Holidays | Outings + Activities

Santa Secrets: Best Santas Around Seattle, Tacoma and the Eastside

Great free Santas, hip Santas, Father Christmas and more

Is the big guy in the red suit with the suspiciously white beard part of your December traditions? If so, read on for our readers' picks for best spots around Puget Sound to see Santa, get photos without (too much) crying and enjoy one-stop holiday fun. (Got a Santa tip? Post in comments below.) And thanks to readers who supplied Santa photos! (P.S. - Downtown Seattle's Santa traditions have gone through some upheaval; read about it on the Seattle Times.)

Favorite Seattle Santas

Swanson's Nursery. Reader photo by Patty Lee Teich

Swansons Nursery, Ballard. Readers love all the holiday fun at this Northwest Seattle nursery (holiday train, reindeer, camel), but especially the Santa. "He is a very real-looking Santa and the decorations at Swansons are so beautiful, providing wonderful photo opportunities." Another reader says, "Swansons is close to Top Ten Toys, so while my husband occupied my son there, I was able to get most of my Christmas shopping done there. Last stop of the day, Larsen's Bakery!"  

Details: Santa photos Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 20, 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Book online.

Santa at the Space Needle, Seattle Center. Reader tip: "He sits in a groovy spaceship and the kids get to decorate a spaceship cookie. This has been our family tradition for the past five years." Also check out the Winterfest train at the Seattle Center Armory and many free Winterfest performances, and, of course, the Space Needle tree. 

Details: Santa photos are at the Space Needle Observation Deck, December 5–6, 12–13*, 19–24
11 a.m.–5 p.m. 

University Village. Reader tip: "We just went on Monday to U Village to get pics with the Arthur & Associates Santa — this was my 13th Christmas in a row with that company! The Santas are all awesome and have real beards and the customer service is great. Bonus for U Village: Free parking) and sushi afterward."

Details: Santa hours through Dec. 10, Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Dec. 11–23, 9 a.m.–9 p.m.; Dec. 24, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. You can also do pet photos with Santa on Mondays.

Diving Santa at the Seattle Aquarium
Diving Santa at the Seattle Aquarium

Diving Santa at Seattle Aquarium. On weekends in December, watch Santa dive with the fishes at the Aquarium in its 120,000-gallon Window on Washington Waters exhibit. Bring your camera, take your picture with Diving Santa and stay perfectly dry, or have your photo taken by a pro photographer. Awesome concerts, from Caspar Babypants to Seattle Youth Symphony, round out the experience. 

Details:  Saturdays and Sundays, through Dec. 20. $15–$22, admission to the Aquarium. 

Westfield Southcenter Santa

Westfield Southcenter Santa and Mrs. Claus story time: Westfield Souhcenter's Santa experience features new sets this year (including a 24-foot Christmas tree and marquee letters). Photo packages range from $23 to $49 and families can bypass lines by making Fast Pass reservations.  In addition, kids can sign up for story time with Mrs. Claus, which includes treats and a special gift. Check the schedule for times.

Details: Santa is there daily through Dec. 24. Story time with Mrs. Claus held at the Westfield Sky Terrace on Level 3 near AMC Theatres; tickets required and a $5 donation per child to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 

Yuen Lui, many locations. Reader tip: "We love Santa pictures at Yuen Lui. Low lights. No crowds. Extra time. This makes a Santa visit tolerable for a family with four kids under age six."

Details: Yuen Lui has photo studios in six locations around the Sound. Check the website for dates in the location near you.

Favorite Eastside Santas

Cougar Mountain Zoo Reindeer Festival, Issaquah. At this unique, private zoo in Issaquah, Santa is in his house, as well as live reindeer. Kids can mail a letter to Santa, sit in his sleigh, hear a story from an Elf, watch candy canes being made and visit the other critters, of course. 

Details: Admission $10–$12; photos are $15 for the first photo in a special Reindeer Festival photo folder, $10 for each additional photo or $5 for 3 photos using your own camera. 

Molbak's Nursery. Reader photo by Andrea Gibson Hallber

Molbak's Garden + Home, Woodinville. Reader tip: "We've been going to Molbak's for the last six years, it's the best! No long lines, free, the same sweet Santa every year and we eat free kringle while shopping for new ornaments. This year my 7-year-old brought his list." Other holiday fun include free kringle and coffee, live music and more.

Details: Take your own snapshot with the Molbak's Santa on Dec. 5, 6, 13, 19 and 20, 2–5 p.m. 

Bellevue Square. Reader tip: "We like the Santa at Bellevue Square because he's calm and actually takes time to talk to my kids." After Santa photos, go see the Snowflake Lane show (starts at 7 p.m. daily) or go ice skating at Magic Season.

Details: Santa photos daily through Dec. 24. The Bellevue Square Santa is also through Arthur & Associates.

Redmond Town Center. Reader tip: "Love the Santa at Redmond Town Center!" Our tip: The Santa hut at RTC is conveniently located next the holiday carousel and new skating rink.

Details: This Arthur & Associates Santa offers photos daily through Dec. 24.

The Bravern. Reader photo by Salouma Fares Ilvanakis

The Bravern, Bellevue. Reader tip: "This is our third year with this Santa. He is amazing with the kids! He chatted with the kids for quite a while. After the pics, the kids were dancing around and Santa came over and danced a jig with them."

Details:  Santa photos available at the Bravern Wednesday–Sunday from noon–6 p.m. (through Dec. 11) and every day from noon–6 p.m. (Dec. 14–24). Find Santa in Building Two on Level Two of the Bravern. 

Christmas Creek Farm, North Bend. Reader tip: "We always do Black Friday parade and visit Santa at the farm at Christmas Creek [a tree farm in North Bend]."

Details: Santa photos available on the weekends until Christmas; only $5 with a tree purchase. 

Factoria Mall, Bellevue. A reader says, "I almost don't want to share as there is never a line, never pressure to purchase, several places for a family meal afterwards." Combine it with a visit to KidsQuest Children's Museum.

Details: Daily through Dec. 24

Favorite South Sound Santas

Kent Station. Reader photo by Leila Corrales

Kent Station: Reader tip: "For four years straight, we have been going to [the Santa at] Kent Station. My son adores him. He takes his time to chat with the kids. The photographer is extremely nice, too. They allow you to take your own picture."

Details: Santa photos available daily through Dec. 24 on the Fountain Stage outside of AMC Theatres. Prices for photo packages vary. Check hours online.

Washington State Fair's North Pole at the Fair, Puyallup. So much to do! In a new building this year. the North Pole experience is a jingle blast. Kids can tour Santa’s house, play in Santa’s Big Toy Facility, visit the Elf village and more. Reader tip: "It has short lines because you make reservations for photo time slots which eliminates a large portion of the hassle." Another says, "It's a fun set up that allows the kids to play and do activities (most for free, some crafts were 50 cents each) rather than just stand in a long line at the mall. The atmosphere is fun and the Santa is awesome."

Details: You can make Santa reservations online, which include entry to the North Pole at the Fair. Minimum $30 on photos; entry to the fair alone is $5.

Nordstrom's, Tacoma Mall. Sometimes, the department-store Santas are the best. A reader says, "The Santa at Nordstrom's Tacoma Mall location. They have best display. They also have ethnically diverse Santas. I love it. Make reservations or send a friend ahead of time to get in line."

Details: Daily, through Dec. 24

Watson's Nursery, Puyallup. This South Sound favorite has reindeer, greenery aplenty and a Santa experience that is beloved: "It's free and he always has a real beard," says a reader. Kids can also do a holiday scavenger hunt in the store. 

Details: Santa will at Watson’s Friday, December 4, 11, and 18, from noon–4 p.m.

Old Cannery, Sumner. Starting with the bridge lighting on Nov. 27, downtown Sumner's Cannery building is full of holiday cheer and includes a chance to snap free shots with Santa in his sleigh. A reader says, "[He has real beard, real glasses, real tummy, real nice, real jolly!! He has the most fantastic costumes that he must have custom made." Note: Lines can be long because it's free and popular. Get there early.

Details: Weekends through Dec. 20, times vary.

Favorite North Sound Santas

Sky Nursery, Shoreline. Reader tip: "We did Santa pictures last year at Sky Nursery in Shoreline and it was fantastic - beautiful greenery around us, little/no wait, and a few vendors to shop from."

Details: Santa shows up at Sky just one day, Saturday, Dec. 5, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. There will be choral music, hot cider and cookies until 5 p.m., and craft vendors.

Alderwood Mall. Reader photo by Anna Wendt

Alderwood Mall, Lynnwood. Reader tip: "We have a very shy little guy who has cried every year but this year. The Santa at the Alderwood Mall was so great with him that we got a thumbs up and he even said one word to him!"

Details: Santa is at Alderwood's Center Court daily through Dec. 24. Wednesdays are a special Rudolph day.

Mill Creek Town Center: Reader tip: "We love the Mill Creek Town Center Santa coming in town greeting families and end the evening with tree lighting. Many children's activities in the city hall to keep warm."

Details: Mill Creek Town Center does not list Santa hours on its website but the tree lighting is Saturday, Dec. 5, starting at 4:30 p.m.

Favorite Kitsap Santa

Father Christmas in Poulsbo. A reader shares: "He has his own little Viking house! His sign says Father Christmas too and he is truly a very genuine and kind and jolly Santa! Pictures are free!!! There is a place to donate for charity. This is a great Santa, make it a day trip from the city and shop in some of poulsbos awesome small shops!" 

Details: Father Christmas is in his Viking House on weekends. Check schedule.


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