Move over, Oprah! A few of our favorite (Westchester) things

Hi everyone!

The holidays are just around the corner, so it's time for our list of favorite things. Read on for some great activities and gift ideas, most are Westchester based. Enjoy!

 

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Raindrops on Roses

Uncorking a champagne bottle near some chocolate roses counts, right? Tasteful Treats and Treasures Gift Baskets in Armonk, a Best of Westchester winner, has classy and fun gifts for any occasion. This is the type of place you walk into with a list of presents for other people, and come out with twice as much because you kept seeing great things for yourself. They'll work with you to create the perfect basket or small gift for the teacher, trainer, mail person, new mom, or family member who has everything.

We were recently invited to tour their retail space and found so many fantastic elements that can stand alone or be perfect in a gift basket. Sure, they have champagne and chocolate roses, but what about Krispy Kreme flavored Jelly Bellys, Tate's cookies, and Nutella? Or a Sophie the Giraffe baby basket? Come in and see for yourself.

And just like Oprah, I have a discount for readers. Receive 10% off your first online purchase with the code IN30 or 15% off your first in-store purchase AND a free gift with purchase if you mention Apple Moms at the checkout.

 

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Warm Woolen Mittens

You'll need some to visit Westchester's Winter Wonderland, a fun family festival hosted by Westchester parks at the Kensico Dam plaza in Valhalla. Launched in 2014, this event gets better every year. From 5pm to 9pm or 10pm most nights, there's a lot packed in to the space, especially for kids in preschool and grade school. For $15 admission per person (children under 3 are free), kids can visit Santa (bring your camera for pics!), go on midway rides, see the light show, go ice skating (free rental included), bounce along on a hay ride, head into the circus tent for a fun gravity-defying show, or purchase tickets for the pony or camel ride or the giant slide. Food trucks serve up warm comfort food and there is alcohol available for purchase in the seating tent. Fun and festive, it's a great way to enjoy the cold weather and get in the holiday spirit.

 

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings

Well, no one uses strings anymore, right? But we love the Christmas-every-month feeling of subscription boxes. If you haven't looked into these lately, there's much more variety than the wine-of-the-month/CD/cookie clubs of yesteryear. You can get almost everything on a subscription basis, and the subscriber has lots of control over the price point and frequency of deliveries. Here are a few we subscribe to:

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For kids: 

Our daughter gets a Petite Princess Box every month. We love the unique themes and accessories that are hand-selected. Past months have included themes of "Princess in Paris," "Mermaid Madness", and "Queen & Me" matching mommy-daughter jewelry and accessories. The box contains gorgeous hair pieces (bows, headbangs, barettes, etc.) and some other small items such as a necklace, bracelet, socks, or other small accessories. It's perfect for the mom who is too distracted to make sure her daughter always has seasonal accessories. Forgot to buy a Halloween shirt? No need when you just got a pumpkin barrette and a cat-ears headband!

For him:

Stitch Fix has solved my husband's problem of "What are the cool dudes wearing these days?" Every few months, he gets a box full of suggestions that we try on, laugh (only at a few) and buy (almost the whole box). He gives direct feedback on fit and can even suggest what to send him next. He's gotten a winter coat, shoes, great jeans, and a belt all by request. It saves me time having to go shopping with him and sit in the dressing room giving him feedback on clothes. They send curated boxes to men and women--I'm thinking about trying it myself.

 

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For her:

Yogi Surprise boxes add a little zen to an otherwise busy day. You can get a Lifestyle box with a medley of yoga-related items or a Jewelry box with two jewelry items and a treat. Yogi Surprise boxes boast Fair Trade, Organic, GMO Free. Basically all the things I'm not the other three weeks and six days of the month. My most recent one contained a bar, a journal, a pressure point tension reliever, some tea, and other great zen items.  

 

Girls in White Dresses with Blue Satin Sashes

You may not be able to find that exact outfit for the girl in your life, but you can find something pretty darn adorable at one of these retail stores. We love shopping local!

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Lil Chameleon, Tuckahoe

It's the resale boutique you didn't know you were missing. We've gotten so many great finds in children's clothes, not to mention toys, books, and a line of new accessories. 

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Once Upon a Child, Scarsdale

When I'm looking for a formal dress, this is my go-to. They have a fantastic selection of formalwear, some with the original tags still on, most for under $10! For an elegant toddler dress your little one will wear only once or twice, it's a great bargain.

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SilverSpoon Gifts, Bronxville

Resale is great for kids clothes bargains, but sometimes you want a fresh, crisp new classic outfit. Enter SilverSpoon in Bronxville. This is where you get gorgeous clothes for Christmas photos, milestones, or new baby gifts. And everything can be monogrammed for free. Browsing for the perfect item is easy because you can't go wrong with a whole store full classy well-priced stuff.

 

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Crisp Apple Strudels

Okay, this is America, so let's swap the strudel for pie. And I have a secret: the best apple pie in the states is available at Stew Leonards! It's called Apple Pie Baked in a Paper Bag from Elegant Farmer in Wisconsin. Twice a year during Thanksgiving and Christmas, Stew's carries these crave-able, obsess-able baked goods. You heat them up in the oven inside their bag, and the caramelized sugar crust comes to life. Trust me, you'll never settle for another brand again. But if you get to Stew's this Christmas and there's only one left, save it for me! 

 

That's all the lines of the song that I can mash into this list! Don't forget there's still a week left to donate old and new toys and coats to needy children in the Mount Vernon area. Balanced Life Christian Center is collecting coats from infant to adult, hats, mittens, gloves, scarves and toys in good shape, INCLUDING stuffed animals. In need of a warm coat for you or a loved one? Stop by this Saturday, December 16 between 10am and 1pm to pick up a free coat or other winter items.

If you'd like to donate, you can drop off items to the Balanced Life Christian Center at 160 South 4th Avenue, Second Floor in Mount Vernon. Their hours vary, so contact Sheila Gifford at shella.phanord27@gmail.com or call/text her at 914-863-4456 to coordinate a dropoff. If you can't get there yourself, reach out to us at info@babygotchat.com and we might be able to help your items get to the church.  

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Join us at our upcoming meetups!

Monday, December 11 & 18, 10:30am - 12:00pm at Lil Chameleon. BYO baby/toddler and meet other moms! $5 cash at the door.

Thursday, December 14, 8:00pm - 10:00pm. Mommy's Night Out drinks in collaboration with the Bronxville Moms Meetup Group! Stephen's Green restaurant in Tuckahoe. Free ample parking behind the building.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And as always, check our website for events and weekly library programsWe've just made a whole easy-to-navigate chart so you know exactly where to go for free educational fun that doesn't overlap with naptime! 

See you next time!

Andrea


Momtrepreneur Spotlight: The skeptic's guide to selling with Rodan + Fields

Hi everyone!

We featured local Momtrepreneurs on Small Business Saturday, and this time we are digging deeper to find out the answer to every SAHM's question: Is there any way to make money from home? I see so many moms on my feed who work as independent consultants for Multi-Level Marketing companies such as Rodan + Fields, and they seem so...satisfied! It can’t all be inspirational memes and before-and-after selfies. Seriously, how are they so darned motivated all the time? I can barely make sure everyone has their socks on!

But since it's a consultant's job to sell, how can I find someone to drop their pitch and tell me what it's really like?

Enter Anna Lowden. 

The deal with Anna

Anna lives in Eastchester with her husband and two young daughters. She was working for a hedge fund in New York City when she began her then side gig with Rodan + Fields more than two years ago. She knew it wasn’t get-rich-quick, but she figured if the products work, she can talk about results and make commissions. She thought she would earn a few hundred dollars a month. After putting in the hard work, her income became more than that, enough to supplement her life as a SAHM while she worked on the business from home. She didn't fully replace the finance income she walked away from, but she believed in the saying "You can make up for lost money, but not lost time."

She had a moment a year into the R + F business when she realized committing to Rodan + Fields was her answer: She took a half day off from work, and while pushing her youngest daughter on the swing at the local playground, she kept getting emails from her boss and coworkers with things they wanted her to do right away that could have been done without her. It was so stressful that it soured her quality time with her child. Good mood gone, she went to pick up her oldest child from preschool and realized she didn’t know where her daughter’s backpack was or even the teachers' names. Her NYC career was turning her into a disconnected mom, and it was devastating.

Now Anna lives the dream of making a good living working from home and still having time for her family, friends, and herself. She even makes it look easy! But ever the skeptic, I wanted to talk to her to find out the question on all our minds: What's the deal?

(Spoiler alert: I have not signed up to sell R+F. Bringing this blog to you every week is job enough for me. This isn’t a sales pitch to join or buy, just an insider peek into the world of work-from-home moms.)

The deal with Rodan + Fields

Products from Rodan + Fields have been popping up in Best Of lists in Allure and other beauty magazines for several years. And who can forget a little product called Proactiv that started it all? Proactiv is legit. It’s the #1 acne brand in the world. I don't want to live in a world where Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, and P. Diddy are wrong. 

Why all this skepticism about selling products from home? Multi-Level-Marketing companies get a bad rap because there are some shady brands out there. I watched Lula Roe go from excitedly whispered about to seeing Facebook parties everywhere and now with its oversaturation I'm seeing tons of Going Out Of Business sales. But I have friends who still love the brand. Other MLMs like Pampered Chef and Jamberry remind me of impulse buying at a holiday market. A modern version of the guy in the trench coat saying "Wanna buy a watch?"

Proactiv came out in 1995 and was marketed mostly to teens. Today Rodan + Fields is known for turn-back-the-clock skincare breakthroughs. Their current sensation is Lash Boost. A lash enhancer that's billed as Latisse without the weird side effects. The before-and-after photos speak for themselves, so the first thing Anna wanted to do to chip away at my skepticism was get me started on an 8-week, once-nightly application of Lash Boost, with selfies of my progress throughout.

Did it work??? Read on to find out!

The deal with independent consulting

Rodan + Fields is respected in their field and written about in magazines, beauty blogs, even The New York Times. Their products used to be available at department stores, but the decision was made in 2008 to turn the power over to their international team of independent consultants like Anna to sell products and manage teams of salespeople. So let's say you want to Take The Future Into Your Own Hands, Be Your Own Boss, and [insert meme-able empowerment metaphor here] and join Rodan + Fields? Here's our insider interview with Anna:

BabyGotChat: This is called the skeptic's guide because, let's face it, you guys all seem so...happy! Who trusts happy people? There must be some miserable part to this that we aren't seeing. Let's start with the initial investment. If I want to start selling tomorrow, how much do I have to spend?

Anna: Well, you run and own a business. So would you ever start one without an initial investment? When I enrolled I wanted the deepest discount. That means getting the largest business kit at $995. You get just about every product plus samples, and it's a value of over $2,100. But there are other options that are less expensive to buy into. Even one as low as $45 that contains no products.

BGC: So why not just buy the $45 kit?

You have to think about what you want from your business. If I am going to talk to people about products and test for my own results I didn't think I could do it on the $45 or even the $395 plan. So I went all in, knowing I could test drive everything for 60 days. Rodan + Fields has a generous back out policy. If it’s not for you, you can return everything for a 100% refund--even empty bottles! There is no risk on purchasing a business kit or even buying a single product as a customer. 

Then once you get your kit, you receive training on how to use and talk about the products. I recently had a chat with my team where I asked them, "Which kit would you choose now if you could enroll again?" And all of them said the $995 kit! It's because if you're willing to start the business you're going to want to obtain and learn the whole inventory. If I opened up a bakery and had nothing to see or taste, just pictures of items, would people come and buy from me? Think of it like that. My business partner Tina explained it like this and it was right on target!

BGC: Okay, so I buy my products. Now what? I can beg my friends and throw skincare parties, but once that well runs dry, how do I find real repeat customers?

Anna: Funny! When I began none of my close friends became my customers! But I asked all of them about it . . . maybe way too much as a newbie now that I think about it. I built my own network, met new people, and used social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn to help me build. I’ve only done online Facebook parties for personal friends and I never ask my buddies to host parties, but of course I'd be open to it! 

I also just ask people flat out: Are you happy with your current skincare routine? Do you have results you want? No one wants to look old, and our products are transformative and preventative. We're number 1 in North America for a reason. If someone asks me about my lashes, that starts the convo and usually ends up in a sale. We meet new people every day so in that way the well will never run dry. Everyone has skin. I have dozens of people that have been ordering from me for over two years.

BGC: In those "MLM made me bankrupt!" articles I've read (the companies mentioned in those articles were not R+F, by the way), they say the hardest part is keeping up with the monthly purchase requirements. Do you have that at Rodan + Fields? And do you ever worry you're not going to sell enough?

Anna: No minimums. If you want full access to your individual consultant website that's provided by R + F, you'll pay $24.99 a month. Then to make the most on your commission you can sell $80 (includes 25% off as a consultant) worth of products, or purchase some for yourself or to replenish your kit and samples. Did I mention some of this is a tax write-off? But these are optional programs. If you are building a big business you will want things like a linked website. It's there to help you grow and be successful.

And no, I’m never worried I’m not going to sell enough.

BGC: Do you have to recruit other people to sell?

Anna: No, you don’t have to. You can choose to sell skincare part-time and use the money for your shoe fund, or you can try for a larger income which involves enrolling others. We do not earn income or commission when we enroll consultants. We only earn commissions from products sold.

BGC: What do you say to people who think Rodan + Fields is a pyramid scheme?

Anna: People sometimes ask me this, and it turns out they don't even know the definition of one. I find it so funny. In a nutshell, pyramid schemes are illegal. Pyramids are not sustainable and they fall apart quickly. It’s a scheme when only money is being exchanged--not products. And I just mentioned we are not paid to recruit, which would be one big red flag if we were. We only make income from product sales.

This is one of the only business models where you can make more money than your boss. I’ve had team members join me that have outearned me some months. The current top earner in our company began four years ago. Our business has been around for ten years. So is the person at the top really the making the most? Not at R + F. Our business model is so fair. It's not possible to sign people up and then sit back doing nothing. You learn to train, grow, and lead. 

Guys, the doctors Rodan + Fields are in the top 30 self-made women list in Forbes with Tory Burch, Madonna, and Beyonce. This isn't a fly-by-night scam. It's here to stay. 

BGC: Thanks, Anna! 

Anna: Happy to give you guys the real deal. I just want to add that this is my unique story. For info on Income Disclosure or typical results, please search, "Rodan + Fields IDS."

The deal with my lashes

So there you have it, folks! It appears as though those over-the-top seeming "Rodan + Fields changed my life!" stories are actually real. At least for those women. The most important thing to realize is, like anything else, you'll get out of it what you put into it. If your goal is to sit on Facebook for a few hours asking friends and family to mail you money for skin cream, you'll probably sell a few jars of skin cream. But if you're looking to work, “Britney, Bitch!” style, and treat being an independent consultant as you would any job that requires hours of work in exchange for pay, you might just have the talent for this. The upside is that you choose the hours and the location. 

And by the way, Lash Boost DID work! My lashes are longer and fuller looking. I have to admit, it’s hard to be a hater when I feel so fab. If you're interested in learning more out the products or business you can message Anna Lowden on Facebook or click here to visit her website.

Join us at our upcoming meetups!

Monday, December 4, 10:30am - 12:00pm at Lil Chameleon. BYO baby/toddler and meet other moms! $5 cash at the door.

Friday, December 8, 9:00am - 11:00am at Larchmont Toddler. Free Shake, Rattle & Roll music class followed by free open gym at Larchmont Toddler. Plus get 10% off registration for new families for a Winter 2018 class at Shake, Rattle & Roll if you sign up during the event. It's free to attend but you must RSVP here.

Thursday, December 14, 8:00pm - 10:00pm. Mommy's Night Out drinks in collaboration with the Bronxville Moms Meetup Group! Location TBD. 

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And as always, check our website for events and weekly library programsWe've just made a whole easy-to-navigate chart so you know exactly where to go for free educational fun that doesn't overlap with naptime! 

See you next time!

Andrea



Give, Gather, & Get for Thanksgiving!

Hi everyone! 

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it's a great time of year to think about giving to the needy, gathering together, and getting gifts. Luckily at BGC, we've got you covered on those fronts. Read on for more:

THANKFUL GIVING

There are a lot of places to donate this time of year, but I get nervous that the stuff I'm giving won't end up going to help someone in need. We've all heard the rumors that Goodwill is basically a for-profit and the Salvation Army is hateful towards the LBGTQ community, so where can we give gently used toys and coats and feel nothing but happy to help?

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A local church in Mount Vernon is collecting used and new coats and toys to distribute to local families in need this season. The deadline for the coat drive is December 16 and the toy drive is December 24, so you have some time to go through the closet and playrooms. Here's what they are taking:

  • Coats from infant to adult (in good shape, obvs)
  • Hats, Mittens, Gloves, Scarves
  • Toys in good shape, INCLUDING stuffed animals

Being able to donate stuffed animals is particularly amazing because a lot of bigger charities don't accept them. When we went through our almost 3-year-old's collection, we were able to easily pull out close to 20 she had no idea were even hers and was happy to give to another child. Many still had their tags on. I got her all ramped up to go through them and pick which ones Santa should give a needy child, so she was very excited about donating. 

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If you'd like to donate, you can drop off items to the Balanced Life Christian Center at 160 South 4th Avenue, Second Floor in Mount Vernon. Their hours vary, so contact Sheila Gifford at shella.phanord27@gmail.com or call/text her at 914-863-4456 to coordinate a dropoff. If you can't get there yourself, reach out to us at info@babygotchat.com and we might be able to help your items get to the church. 

 

THANKFUL GATHERING

Family is great this time of year, but there's nothing like getting together with other moms to relax and commiserate about the pressure of the holidays. BabyGotChat is collaborating on a few fun meetups. Pencil one in on your calendar!

Monday, November 20, 10:30am - 12:00pm
Pre-Thanksgiving Mommy & Me Play Date at Lil Chameleon

29 Elm Street, Tuckahoe
$5 cash only at the door (goes to Lil Chameleon for exclusive use of space and special Play Date-only toys.)
BYO baby or child and come take a break on the couch while the kids explore the baskets of toys for free play at Lil Chameleon. The cafe and resale boutique are pretty tempting too! 

Tuesday, November 21, 8:00pm
Mom Drinks Night at Mickey Spillane's

431 White Plains Road, Eastchester
Cash bar
Leave the kids and hubby at home and come meet us for Mom drinks! This always-popular event we host in collaboration with the Bronxville Moms Meetup Group is great whether you come alone or bring your whole entourage. You've never seen a happier group of women than moms who are off-dufy. Come join us! 

Monday, November 27, 10:30am - 12:00pm
Post-Thanksgiving Mommy & Me Play Date at Lil Chameleon

29 Elm Street, Tuckahoe
$5 cash only at the door
We're back at the same spot to unwind after a marathon weekend of shopping, stuffing, and surviving Thanksgiving. Put off cleaning the house for one more day and have your play date with us! 

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THANKFUL GETTING

We're collecting local mom-run businesses for our Black Friday & Small Business Saturday guide. Do you have a small business? Or even an online shop? Write to us at info@babygotchat with with a description of your business, links to your website, and photos of you or your merchandise. Let's shop local this year! Walmart's CEO's bonus is already big enough.

Want something for free? BabyGotChat teamed up with MAM to give away a gift package worth $50! Watch the video below to see if you won.

That's it, everyone! Have a great Thanksgiving and I hope to see you on Monday or Tuesday at one of our meetups. 

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And as always, check our website for events and weekly library programsWe've just made a whole easy-to-navigate chart so you know exactly where to go for free educational fun that doesn't overlap with naptime! 

See you next time!

Andrea



It's Santa time! Our 2017 naughty-or-nice Santas of Westchester roundup

Hi everyone! With my baby's first birthday rapidly approaching, I'm busy organizing the 10 million pictures I took of him this year into a baby book. (Need to do that too? Read how here.) But any walk down CVS will remind you that another important day is just around the corner. Yes, it's time for Christmas and for moms of little ones that means one thing: we gotta visit Santa. Let's just hope it goes a little better than this:

Luckily Westchester has us covered with plenty of great options to see the big old guy. Here's our annual list of places to go with feedback from parents who have gone in the past, including where to eat breakfast with Santa! There are some new changes this year, so we'll be updating our feedback as it comes in from our naughty-or-nice reporters.

Have you visited Santa and lived to tell the tale? Be a guest reviewer and we'll post your feedback here. Click here to answer a few short questions. 

But first, a few notes:

  • Do you run a small business? We'll be listing our local business highlights for Small Business Saturday. If you'd like to be listed, contact us at info@babygotchat.com with a description of your business, links to your website, and photos of you or your merchandise. Let's shop local this year! Walmart's CEO's bonus is already big enough.
     
  • The first of four November Mommy & Me Meetups at Lil Chameleon was a hit! Come join us next Monday at 10:30am! Click here to sign up.

 

NAUGHTY OR NICE? 2017 WESTCHESTER SANTA ROUNDUP

Our team of guest blogger elves visited several Santa spots to see which are worthy of cheers or tears. Below are the results of our research.

 

The Westchester Mall

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location. There are also pet photo dates. 

COST

There is no charge to see Santa, but you can purchase photos and mementos. The lowest picture package in 2016 was $30 with an additional $10 for a digital upload. We chose just to do the digital upload alone for $30.

RESERVATIONS AND WAIT TIMES

This Santa accepts reservations with a $10 advance payment that can be used toward a photo package. Our latest reviewer went on a weekday and there was no line. One blogger visited without a reservation on a Sunday in the early afternoon and waited in line for about 45 minutes. Another blogger went without a reservation and there was only one person in front of them. View daily hours and make reservations here.

PERSONAL PHOTO POLICY

You can take your own photos but Santa only looks in the direction of the professional photographer. The waiting area was nicely decorated and lent to some cute photo ops in line.

THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

The 2017 Santa is friendly but bland, according to our reviewer. There aren't any elves, but the sales person was extremely friendly and went out of his way to give the best package and lots of freebies and coupons. On our 2016 visit, our 1-year-old was fussy but Santa tried to calm him down for a photo. Our guest blogger wished the experience was a little more interactive—she found that Santa was too quiet. The rest of the staff was composed of young people with good energy, they seemed to have fun getting the little ones to smile for the camera.

PRO TIP

The mall is pretty warm so leave those coats in the car. If you’ve had photos at The Westchester before, you’ll be on the email list for package coupons from the photo company, Noerr. If you visit before Thanksgiving, you can get $10 off a photo if you buy a $100 American Express Gift Card at Guest Services. Click here for more info.


Santaland at Macy’s Herald Square

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location.

COST

It's free to make a reservation and to see Santa. Photo packages are optional and start at $20.99

RESERVATIONS AND WAIT TIMES

They've updated their entire process for 2017. Now you can only see Santa with a reservation, but you can make one as close as 30 minutes in advance or as far away as 5 days if slots are available. Reservations are always free. Your time slot is 30 minutes, and they ask you not to arrive any earlier than the time on your reservation.

Last year we had a reservation and waited 10-15 minutes to see Santa. This year, everyone will be able to experience the full Santaland waiting area that was previously only available to the drop-in crowd. If it's anything like last year there will be cute displays and photo op spots. So far this year the buzz is that there are 90-minute waits even WITH the reservation! We're hoping it gets better as we really loved going last year!

PERSONAL PHOTO POLICY

They let us shoot photos with our phones.

THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

When we visited in 2016, an elf greeted us at the front of the line and brought us over to a decorated room with Santa (Macys has several rooms but they are super careful to make sure you don't see any other Santas on your way in). The elf got our kids excited and explained a bit about the decorations and seeing Santa and asking him for something on their list. We entered the private room and they let us have a few moments to talk to Santa. We had young kids so they needed a minute to get comfortable enough to interact with Santa.

Once they were ready the elves had the parents move out of the way so they could take photos. Then they led us all out into the line to review and purchase if we wanted. We got a free commemorative pin on our way out. Santa seemed nice and was gentle enough with our toddler that she wasn't freaking out. The elves and photo takers were also really nice. Santa was styled traditionally and the photo scene background was cute. We felt like we had as much time as we needed for our kids to enjoy the experience.

PRO TIP

You can and should bring your stroller. The event is inside so dress them however you'd like. Bring your phone to take as many of your own photos as you can. If you can go with a friend, you can go in the same room together to see the same Santa at the same time, but take separate family photos. That saved us money because on the way out we bought a 2-photo package and split it, using one of my daughter with Santa and one of her son with Santa. If you go in separately you can't combine your photos into one package and you might pay more.

Give yourself plenty of time to get around the store, as the holiday crowd is slow moving and it's hard to find an elevator empty enough to accommodate a stroller. There's plenty to do once you get inside Macy's, so coming early isn't a bad idea. Be sure to check out the famous decorated windows outside the front of the store. If you need a pit stop after, there's a McDonalds on the floor below that is clean and well-serviced. Note only service animals are permitted to see Santa, so leave Rover at home.


Danbury Fair Mall

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location.

COST

$39.99 gets you 1 5x7 print, 1 4x6 print, 4 wallet-sized prints, digital downloads, and if you reserve online, the downloadable e-book I Can't Wait to Visit Santa! by Tish Rabe and illustrator Lindsey Sager. There are $5 discount days typically during the week. Smaller photo packages may be available at time of purchase.

RESERVATIONS AND WAIT TIMES

Reservations are accepted with advance purchase of the $39.99 photo package, but not required. There is a sensory-friendly santa available 11/19 and 12/3 from 8am-10am with required reservation. Click here to make reservations.

PERSONAL PHOTO POLICY

We're not sure! Our guest blogger didn’t try to sneak any photos on her phone, and she didn’t see anyone else taking their own photos either.

THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

This year the experience includes interactive displays of Elf-Ray Vision and the Naughty-Or-Night-O'Meter. Visit on 12/2 and meet Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Reindeer. Holiday PJ night is 11/17 and 12/8. Pet-friendly days are 12/11 and 12/18.

There are two Santa workshops which include some interactive digital displays. Our blogger had a young toddler so she didn't stop to play with those. The staff were super friendly.

PRO TIP

If you have a little one, you can keep them in their stroller up until they meet Santa. Need a photo for your Christmas card? Come with the whole family on Holiday PJ day!


Greenwich Reindeer Festival & Santa's Village

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location. The festival starts November 24.

COST

It's free to visit Santa. In 2016 the starting photo package was $30 but you could only leave with one photo. Any others you order have to be mailed to you with an additional shipping cost.

RESERVATIONS AND WAIT TIMES

Our blogger went on a Saturday, but it was surprisingly not too crowded.

PERSONAL PHOTO POLICY

No personal photos allowed in 2016.

THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

The line was long, but Santa was nice and patient, as were the staff. Don't be deceived by the wording: this blogger says she wouldn't really call it a festival. If you go outside of the event times, you'll just find pictures with Santa, a few reindeer, and two carnival rides costing $4 a ticket per person. There are several special events including an arrival party on 11/25 with refreshments and face painting and a holiday stroll on December 2 and 3 with a live nativity, free horse-drawn carriage rides, shopping, live music, an ice sculpture demonstration, food trucks, and a candlelight open house at the Knapp Tavern Museum, an old stomping ground of George Washington.

PRO TIP

Our blogger warns us that on her visit in 2016 the carousel ride felt very fast. She says, "I could have fallen over if I wasn't holding onto my son." This is mostly outside, so dress warm!  


Palisades Center Mall

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location. They haven't finished updating their website yet, so more info coming soon.

COST

Free to see Santa. There were several photo packages. In 2016 paid $25 for a 5x7, 2 4x6, and 4 wallets.

RESERVATIONS AND WAIT TIMES

They didn't take reservations. Santa was on break when we got there, but the wait was not long.

PERSONAL PHOTO POLICY

It said that personal photos were not permitted, but we took them anyhow.

THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

When we went in 2016 Santa was very nice. Our baby was able to spend a lot of time with him, and they were having fun. We thought both Santa and the staff were very accommodating.

PRO TIP

In 2016 the station where we viewed the pictures should have been separate from the camera person's station. That part felt a little pressured. We did not want to take up too much time viewing and choosing the photos because someone else was waiting to have their pictures taken. 

There is a sensory santa on 11/26 and Pet Nights on 12/3 and 12/10. There is also a program called Tuesdays with Santa on 11/21, 11/28, and 12/5. Breakfast with Santa is on 12/3.


BGCSanta17-2.jpg

Westchester Winter Wonderland

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location.

COST

Tickets to Winter Wonderland are about $15, kids under 3 are free. The cost to see Santa is included in admission. There is no photographer, so bring your own camera.

RESERVATIONS AND WAIT TIMES

There are no reservations; you simply get in line and wait your turn. There’s no one manning the line at the front, so there may be some eye-roll moments of parents hogging Santa. The line is inside a heated tent, but it can get long enough that it snakes outside the tent as well. When we went last year we waited about 15–20 minutes, and the line had started outside.

PERSONAL PHOTO POLICY

Shoot away! No photographer is on site.

THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

Winter Wonderland keeps getting better and better. Our 2017 and 2016 Santa (same guy) was traditionally dressed compared to our 2015 Santa who was wearing yellow (!). In 2015 we had a 1-year-old who panicked immediately so we got one of those hysterical-crying photos that are so hilarious. Since there's no professional photographer and it's a free-for-all, the experience can feel a bit rushed depending on your ability to ignore the death stares of parents waiting in line behind you as you chat with Santa and try for that perfect picture. Our santa was nice but he looks a bit like a serial killer in the photos from this year and last year. He needs a session with Tyra to work on his smize.

PRO TIP

Make friends with the people behind you, as you may need them to take your photo! Bring a stroller as there is a lot of walking from the parking lot to the Santa tent, and you’ll want a place to put your coats for the photos. There are heating stations throughout which are great for the wait. Come for Santa, stay for everything else Winter Wonderland offers! There are lights, music, a circus tent with a small show, free ice skating including skate rentals, a few midway rides, food trucks, and drinks.

There are also special events nights including a free-admission-with-donation toy drive, other not-for-profit nights, special character meet-and-greets, movie night, tree lighting, and even an early New Year's Celebration at 8pm on December 31st! Click here to see all the events.


Santa's Cottage at Ridge Hill

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location.

COST

Last year it was free to visit and commemorative photos cost between $25 and $50. All packages include 3 free phone calls from Santa, a $20 promo card from Shutterfly, and a free printable personalized Nice List guide.

RESERVATIONS AND WAIT TIMES

FastPass reservations are available, but not required. If you want a reservation, you'll have to prepay for your photo package. The reservation is a 2.5 hour window. We've heard in the past there can be up to 45-minute waits even with a reservation, but since they have revamped the experience, we're still waiting to hear feedback for this year.

PERSONAL PHOTO POLICY

In 2016 we were told we couldn't take photos, even if we prepaid for a package.

THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

The last two years have been branded experiences with Dreamworks. Last year's was Kung Fu Panda (you know, everyone's favorite Christmas character . . . ?) This year they don't have the partnership so it's anyone's guess how this will affect the experience. The website claims we will delight in the interactive snowflake wall, music & light shows every 30 minutes starting from 5:00pm to 10:00pm, and a private family meet & greet in Santa’s library.

PRO TIP

You have to wait outside for your turn and the parking garage is a little bit of a walk away, so dress everyone warm. Last year the experience led us from room to room inside before we met Santa so if it's like that again, try to wear layers that aren't too bulky to carry around. Last year they sometimes crammed too many people inside the waiting room and one blogger reported she could barely breathe. They seem to try to keep flights to 3-4 families at a time. Last year the rule was no strollers and no phones. You can get pet photos with Santa 11/17 and 11/19 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm.


Cross County Shopping Center

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location.

COST

Free to visit Santa and you get a "free gift." (A coloring book.)

RESERVATIONS AND WAIT TIMES

Reservations are available but not required. If you want a reservation, you'll have to prepay for your photo package which runs from $35 to $40.

PERSONAL PHOTO POLICY

Our reviewer doesn't remember the policy but it's a small space so she didn't try.

THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

Our poster had a reservation and stood outside for about 10 minutes because Santa was on a break and they have to lock up the house while he is gone. There is a bench you can use to change or do hair etc. The staff is friendly and Santa is usually pretty friendly. The free gift last year was a candy cane and a coloring book. Our reviewer had a good experience overall but noted that they do rush you out when you are through especially when it is crowded. Holiday PJ sessions available on 11/17 and 12/8 and pet photos are available on 11/27, 12/4 and 12/11.

PRO TIP

The parade and tree lighting is on the evening of 11/18 this year and it's always really popular. American Idol winner David Cook will perform an acoustic concert and then count down to light the 40-foot-tall Christmas tree. If you don't make a reservation it is best to go before 5:00pm because if the line gets long you'll be waiting outside for 

 

Thanks to our guest bloggers Amy, Allison, Daneen, Jennifer, Laura, Jen, and Michelle. Don’t see your favorite Santa spot on this list? Submit your review here (attach a photo too if you like!) and we will add it to this post. I’d love to hear from you.


BREAKFAST WITH SANTA

Our shortlist of where to break bread with the big red guy.

Palisades Mall, Nyack
Click here for more info

Stew Leonard's, Yonkers
Click here for more info

Doral Arrowwood Hotel, Rye Brook
Click here for more info

Village of Arsdley
Click here for more info

The Ritz-Carlton, White Plains
Click here for more info

Village of Ossining
Click here for more info

Benjamin Steakhouse, White Plains
Click here for more info

Village of Scarsdale
Click here for more info

Broadway Theatre, Elmsford
Click here for more info

The Olde Stone Mill, Tuckahoe
Click here for more info

Little Hands Little Feet Preschool, Briarcliff Manor
Click here for more info

Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Heights
Click here for more info

The Westchester, White Plains
Click here for more info

Hendrick Hudson High School, Montrose
Click here for more info


That's it for this week! Don't forget to join us for our November meetup! 

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And as always, check our website for events and weekly library programs. We've just made a whole easy-to-navigate chart so you know exactly where to go for free educational fun that doesn't overlap with naptime! 

See you next time!

Andrea