Are photos with the big guy in the red suit part of your family’s December traditions? If so, read on for a sleigh-full of great Santas, including some of our readers’ picks for the best spots around Puget Sound to see Santa, get photos without (too much) crying and enjoy one-stop holiday fun.
If your family includes someone with sensory needs, check out our guide to sensitive Santas, too.
Favorite Santas around Seattle and beyond
Swansons Nursery Santa, Ballard
Readers love all the holiday fun at this Northwest Seattle nursery (holiday train, nice quality Christmas trees), but especially the Santa. In a change from recent years, you must book in advance with Bonjour Photography for Swansons photos. Another reader suggests combining a visit to Swansons with a stop for a delicious treat at nearby Larsen’s Bakery (8000 24th Ave. N.W. in Ballard).
Details: Santa photos are available on select dates through Dec. 23. Book online. No walk-ins.
Santa at the Space Needle, Seattle Center
To go with the glassy new Space Needle surroundings, Space Needle Santa has a nifty glass sleigh and professional photographers at the ready to take your free digital photo with him. Santa makes appearances on select dates in November and December; check the schedule online. While you’re at Seattle Center, check out all the free Winterfest fun.
Details: Visiting Santa requires paying admission (pay in advance online or in-person) to the Space Needle.
Northwest African American Museum's Black Santa, Seattle
NAAM's Black Santa will pause his sleigh for one afternoon only this year on Friday, Dec. 23, 3–7 p.m., at Meredith Mathews East Madison YMCA for a free pop-up photo opportunity.
Details: This free event is first-come, first-served, with lines opening at 2:30 p.m. Donations are encouraged.
C-ID Santa at the Wing, Seattle
C-ID Santa will be at the Wing Luke Museum on Saturday, Dec. 3, from noon–3 p.m. Spots fill up quickly so book early. If you miss booking a spot, you can try to snag a walk-up spot, available every half-hour.
Details: A fee of $12 gets you three minutes with Santa and one print of a single pose. Museum admission is not required to visit C-ID Santa.
University Village Santa, Seattle
Choose from different Arthur & Associates Santas at University Village. A reader reports: "The Santas are all awesome and have real beards, and the customer service is great." Follow your photo opp with play time at the covered playground and dinner at popular spots such as Din Tai Fung or The Ram.
Details: Santa is in the house daily, for pretty long stretches, Nov. 25–Dec. 24. Pets are welcome but must be on a leash. See the full schedule online.
Cougar Mountain Zoo Reindeer Festival Santa, Issaquah
At this unique, private zoo in Issaquah, Santa is in his house, and live reindeer (who are zoo residents) are on the grounds. Kids can mail a letter to Santa, sit in his sleigh, hear a story from an elf and visit the other critters, of course.
Details: Santa is at the zoo from Dec. 1–23, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Admission to the zoo is $14.25–$17.25; photos with Santa are an additional charge.
Black Santa at Black Coffee Northwest, Shoreline
Black Santa is ready for his fifth year greeting and meeting local families! Get a printed photo and frame for $15, with proceeds benefitting the shop's step team program.
Details: Pictures with Black Santa Saturdays, Dec.10, 17 and 24, noon–3 p.m. Purchase tickets online.
Bellevue Square Santa
The Santas posing with your crew at Bellevue Square are also from Arthur & Associates; choose from six different popular Santas! After your photo session, stick around to see the street parade spectacular Snowflake Lane show (7 p.m. daily, Nov. 25–Dec. 24) or go ice skating at the Bellevue Downtown Ice Rink (opening for the season Nov. 18).
Details: Santa photos daily Nov. 25–Dec. 24; check hours online.
Redmond Town Center Santa
Get your annual pic with Ol’ Saint Nick at Redmond Town Center, where he’ll be conveniently stationed near Center Court, by Asher Goods and Claire’s.
Details: Santa photos daily Nov. 25–Dec. 24. Book online. Walk-ups accepted, though reservations are highly recommended
The Marketplace at Factoria Santa, Bellevue
Children and their families will enjoy meeting Santa Claus and the Pink Elf while sharing their wish lists and taking free selfies as Santa sits in his regal chair. The Marketplace at Factoria has also invited the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who, for meet-and-greets and free selfie opportunities.
Details: Santa and the Pink Elf will be at Factoria Sundays, Dec. 4, 11 and 18, plus Friday, Dec. 23, noon– p.m. Take your own photos with Santa for free; no pre-registration is required. For your pose with The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who, turn up Saturdays, Dec. 3, 10 and 17, noon–4 p.m. Taking your own photos is free; no pre-registration required.
Kent Station Santa
A reader raves about the Santa at Kent Station: "He takes his time to chat with the kids. The photographer is extremely nice, too." You can bring well-behaved pets on a leash. This year, for one day only, get your photo with Black Santa Chukundi Salisbury, Saturday, Dec. 3, 4–7 p.m. (Book asap for Santa Chukundi as his time slots will fill up quickly!)
Details: This year, find Santa back in his Cozy Cottage in front of the AMC theater, select dates Nov. 26–Dec. 23. Photo packages start at $20. Check the schedule and book your timeslot in advance. Walk-ins accepted.
The Landing Santa, Renton
Share your wish list and take festive holiday photos with Santa at this Renton shopping center. You’ll find Santa in his holiday home next to Trenchers Kitchen & Tap. Hours vary and reservations are required.
Details: Select days, Nov. 25–Dec. 24. Book your session online.
Santa at Issaquah Commons
Bring your letter and book your spot to see Santa at Issaquah Commons. Bring your pooch as well, pets are welcome!
Details: Santa photos daily through Nov. 25–Dec. 24. Book online. Packages start at $42.
Frostival Santa at Kirkland Urban
Stop by Kirkland Urban shopping center on one of four Saturdays to snap your free Santa photo, and enjoy festive music, holiday crafts, "snow" falling and more.
Details: Saturdays, Nov. 26–Dec. 17, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. A digital photo with Santa is free and no reservation is needed.
Village at Totem Lake Santa, Kirkland
Book your reservation with this Santa for $20, then apply that cost toward your package purchase. Packages range in price from $24.95–$49.95, with add-on photo gift items available. Select dates welcome your furry family members to pose with you alongside Santa Paws; Nov. 28, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 are Santa Paws dates, 5–7 p.m.
Details: Appointments available Nov. 25–Dec. 24, book online.
Auburn Community Santa
Santa will be visiting Auburn Community and Events Center for just one day, Saturday, Dec. 10. Sign-up for a time slot to snap your own pictures with the Jolly Old Elf, and enjoy a holiday breakfast and special entertainment.
Details: Saturday, Dec. 10, 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.; $9–$13 per person. Book your reservation by calling 253-931-3043.
Alderwood Mall Santa, 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 Macy’s Center Court daily through Dec. 24. Book online and receive a free phone call from Santa. There are special pet nights, and Dec. 4 features Santa Cares, a sensory-friendly Santa environment for those who prefer it.
Cherry Hill Santas at local malls in Auburn, Tukwila, and Tacoma
Find Cherry Hill Santas at The Outlet Collection in Auburn, Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, and the Tacoma Mall.
Details: Booking in advance is recommended but not required. Dates and hours vary but most run daily through Dec. 24. Packages start at $40.
Santa at North Pole at the Fair, Puyallup
Head to the Washington State Fairgrounds to experience not just Santa, but the whole North Pole. Kids can tour Santa’s house, play in Santa’s Office and Library, visit the Elf Village and more.
Details: Make Santa reservations online, which include entry to North Pole at the Fair. Make sure to read the fine print on the booking page. Book early as many dates are already sold out.
Bass Pro Shop and Cabela’s Santa’s Wonderland, Tacoma and Lacey
Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shop go all out with holiday cheer and offer a free 4x6 photo with Santa.
Details: Daily through Dec. 24. Reservations are required. Reservations are available up to 7 days in advance. Additional photos available for purchase. Find Bass Pro Shop in Tacoma and Cabela’s in Lacey.
Cabela’s Santa’s Wonderland, Tulalip
Find another Cabela’s location in the North Sound. Cabela’s goes all out with its holiday decorations and offers a free printed snapshot with Santa.
Details: Photos available through Dec. 24. Reservations are required. Reservations are available up to 7 days in advance. Additional photos available for purchase.
Santa at Christmas Creek Tree Farm, North Bend
Cut your own tree and visit Santa at the same time — if you come on the right day.
Details: The farm is open for tree cutting starting Nov. 25 this year, and Santa makes his appearance Friday–Sunday, Dec. 2–4. Reserve your spot in advance.
Virtual visit with Santa
Macy’s Santaland at Home, online
In this free virtual experience, kids can tour Santaland at Macy’s Herald Square in New York City. Kids will interact with elves, tour the magical space, play games and end with a virtual chat with Santa. They can even take a selfie with St. Nick. Before beginning the tour, parents can choose a Santa that reflects their family’s cultural background.
Details: No reservation is needed and this online experience is available Nov. 25–Dec. 24.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published many years ago and was updated most recently for 2022. Devon Hammer, Kari Hanson, Elisa Murray and other writers contributed to this report.