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 or special needs, check out our guide to sensitive Santas, too.
Favorite Seattle Santas
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 (N.W. 80th St. and 24th Ave. N.W. in Ballard).
Details: Santa photos 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, the Awesome Lego exhibit or PacSci's hands-on hockey exhibit.
Details: Visiting Santa requires paying admission (pay in advance online or in-person) to the Space Needle.
Hot Tip: Pick up a BOGO Space Needle admission in ParentMap's December issue! Purchase one adult ticket and get another adult ticket or two youth tickets free!
Black Santa at Northwest African American Museum, Seattle
Black Santa is holding Zoom meetings with families this year, and your family can sign up for a time slot to have a virtual visit with him. After your visit, snap a photo at the virtual photo booth. Register for a session Saturday–Sunday, Dec. 18–19.
Details: Saturday, Dec. 18, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 19, 2–6 p.m.; $20 per family
Asian American Santa at the Wing, Seattle
Asian American Santa will be at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience on Saturday, Dec. 4, noon–3 p.m. Spots fill up quickly so book early. There'll be walk-up spots every half-hour if you want to try your luck.
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 Santa.
University Village Santas, 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. 26–Dec. 24. Pets are welcome but must be on a leash. See the full schedule online.
Holiday Magic Village Santa at Pacific Place, Seattle
Seattle's downtown shopping center, Pacific Place, unveils a whole new interactive Santa set this year where you can not only get photo with Santa, but the Grinch as well! You know, if you're feeling grumpy about the holidays.
Details: Advance reservations required. Photo packages start at $50. Open select days, Nov. 18–Dec. 24.
Favorite Eastside Santas
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–$17; photos with Santa are an additional charge.
Bellevue Square Santa
The Santas at Bellevue Square are also another Arthur & Associates Santa; choose from six Santas! After a photo session, go see the Snowflake Lane show (starts at 7 p.m. daily) or go ice skating at Bellevue Downtown Ice Rink.
Details: Santa photos daily Nov. 26–Dec. 24; check hours online.
Redmond Town Center Santa
Vist Ol' St. Nick at Redmond Town Center, conveniently located near Starbucks. Plan your visit during one of the Arts Without Barriers live concerts for an extra dose of holiday cheer.
Details: Santa photos daily through Nov. 26–Dec. 24. Book online. Walk-ups accepted.
Factoria Marketplace Santa, Bellevue
A reader reported a few years ago, "I almost don't want to share as there is never a line, never pressure to purchase and several places for a family meal afterwards."
Details: Daily through Nov. 26–Dec. 24. Note that hours listed are subject to change. Walk-ups only. Photo packages are available for purchase.
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 Christmas tree cutting starting Nov. 26 this year, and Santa makes his appearance Friday–Saturday, Dec. 4–5. Reserve your spot in advance.
The Landing Santa, Renton
Book your timeslot or try your luck as a walk-in to Santa's holiday home at the Landing.
Details: Located next to Trenchers Kitchen & Tap on select days, Nov. 26–Dec. 24. Book online, walk-ins accepted as well.
Issaquah Commons Santa
Bring your letter and book your spot to see Santa at Issaquah Commons. Check out the schedule for special dates for pets, sensory needs and Ugly Sweater Day.
Details: Santa photos daily through Nov. 26–Dec. 24. Book online. Walk-ups accepted. Packages start at $40.
Frost Fest Santa at Kirkland Urban
Come down to the Kirkland Urban shopping center on one of 4 Saturdays for not just Santa pictures, but also festive music, holiday crafts, "snow" falling and more.
Details: Saturdays, Nov. 27–Dec. 18, 11 a.m.–2 p.m., A digital photo with Santa is free and no reservation is required.
Favorite South King County and South Sound Santas
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. They allow you to take your own picture." You can bring well-behaved pets on a leash.
Details: This year, find Santa inside the vacant space next to Gentle Dental (near Panera) on select dates through Dec. 23. Photo packages start at $20. Check the schedule and book your timeslot in advance. Walk-ins accepted.
Auburn Community Santa
Santa will be visiting Auburn Community and Events Center for just one day, Saturday, Dec. 11. Sign-up for a timeslot to snap your own pictures with the Jolly Old Elf, and enjoy some drinks and cookies. Kids can also look forward to receiving a goodie bag containing prizes and a holiday craft.
Details: Saturday, Dec. 11, 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.; $20–$25 for a sitting of up to 6 people; $30–$38 for 7 or more people. Book your reservation by calling 253-931-3043.
North Pole at the Fair Santa, 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 the North Pole at the Fair. Make sure to read the fine print on the booking page. Book early as a lot of 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 their holiday decor 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.
Cherry Hill Santas at local malls in Auburn, Tukwila, Tacoma and Olympia
Find Cherry Hill Santas at The Outlet Collection Seattle in Auburn, Westfield Southcenter in Tukwila, Tacoma Mall and Capital Mall in Olympia.
Details: Booking in advance is recommended but not required. Dates and hours vary but most run daily through Dec. 24. Packages start at $40.
Favorite North Sound Santas
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 Macy's Center Court daily through Dec. 24. Book online to save some waiting time, but neither reservations nor a photo package purchase are required to visit Santa.
Lake Forest Park Town Center Santa
This community shopping center hosts Arthur & Associates Santas posing for photos with your crew, now through Dec. 24 (closed on Thanksgiving Day).
Details: Book your session online.
Cabela's Santa's Wonderland, Tulalip
Find another Cabela's location in the North Sound. Cabela's goes all out with its holiday decor and offers 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.
Virtual visits 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. 26–Dec. 24.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2014 and updated for 2021. Devon Hammer contributed to this report.