Weekly Update: Naughty Or Nice? Our Santa Roundup

BabyGotChat should now be called BabiesGotChat, as I have delivered a healthy baby boy, born 8 days early! Our weekly update comes a bit late as I am learning how to juggle a newborn and a toddler. It’s sort of like juggling knives . . . only more difficult. If, unlike me, you are able to leave the house for anything other than a pediatrician appointment, check out the Events page for a list of what’s going on this week.

NAUGHTY OR NICE? OUR FIRST WESTCHESTER SANTA ROUNDUP

Our team of guest blogger elves has visited several local Santa spots, eager kids in tow, to test them out. Below are the results of our research.

The Westchester

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location.

COST

There is no charge to see Santa. Afterward you can purchase photos if you like them. The lowest picture package was $30 with and 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 payment in advance that can be used toward a photo package. 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. 

PERSONAL PHOTO POLICY

You can take your own photos. This is the best part, as we got cute shots of the kids with Santa, although Santa only looks in the direction of the professional photographer. The area was also very nicely decorated and lent to some photo ops.

THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

Santa was nice! Our 1 year old was fussy but Santa tried to calm him down for a photo. One of our guest bloggers 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 look at 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.

 

Santaland at Macy’s Herald Square

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location.

COST

It's free to see Santa. Photo packages are optional and start around $25.

RESERVATIONS AND WAIT TIMES

Reservations for the Express Line open 48 hours in advance. We had a reservation and waited 10-15 minutes to see Santa. People without a reservation had about an hour wait, so we heard. Reservations were free online. One note: If you use the Express Line, you don’t get to go through the entire Santaland, so you miss some of the displays. With two toddlers, we didn’t find that to be worth the hour wait, but older kids might think it fun to see more of the decorations and displays. Even at the Express Line, the wait was entertaining. They had displays set up with the line snaking around them and a few photo op spots.

PERSONAL PHOTO POLICY

They let us shoot photos with our phones.

THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

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. After that they had the parents move out of the way so they could take photos. Then they led us out into the line to review and purchase if we wanted. We got a 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 it's slow moving and it's hard to find an elevator empty enough for your stroller. There's plenty to do once you get inside Macy's, so coming early isn't a bad thing. 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 for a treat break.

 

Adventure to Santa at Ridge Hill (Kung Fu Panda Theme)

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location

COST

It's free to see Santa if you don't want to purchase photos, but you would have to wait in the nonreservation line.  There are three photo packages starting with $35 for 2 5x7 photos, 2 4x6 greeting cards with commemorative border, and a social media sharing photo. The highest is $75 for everything in the $35 package and 2 4x6 Panda Holiday Cards created by your child, high-res digital photos on a USB drive, a $20 card from Shutterfly, 1 8x10 photo with Santa, 4 wallet-sized photos, and a high-res video of your private Santa experience. All packages include a keepsake family passport. 

RESERVATIONS AND WAIT TIMES

To make a reservation, you have to prepay for photos. Two of our bloggers made a reservation and waited 10 minutes to get in, but we’ve heard of the wait being 45 minutes or more—even with a reservation. The wait is tough because it's outside. There is a playground near the waiting area, but it's almost a bad thing because you can't watch them from your spot in line.

PERSONAL PHOTO POLICY

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

THE SANTA EXPERIENCE

One blogger thought Santa was a bit aloof. He only spoke to the kids when they asked him a question. Ridge Hill's Santa is a different experience from other mall Santas. You enter a little house and are greeted by an elf. The elves are animated and nice. They usher you inside and give you your passport. Once everyone in your flight has arrived they move you into another room. You move from room to room with games to play and ride on a 4D sleigh to get to Santa. Then you can make Santa a card. Now that you are at the North Pole you are brought to a room that has little kiosks with seats and the kids are encouraged to play themed holiday games while they wait their turn with Santa. After that, you enter what looks like Santa's living room. The elf will call your family when its time and you go into Santa's study and have a private photo session with Santa. The staff takes their time and are good at getting great pictures. One blogger's toddler wasn't feeling it when he got to Santa, and they were willing to wait for him to calm down and for her to sit with Santa with him. 

It’s great to do interactive things during the wait for santa and have a private photo shoot. There is only one Santa and he is dressed traditionally. It's a cute experience and one blogger's kids who were 4 and 5 really liked it. We was a little disappointed that Santa wasn't friendlier but the kids didn't seem bothered by it. The whole staff is high energy, happy, and entertaining. They really make you feel as if you are part of movie on your quest to find Santa. It takes about 30 mins from start to end once you are inside the cabin.  

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. You will be inside for a while before you meet Santa as you go from room to room so try to wear layers that aren't too bulky to carry around. It can get hot inside the cabin. Sometimes they cram too many people into the inside waiting room and one blogger reported she could barely breathe. They seem to try to keep flights to 3-4 families at a time. No strollers, no phones.    

 

Danbury Fair Mall

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location.

COST

We paid about $37 to receive: 2 5x7 photos, 4 4x6 photos, 16 wallets, and a digital download of photos.

RESERVATIONS AND WAIT TIMES

Reservations are accepted but not required.

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

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. There are specials times for Santa to meet your pets.

 

Greenwich Reindeer Festival

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location.

COST

It's free to visit Santa. The starting photo package was $30. However be warned that you can only leave with one photo, and 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.

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. Just pictures with Santa, a few reindeer, and two carnival rides costing $4 a ticket per person.

PRO TIP

Our blogger warns us that 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.

COST

Free to see Santa. There were several photo packages. We 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

Santa was very nice. The 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

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 are pet photo nights for your fur baby to meet Santa, too! 

 

Westchester Winter Wonderland

DETAILS

Click here for dates, times, and location.

COST

Tickets to Winter Wonderland are about $15 per adult, less for children. The cost to see Santa is free! 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

We thought last year’s Santa was a little weird in his styling. He was wearing yellow! I think it was so warm in the tent he couldn’t keep his furry red coat on. When we went this year, he had his coat on and looked more traditional. We had a 1-year-old who panicked immediately so we got one of those hysterical photos that we will probably love more than if she had cooperated. The experience was a bit rushed as everyone in line had waited a while and we felt bad making the people behind us stand there while we lingered with Santa.

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.

 

That's all we have for now. Thanks to our guest bloggers Amy, Allison, Daneen, Jennifer, Laura, and Jen. Don’t see your favorite Santa spot on this list? Email me with your review (attach a photo too if you like!) and we will add it to this post. I’d love to hear from you.

That’s all for this week!

Andrea for BabyGotChat