Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus…
It’s not Christmas until you make your children sit on a strange man’s lap and pose for adorable photos. If you were anywhere else in the world you would go stand in line at the mall and wait for your five minutes with the man in the red suit…but not in Los Angeles. Ok, yeah, so you can still go to the mall (Beverly Center, Santa Monica Place…all the malls have the requisite in-house Santa)…BUT you can also go to these AMAZING places to truly capitalize on the magic of the season and give your kiddos a Santa visit worth remembering…even if they are screaming in the overpriced photos.
1815 Hawthorne Blvd., Redondo Beach, CA 90278
Hours: Mon. to Sat. 10am-9pm, Sun. 11am-7pm
This is where we went for our Santa photos this year and it was AWESOME! This interactive experience takes you on a virtual reality sleigh ride to the North Pole with the characters from Shrek as your guides. You go to flight school, ride a sleigh ride, decorate gingerbread cookies and meet Santa. Entries are timed so you don’t waste your day away in line, and it’s a fun family experience that takes the traditional mall Santa experience to a whole new level. Check out our Adventure to Santa here.
189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Hours: Dec. 7-10 10am-10pm, Dec. 11&12 10am-11pm, Dec. 13 9am-10pm, Dec. 14-23 11am-11pm, Dec. 24 8am-6pm
Trolley rides, amazing BIG tree, beautiful decorations, holiday music piping through the air, and an adorable little cottage with a sweet and impressive Santa. Appointments are available and STRONGLY recommended. Last year we showed up at 8am and there was already a line waiting for same day appointments…by the time we got to the front of the line to put our name in the first available appointment was after 6pm that day. Make your appointment and make it fast because they book up and then you are stuck waiting in line to find out you can’t see Santa until after dinner time. Inside tip: If you come during a weekday, the line is usually close to non-existent (until the week before x-mas when all bets are off.) Also, they will let you walk through and say hi to Santa for free. This is great if you want to get your little ones used to him before you attempt to sit down for a photo-op.
Trolley Pick up: corner of North Rodeo & Dayton Way
Paley Center: 465 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
Hours: Sat & Sun Dec.12,13,19,20 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm (trolley picks up on the hour)
I kind of hate to share this hidden gem we discovered last year because I don’t want too many people finding out about it…but it’s too good to leave out. Every weekend from now until the BIG DAY…Mrs. Claus leads a “Jolly Trolley” through Beverly Hills. The Trolley picks up at the corner of North Rodeo and Dayton Way and takes you on a drive through Beverly Hills while singing Christmas carols with Mrs. Claus. After the trolley ride you are dropped off at The Paley Center where Santa is there waiting to meet you. Last year Santa was sitting in the actual chairs from NBC’s The Voice. Oh and did I mention that the photos with Santa are FREE. Ok, well they don’t have a fancy photographer or photo packages. You take the photos with your own camera, and there are people there that are ready and willing to take photos of the whole family for you. It’s low-key, fun and definitely a unique experience. You can even stay and watch a screening of a holiday classic at The Paley Center.
5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Hours: 11am-3pm Dec. 12-13, 19-23
This one is a must do, even if you have gone elsewhere to meet Santa. But, if you haven’t done Santa yet, it’s a super fun option for that too! The LA Zoo has a pimped out Reindeer Village full of holiday fun complete with four actual reindeer – Jingle, Belle, Noel and Velvet. I mean for real. Kids can make their own reindeer antlers, and weekends are full of activities like puppet shows, caroling, ice carving demonstrations and festive performances. You can even get a family photo in a sleigh. You do have to pay for admission to the zoo…but who doesn’t love a day at the zoo?!
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608
Hours: Sat&Sun 1pm-9pm, Mon-Fri 4pm-9pm
A ginormous Christmas tree with 200,000 perfectly choreographed LED lights set to music, Santa in a sleigh and nightly snowfall – yes ACTUAL snow (albeit made from a machine…but real snow nonetheless.) This is what you will find if you go to Universal Citywalk to see Santa. There’s also live music Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and the IMAX theater is screening holiday flicks all season long. But, let’s be honest…the real draw is the S-N-O-W!! The snow falls every hour on the hour from 6-9pm. So if you are dreaming of a ‘White Christmas’ go check it out!
3835 Cross Creek Rd. Malibu, CA 90265
Sat. Dec. 12th 12pm-4pm (cookie decorating party day)
Sat. Dec. 19th 12pm-4pm (real reindeer and live carolers)
Check it out if you are into a low-key, old school, small town celebration vibe. There are only two days Santa will be at the mart, but one will have a cookie decorating station and on the other Santa is bringing a posse of reindeer and live carolers. Plus, the Malibu Country Mart is always a great place for some shopping, good food and relaxing fun.