The Water-Skiing Santa
Bet you didn't know Santa could water ski. Or that his reindeer could knee board. Become enlightened on December 24 at 1pm (rain or shine) as Santa and friends hit the Potomac for a blockbuster show on the water. Rumor has it that the Grinch will show up and try to put a damper on everything (oh, the noise, Noise, NOISE, NOISE!!).
The best place to see the show is from National Harbor, and Santa and his cronies will be on hand later for photo opportunities.
On the Potomac River
Dec 24 1pm
Harrods Christmas Grotto and Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland
Harrods Christmas Grotto is among the most famous places in the world to catch Santa. But unless you book a reservation well in advance (like, say, September), you're out of luck. Santa arrives at Harrods via horse-drawn carriage in early November, amid much fanfare, so you may be able to catch a glimpse of him then if you've been unsuccessful at getting a reservation. http://www.harrods.com/christmas
Otherwise, plan to skip the Harrods thing and head to Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland instead. Here, Santa's Grotto is every bit as enchanting for kids, but reservations aren't required and there's a lot more entertainment. Think carnival rides, ice skating, circus shows, festive foods, and even a holiday market for last-minute gifts.
General admission: Free
Visit with Santa: Free
Skating (includes skate rental): Adult £10-12, Child £8-8.50
Rides: Most are 2-6 tokens. 1 token= £1
Shows: Adult £8-9, Child £4.50-5
Nov 19-Jan 4 10am-10pm
Santa is in residence daily 10am-6pm
Santa's Workshop Family Amusement Park
Colorado Springs, CO
Many theme parks around the world dress themselves up in holiday finery every year. A few Christmas-themed parks maintain warm weather hours, which is great if you're experiencing holiday withdrawal in July or August. But if you're looking for a Christmas theme park that's open through December, your choices drastically diminish. You could go to Santa Park in Arctic Circle, Finland. There's the Village du Père Noël in Val David, Quebec. Putney, VT is the home of Santa's Land; North Pole, NY boasts its very own Santa's Workshop; Santa's Enchanted Forest in Miami, FL is probably the largest Christmas theme park in the world.
But for grandeur of setting, and a chance of real snow, Santa's Workshop just outside Colorado Springs, CO is tops. A couple dozen rides, including the festive Candy Cane Coaster and a retro miniature train ride, plus a petting zoo and lots of Christmas-y shops and shows, make this a December winner for families. The man himself can be found in the aptly named Santa's House, prominently positioned near the front of the park.
5050 Pikes Peak Hwy
Cascade, CO 80809
Dec 1-2, 8-9, 15-16 Closed
Dec 3-7, 10-14, 17-23 10am—5pm
Dec 24 10am—4pm
Ages 2-59 $17.95, Ages 1 and under and 60+ Free
Santas on the Run
The Santas hit Oxford this year for an annual fundraiser benefiting Helen and Douglas House, a children's hospice. True, the kiddies may not be able to sit on his lap and relay all their most fervent holiday wishes, but the sight of hundreds of red-suited helpers running through the streets of Oxford's city center should make up for that. Registration includes a red suit, and the two-mile run is probably one of the most entertaining races ever for spectators.
Santas on the Run - Oxford
Dec 12 9:30am
Registration: Adult £12, Child £8, Family (2 adults and 2 children) £30, Child under 5 Free
Santas on the Run events are held throughout England, from London to Leeds, in November and December. http://www.santasontherun.org.uk/
Santa on the Chimney
Santa can water ski, but he can also rappel down the faces of big rocks. The jolly old elf visits Chimney Rock outside Asheville, NC every year to brush up on his chimney-climbing skills. Mrs. Claus is on hand to meet and greet (and charm!), and in between practice sessions, Santa may have a little time for photos and such.
A word to the wise: This is Santa Claus. He has an answer for every conceivable question, so don't try to trip him up on a technicality. He's a pro.
Dec 4 and 11, 11am-2pm
Free with park admission. For 2010-11: Adult $9, Child (6-15) $4, Child (5 and under) Free
This place is the stuff of childhood dreams. Not only do you get a private tète-à-tète with the man, but you also get a wacky play session in the most wonderful workshop ever. And a little education to boot.
Each tour lasts about 30 minutes and includes several hands-on activities and a four-minute appointment with Mr. Kringle (AKA Santa Claus) in his office, plus a photo. Optional add-ons include an educational toy from the adjacent toy shop and a bigger photo package. The kids will be absolutely mesmerized. Unless you're a particularly jaded adult, you will be as well.
The only downside: Appointments are required, and time slots fill up fast. Be proactive!
Tower City Center
230 W Huron Rd
Cleveland, OH 44113
Appointments are $4 and must be scheduled via http://www.mrkringle.com/
Photo packages $13.99-94.99, usb optional
Photography Pass allows you to take unlimited photos with your own camera $24.99
Santa's Flight to Schaumburg
We all know Santa can fly. He does it every year with those eight reindeer. But what happens if the reindeer come down with the flu? Never fear. Santa has a Plan B.
Schaumburg Regional Airport hosts Santa every year as he fine-tunes his helicopter piloting expertise. Guests can enjoy a buffet breakfast with Santa too. Pre-registration is required.
Dec 5 9:30am
Adult $16, Child (3-12) $9
Schaumburg Regional Airport
905 W Irving Park Rd
Tumbleweed Tree and Santa's House
Chandler Arizona gets the vote for most unusual Christmas tree. Each year, the city crafts a new specimen out of tumbleweeds collected in the vicinity. All this unusual-ness has drawn the attention of a certain man in red, who visits each year for the seasonal kick-off, the Parade of Lights. He's such a popular and important visitor that the city erects a special house just for his use while he's in town. He returns three times before Christmas, so there's ample opportunity for the kids to see him. And for you to take those all-important photos.
Dec 4 4:30pm-8:30pm, Dec 9 6pm-8pm, Dec 11 and 18 Noon-5pm
Dr. A.J. Chandler Park
3 S Arizona Ave
Macy's Downtown Pittsburgh
Santa goes everywhere, even Pittsburgh. OK, that was a cheap shot. Sorry Pittsburgh, I actually really like you!
But back to the subject at hand. Santa Claus stops in at Macy's department store every weekend in December for breakfast. You can join him for his morning meal, which you know is going to be tasty (this is Santa we're talking about!). After breakfast, there's a stage show and games. RSVPing is essential. Do NOT forget your camera.
Dec 4-5, 11-12, 18-19 10am
Adult $16.95, Child (10 and under) $12.95
Breakfast with Santa
Macy's Downtown Pittsburgh
400 5th Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
L. Ron Hubbard's Winter Wonderland
Los Angeles, CA
OK, so this one is a little odd. But it could be a fun outing for an enlightened (read "open-minded and confident in their own beliefs") family or a group of friends out for a laugh. Or, of course, Scientologists.
Anyway, LRH's seasonal event is glitzy and sparkly, resembling a movie set, in fact. It also boasts, strangely, Hollywood's largest Christmas tree. Nightly entertainment (local bands, mostly) is available too.
6724 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
Picture with Santa: Dec 1-24 5pm-10pm, Dec 25 2pm-10pm
Santarchy and Santacon
From San Francisco to Washington, DC, from Kansas City to Beijing, one day a year is set aside for the controlled chaos that is Santarchy and Santacon. Pseudo-Santas pound the pavement and hit the bars, handing out gifts to kids and sprinkling Christmas cheer along the way. Don your very own red suit and join the fun, or just position yourself strategically to see the wave of decked-out revelers as they pass. Check out http://santarchy.com/ for all the details!