Courtesy of Outrigger Enterprises
There are plenty of things we don’t know about the merry yet mysterious Saint Nicholas, but what we do know is where to find him during the Christmas season. Malls across America are filled with excited young children waiting to meet the jolly old man in the red suit this time of year, and plenty of other attractions around the world feature a meet-and-greet as well. Certain Santa spots are more popular than others, however, and for many different reasons.
Santa Clauses at famous department stores such as London’s Harrods and New York’s Macy’s Herald Square are popular by default, due to the fact that they’re located in heavily advertised (and commercialized) Christmas wonderlands. Other Santas are just plain famous on their own merit, such as New Orleans’s legendary Seventh Ward Santa and Surfin’ Santa at Seaport Village in San Diego. We gathered up a list of these famous Santa Clauses and many more from around the world. Located in places as varied as amusement parks, train rides, shopping complexes, and even an aquarium, here are the world’s most popular Santa Clauses.
Christmas trains are one of the best ways to experience the holiday season, and Brecon Mountain Railway is a chance to both view the gorgeous Welsh countryside and meet Santa. The steam train leaves from Pant Station to Pontsticill, where you can visit Santa’s grotto and receive a gift from the jolly old man himself if you’re a kid or have some mulled wine and mince pies if you’re an adult.
Courtesy of Chimney Rock Park
Not far from the idyllic town of Asheville, Santa goes to extreme lengths to climb down Chimney Rock, a 315-foot rock formation. Watching the spectacle is included with park admission, and there are hot cocoa and cookies, live music to get you in the festive mood, and tons of activities for kids.
Yet another fantastic holiday train serves the opportunity to meet with Saint Nick, who waves at you as you board the holiday express, sitting in his reindeer-drawn sleigh on top of an open-air flat car. Santa’s elves are also there to greet you on the train, armed with candy canes to hand out. In addition to delivering Christmas cheer, the train also delivers food baskets to Chicago charities along its route.
The Grove, a popular shopping and entertainment complex located in central Los Angeles, has a Santa’s Workshop during the holiday season as well. Guests can meet Santa for photos that are available for sale in four different packages so you can get copies for the whole family. Five percent of proceeds are donated to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
London’s famous luxury department store has a wonderful Christmas Grotto every year, which includes festive decorations and activities such as a Christmas Hunt, Festive Afternoon Tea, and the opportunity to personalize your own Christmas sack. Of course, the most important part is meeting Father Christmas, as he’s referred to in the U.K., whom children 4 years and under can meet at his winter cabin after going through his toy workshop. Children ages 5 to 17 can meet with him after going through Harrods Ice Kingdom, and all children receive a special gift from the red-suited man himself.
Courtesy of Hyde Park
The historic Hyde Park is the largest Royal Park in London, and its annual Winter Wonderland is another reason why London is one of the best cities for celebrating Christmas. In addition to an exhibition of ice sculptures, the U.K.’s largest temporary outdoor ice rink, Christmas markets, a Christmas circus, and more, Hyde Park also has Santa Land, an area for children featuring small rides and Santa’s Grotto, where Santa himself is waiting to meet you with a gift.
Macy’s goes all out for Christmas, particularly at its flagship store in Herald Square, one of the largest department stores in the world. For the first time this year, you need a reservation to meet Santa, although it’s free, unless you want to purchase a professional photo. For more racial diversity, guests can also request a black Santa if they so choose.
Courtesy of Montreux Noël
Located along Switzerland’s beautiful Lake Geneva, Montreux Noël offers a wonderful Swiss Christmas experience, complete with a huge Christmas market and many Christmas festivities such as games, candle-making, chocolate-making, and a 3-D lights show. Santa is also there, ready to welcome you at his home on the summit of Rochers-de-Naye, where you can take a train to get your face painted, have your picture taken, and go on a treasure hunt.
Every year, Newport Aquarium hosts Water Wonderland with Scuba Santa, an event in which Santa can be seen diving with sharks in a 385,000-gallon tank. The water doesn’t stop him, however; Santa can still talk to you and listen to your Christmas wishes from inside the tank.
Courtesy of Outrigger Enterprises
In true Hawaiian fashion, Santa arrives at Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach via canoe. The resort also has an opportunity for breakfast with Santa, which includes a buffet as well as balloon and body art. Photos with Santa are free.
Big Shot Photography/Santa at Phipps and Scott Britt w/Britt’s Technology Solutions
The Santa at Phipps Plaza in Atlanta is so popular that reservations are available starting in late September and are sometimes sold out as early as mid to late-October! In addition to photos with Santa Claus, families can also take home a DVD recording of their visit.
Rockefeller Center’s famous ice skating rink is surrounded by a popular retail and restaurant complex, including Rock Center Café and The Sea Grill, both of which host a Breakfast With Santa. The former is a better option for younger children, with a Throne Room in which they can climb into Santa’s lap for the classic photo, whereas the latter is a bit of a pricier and fancier meal during which Santa will visit you at your table for a picture.
Courtesy of Ruxley Manor
Ruxley Manor, a garden center that sells gardening tools and plants and includes plant nurseries and restaurants, is also home to Santa’s Grotto during the holiday season. Visit the Ruxley Reindeer along with Mother Christmas (Mrs. Claus’ moniker in the U.K.) and Ruxley Manor’s Elves who will take you through the Grotto and Santa’s Workshop to meet the big man himself.
It’s Christmas all year in North Pole, Alaska. Known for its Letters From Santa program, the town receives tens of thousands of Christmas letters every year from children across the globe, but you can also come here yourself to speak with Saint Nick in person. There’s plenty more to do too, as the Christmas in Ice Contest brings in ice sculptors from around the world, and Santa Claus’ house is a draw for both tourists and journalists every holiday season. With streets like Santa Claus Lane, Mistletoe Lane, and Kris Kringle Drive, it’s the perfect place to get into the Christmas spirit. Stay the night at the Santaland RV Park, and don’t forget to take a photo with the 42-foot-tall statue of Santa!
Courtesy of Visit Finland
Known as Santa Claus’s hometown, Rovaniemi is located in the Finnish part of the Lapland region, which is exactly the kind of place people imagine when they think of a picturesque wonderland. Santa Claus Village is a world-renowned Christmas-themed amusement park at which you can meet the jolly old elf in his office, where he’ll listen to your wish list and even sing you a carol.
Courtesy of Seaport Village
For a quintessentially SoCal Santa, visit Seaport Village, where a board-shorts-and-Hawaiian-shirt-clad Santa Claus is ready to take photos on a giant surfboard. You can also see this Surfin’ Santa driving down the boardwalk in a suitably red convertible during a holiday parade full of Christmas cheer.
Also known as the New Orleans Black Santa, Seventh Ward Santa has been portrayed by the same man, Fred Parker, for 47 years now. Multiple generations of New Orleans families have had their photo taken with this famous, seemingly ageless Santa, who visits multiple locations in the city to spread his Christmas joy.
Courtesy of Tivoli Garden
The second oldest amusement park in the world, Tivoli Gardens is also one of the most popular seasonal amusement parks, with 4.6 million visitors just last year. One of the reasons why has to be its Santa Claus, whose grotto is located in the Pantomime Theatre. Visit him there to give him your wish list, dance the polka, or talk to him about his workshop and other topics of Christmas joy before you get your photo taken professionally to remember him by.
Tomteland is a theme park specifically centered around Santa Claus himself, so of course you’ll get a chance to meet him there. It’s based on the legend that Sweden is where Saint Nick’s workshop is located, and here you can meet Santa and his helpers, as well as attend Christmas shows and visit Santa’s workshop and home and even see his sleigh.
Billed as “Scandinavia’s only permanent Christmas shop” Tregaarden’s Christmas House is located just a little over 20 miles south of Oslo. In addition to meeting Santa Claus, visitors can also browse all kinds of Christmas paraphernalia such as candles, tablecloths, napkins, and figurines of tomtar (plural of tomte, a Nordic mythological creature similar to a garden gnome).
What better place to enjoy the magic of meeting Santa than the most magical place on earth? Visit Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, where you’ll find Santa Claus on Main Street in the Town Square Courtyard, which is turned into Candy Cane Garden for the holiday season. A daily meet-and-greet gives you the opportunity to get your photo taken with Santa, who’s also present during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. For more magical ways to spend the holidays, check out the 25 places where you’re guaranteed a white Christmas.