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 to offbeat one-off events where you can take your own festive pics. Remember, we've got lots more more seasonal fun in our NYC Holiday Guide.
Free and Cheap Places to Take Your Own Photos with Santa
ABC Carpet & Home – Union Square
888 Broadway between 18th and 19th Streets
Friday November 23-Saturday, November 24 10 am-3pm; Sunday November 25 11am-3pm; December through Sunday, December 23: Saturdays 10am-3pm and Sundays 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.
Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum – East Flatbush
5816 Clarendon Road near East 59th Street
Saturday, December 1 noon-4pm
$5 for adults, $3 for children under age 10
Celebrate an old-fashioned Christmas at NYC's oldest house with a visit from Santa Claus who arrives with his horse (not reindeer). Other fun on tap includes arts and crafts, colonial music and old-school snacks, all capped off with the lighting of the Christmas tree. Bring your own camera.
Brooklyn Plantology – Canarsie
Foster Avenue at 87th Street
Weekends in December noon-4pm
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 don’t worry if they try to tug his beard off: This guy's facial hair is real! Visit on December 8, 9, 15 or 16 and you'll also catch the Mistletones caroling.
Santa in Central Park – Harlem
Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in Central Park, enter at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues
Sunday, December 2 4:30pm-5:30pm
Old Saint Nick drops by Central Park's Charles A. Dana Center for its annual holiday illumination. Children can meet Santa and take pics at this lovely locale. Admittedly it's usually a little rushed for a great photo op, however, there's going to be a flotilla of 13 trees floating on the Harlem Meer which should make for an awesome seasonal backdrop. Other activities include arts and crafts, live music and hot chocolate. Bring your own camera.
New York City Fire Museum – Hudson Square
278 Spring Street between Hudson and Varick Streets
Sunday, December 9 at 11:30am
$10 for adults, $2 for children under age 12
For an off-the-wall visit with the big red guy, check out the museum's annual Santa Rescue. Old Saint Nick gets stuck on the roof and the firefighters have to get out their hook and ladder to save him. Families can watch the outdoor rescue, and then head inside for a holiday party with hot dogs and hot chocolate for sale, and lively tunes by John Clacher’s Firehouse Band. The highlight is, of course, the kids posing with Santa. Be warned: 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.
SantaCon – Citywide
Various locations. Visit the website for more info.
Saturday, December 15 all day
For a truly wild holiday picture, try posing with one of the marauding Santas of SantaCon when this annual event takes over NYC on Saturday, December 15. Sign up for the event's Twitter feed to find out where they'll be invading but take care: This event is not for families, it's more like a costumed bar crawl. Could make for a great Christmas card though. Take your own camera and your chances!
Ripley's Believe It or Not! – Midtown West
234 West 42nd Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue
December 1-22: Saturdays noon-7pm
Admission: $32.61 for adults, $24.99 for children ages 4-12, but you can buy discounted tickets online. Or bring two new unwrapped toys and save $10 off admission.
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. Bring your own camera so you can snap your own free photos. Prints, key chains, magnets and CDs are also available for purchase.
Department Stores with Photo Packages for Purchase
Macy's Santaland – Midtown West
151 West 34th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, 8th Floor
Daily Friday, November 23-Saturday, December 23; weekdays 9am-9pm, weekends 8am-9pm. On Christmas Eve 7am-4pm
Photo packages are $19-$50
F 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. 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.
Bloomingdale's – Midtown East
1000 Third Avenue at 59th Street
Daily Friday, November 23-Sunday, December 23: weekdays 11am-6pm, weekends 10am-6pm
Photo packages: $21-$45
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.
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. You can even bring the four-legged members of your family: Sunday, December 9 is Pet Photo Night. Swing by to see Santa before Friday, December 14 and save 35% off the Rudolph photo package.
Kings Plaza – Mill Basin
5117 Avenue U at Flatbush Avenue
Daily through Saturday, December 24: Monday-Saturday 11am-9pm; Sunday noon-7pm; Christmas Eve 9am-6pm
Photo packages are $21-$45
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
Daily through Christmas Eve noon-8pm; ends early on Thanksgiving and Christmas
Photo packages: Prices to be determined
See Santa on level D of this enormous Queens shopping center. For extra festive fun, visit on Saturdays when the mall hosts special holiday concerts by local choral and instrumental groups.
The Winter Garden in the World Financial Center – Battery Park City
220 Vesey Street at West Street
Friday, December 7 11am-3pm and 4-8pm; Saturday, December 8 9am-1pm and 2-7pm; Sunday, December 9, 10am-1pm and 2-5pm
Photo packages are $15-$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 Krinlge. 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.
We're still waiting to hear if the South Street Seaport, currently closed due to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, will open up in time for the holidays with its gorgeous Chorus Tree and Santa photos. We will update this post as soon as we find out.