Best Places to Take Pictures with Santa in NYC
When it comes to Santa, my children have been around the block once or twice. They've sat on the laps of just about every Kris Kringle in town, making googly-eyes and whispering sweet nothings into their ears, as if each one were the only true Santa in their hearts, when really, they've got a different one in just about every neighborhood. So you've come to the right place to get the skinny on the fat man.
These days, you can find a Santa ho-ho-ho-ing it up at most holiday happenings in New York City. We've rounded up the best spots to pose with the big red guy, from department stores offering swanky photo packages like Macy's Santaland, to offbeat, one-off events where you can take your own festive pics. You can find more seasonal fun in our NYC Holiday Guide.
Free & Cheap Places to Take Your Own Photos with Santa
ABC Carpet & Home – Union Square
888 Broadway between 18th and 19th Streets
Friday, November 29, and Saturdays, November 30 , December 7, 14 and 21 10am-3pm; Sundays, December 1, 8, 15 and 22 11am-3pm
Visiting Santa at this fancy home goods store is a lavish, Victorian affair with a setting draped in crushed velvet and filled with sumptuous housewares. ABC's Santa has gotten more popular over the last few years, but it's still one of the best places to see Saint Nick with little or no wait. Sometimes your kid even snags a small but stylish ornament as a freebie. The lighting isn't great so bring a camera that works well in low light.
Santa in Central Park – Harlem
Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in Central Park, enter at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues
Thursday, December 5 5:30-6:30pm
Meet Santa and pose for pics at the center's annual holiday lighting. In the past it's been a little crowded for a great photo op with the big red guy, but it's being held on a weekday this year, which may thin the hordes. Even if you don't get a good shot with Santa, the flotilla of 17 illuminated trees floating on the Harlem Meer makes for an awesome seasonal backdrop. Plus you can check out the recently renovated playground nearby. Other activities include crafts, live music and hot chocolate. Bring your own camera.
Santa Brunch and Jingle Bell Parade – Greenpoint
t.b.d. Brooklyn, 224 Franklin Street at Green Street
Saturday, December 7: brunch at 10:30am, parade at 12:30pm
Free for the parade, $10 per person for brunch
Nonprofit community organization Town Square Inc organizes this annual Christmas-themed parade, which kicks off after a Santa brunch. Put on your holiday outfits, Santa hats, elf ears and reindeer antlers and join local families as they march through the streets in honor of the season. Makes for great photo ops! It's a family-friendly alternative to SantaCon (see below), which started out cute but has turned into a messy bar crawl for drunken singletons.
St. Nicholas Day at the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum – East Flatbush
5816 Clarendon Road near East 59th Street
Saturday, December 7 noon-4pm
$5 for adults, $3 for children ages 3-9
Celebrate an old-fashioned Dutch Christmas at NYC's oldest house with a visit from Old St. Nick, who arrives on his horse, not with reindeer. Although Saint Nicholas doesn't look like a traditional Santa, a red-suited guy does show up afterward for photo ops. Other fun on tap includes arts and crafts, colonial music and snacks, and the illumination of the Christmas tree. Bring your own camera.
Brooklyn Plantology – Canarsie
Foster Avenue at 87th Street
Weekends December 7-22 noon-3pm
This giant garden and plant wholesaler welcomes Santa on December weekends. Bring your own camera to snap a photo of your child on his lap, and stick around for face painting or a magic show, depending on the date.
Photos at Santa's Workshop – South Street Seaport
11 Fulton Street at Front Street
Friday-Sunday noon-8pm through Sunday, December 22
You'll find the big red guy tucked away in his workshop, a.k.a. one of the See/Change shipping containers on Fulton Street. Drop by to take your own no-cost pics, and then check out the Christmas tree and the brand-new ice-skating rink.
Santa Rescue at the New York City Fire Museum – Hudson Square
278 Spring Street between Hudson and Varick Streets
Sunday, December 8 at 11:30am
Free to watch the rescue, $10 for adults, $2 for children under age 12 for party and pics
Enjoy an off-the-wall visit with the big red guy as Old Saint Nick gets stuck on the roof and the firefighters get out their hook and ladder to save him. While watching the outdoor rescue is free, you can only take pics with Santa at the indoor holiday party, which also includes lively tunes by John Clacher’s Firehouse Band and snacks for sale. This event is always super crowded so expect a long line and limited face time with Santa. We strongly recommend buying tickets in advance. Bring your own camera.
St. Nicholas Day at the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House – Ridgewood
1820 Flushing Avenue between Onderdonk and Seneca Avenues
Sunday, December 8 noon-4pm
$3 for adults, free for children
The historic Dutch stone house welcomes the jolly old guy to its annual holiday celebration. Bring your camera to snap a photo and stick around for period crafts, treats and live music.
SantaCon – Manhattan
Various locations. Visit the website for more info.
Saturday, December 14 10am-on
For those who dare, posing with one of the marauding Santas of SantaCon can make for a wild pic—or a nasty altercation. This event started off as a kind of Santa version of the Mermaid Parade but it's devolved into a rowdy bar crawl. (My eight-year-old son calls it "drunk Santa day.") That said, I have gotten some fun pics of my kid and alternative looking Santas in the past. So, if you're brave, follow the event via text to find out where they'll be invading or just stop one on the street. Take your own camera and your chances!
Santa also frequently shows up at community Christmas tree lightings so check out our holiday illuminations post for other potential photo ops.
Department Stores & Events with Photo Packages for Purchase
Macy's Santaland – Midtown West
151 West 34th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, 8th Floor
Daily Friday, November 29-Tuesday, December 24; opening times vary by date.
Photo packages are $20-$60
I've taken my son to sit on the lap of NYC's most famous Santa (make that Santas) several times. The famed store mounts an entire North Pole village, with live elves, an enchanted forest featuring animatronic toys and a train display. Yes the line is always long but there is so much to gawk at the kids don't mind the wait (much). And once you finally do make it to the front of the line, there are multiple Santas on duty (all in private rooms so as not to ruin the illusion of one true Saint Nick). Photo packages come with a complimentary Santaland frame. After your visit, catch the delightful Yes, Virginia There Is a Santa Claus musical puppet show for an extra $5 across the floor. Check out our slide show of Macy's Santaland.
Bloomingdale's – Midtown East
1000 Third Avenue at 59th Street
Daily Friday, November 29-Monday, December 23: weekdays 11am-6pm, weekends 10am-6pm
Photo packages: Price TBD
Bloomies has its own Santaland, albeit a much smaller one than Macy's installation. It's up on the eighth floor and we hear there is hardly ever a line.
The Shops at the Plaza – Midtown East
The Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue at 58th Street
Daily Friday, November 29-Tuesday, December 24: Monday-Friday noon-7pm, Saturday 1:30pm-7pm, Sunday noon-6pm, closes at 4pm on Christmas Eve
Photo packages start at $29
Santa sets up a very swanky workshop right next to the pretty and pink Eloise boutique. For an even more memorable visit with the big red guy, considering splurging on a Rawther Fancy Tea with Santa at the Eloise shop.
Ripley's Believe It or Not! – Midtown West
234 West 42nd Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue
November 30-December 21: Saturdays noon-7pm
Admission: $32.61 for adults, $24.99 for children ages 4-12 but you can buy discounted tickets online plus cost of photo package.
The Times Square Odditorium takes a different angle on holiday photo ops: the Reverse Santa Family Photo. Here "Little Santa" sits on your lap. It's definitely different although quite expensive. If you have out-of-town visitors or feel like playing tourist, Ripley's makes for an offbeat seasonal outing. Photo packages start at $13.99, and prints, key chains, magnets and CDs are also available for purchase.
Queens Center Mall – Elmhurst
90-15 Queens Boulevard between 57th and 59th Avenues, Level Three
Daily through Saturday, December 24: Monday-Saturday 11am-8pm, Sunday noon-7pm, Christmas Eve 8am-4pm
Photo packages are $23-$46
Santa meets his young fans in the mall's JCPenney wing, and kids walk away with a small free gift. Save 35% off the Rudolph photo package by buying it in advance online by December 22.
Kings Plaza – Mill Basin
5100 Kings Plaza at Flatbush Avenue, located on the second floor by Old Navy
Daily through Tuesday, December 24: Monday-Saturday 11am-9pm, Sunday noon-7pm, Christmas Eve 9am-5pm
Photo packages are $21-$47
This Brooklyn mall Santa sticks around all season, which gives you ample opportunities to catch him. Plus word is there's rarely a line.
Skyview Center – Flushing
40-24 College Point Boulevard at Roosevelt Avenue
Wednesday-Sunday through December 24: noon-8pm; closed on Thanksgiving and ends at 6pm Christmas Eve
Photo packages: Prices TBD
See Santa on level B of this enormous Queens shopping center.
Santa's Village – Fort Greene
Habana Outpost, 757 Fulton Street between South Oxford Street and South Portland Avenue
Saturday, December 7-Sunday, December 8 11am-4pm
$25 per family
Pose for pics with the big red guy at the popular eco-eatery and then enjoy art projects with Brooklyn Doodles, a complimentary goody bag from My Brooklyn Baby, and a meet and greet with Mrs. Claus, too.
Santa's Winter Garden – Battery Park City
Brookfield Place, 220 Vesey Street at West Street
Friday, December 13-Sunday, December 15, 9am-1:30pm and 3-6pm
Photo packages start at $20
Visit with Santa, reindeer and some lively elves, and then have your picture taken by a professional photographer. All proceeds go to New York Theatre Ballet. This is my favorite place to have my son photographed with Kris Kringle. The setting is beautiful and the Santa has a real twinkle in his eye. Be sure to get there early as the lines are long and they eventually get capped.
Another fun option for Santa shots is to take in a festive brunch or breakfast with the fat man.
Originally published on November 30, 2009