo…..these photos are known as “Elfies!”

The Millers offer an experience with memories that last a lifetime. It has become a part of many families’ Christmas tradition, with guests bringing their cats, dogs, and even iguanas. The youngest visitor to date was a two-week-old.

The last day to mail your letter to Santa is December 23. Elves bring children’s letters to the North Pole and Santa responds to each and every letter.

Each year a special attraction is added. On weekends, guests are privileged to visit the Miller’s back yard where Dr. Seuss’s Whoville is set up for photo opportunities. In the front yard, you can visit the North Pole and be greeted by a 10 foot polar bear named “Arthur” after AJ’s dad. Also hailing from the North Pole is this year’s new addition, an animated Bumbles (from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) who sings and dances and is backed up by penguins who accompany him.

The Millers give out free hot chocolate and popcorn provided by community and neighborhood volunteers, and read Christmas stories. Everything is provided at no cost to guests.

AJ and Vanessa Miller outside their home. “The real magic comes when you see the look on the children’s faces. The love and magic the families bring, it ignites that passion. Anything you do with love and passion, the blessings come back tenfold.” Photo by Jan Risher

Visit Santa Workshop on Antigua on Facebook for a breathtaking display of photography shared by all who enjoy the Miller’s bountiful Christmas experience. We thank AJ and Vanessa for sharing their love with all of us.

Merry Christmas to all!