Best Places to Take Pictures with Santa in Los Angeles

Only in LA can you paddle with Santa. Photo courtesy of Ventura Harbor Village
Only in LA can you paddle with Santa. Photo courtesy of Ventura Harbor Village

Mall Santa pictures have a special place in many of our hearts at Christmas time, as they join Grandma's mantlepiece alongside the annual school photo. But we're raising Southern California babies here, and that calls for an outside-the-box place to take pictures with Santa. For a real Angeleno Christmas photo, get out those selfie sticks and snap a few pictures with Santa at one of these fun, funky, and totally LA Father Christmas experiences, from surfing Santas to diving Santas to the Santa at Disneyland. That said, some of these Santa events are time sensitive and crowded, so if you find yourself in need of a more typical Santa picture opportunity, we've also included the cream of the mall crop!

For more unique (and free) ways to get out and enjoy LA this holiday season, check out our Guide to Holiday and Christmas Activities in Los Angeles.

Best Santa Pictures in Los Angeles

1. Santa Paddle — Ventura

December 11, 2021
Stand enough Santas up on paddle boards, and you could call it a school of Santas—or maybe a pod? Whatever you call it, the competition for most SoCal Santa gets pretty stiff in Ventura Harbor during the annual Santa Paddle, which is held at 11am this year. FREE

2. Boat Rides with Santa — Dana Point

December 4-5, 2021
An afternoon boat ride aboard the Dana Pride is a fine chance to get the full attention of the man in red. You might even get to see some dolphins along the way; what could be more SoCal?

Pictures with Santa the Los Angeles Way: Underwood Farms 
Visit Santa and baby goats at Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark, photo courtesy of the farm

3. Christmas on the Farm — Moorpark

Saturday & Sunday from November 26 - December 24, 2021
Who loves Santa? Who loves baby goats? Is there anything more lovable than putting the two together? Underwood Farms hosts the man of the hour every weekend at its annual Christmas Tree lot.

4. Holidays at the Inn — Thousand Oaks

December 3 & 4, 10 & 11, 17 & 18 2021
This celebration honors 145 years of the Grand Union Hotel in Thousand Oaks with Lights, music, and historical vignettes. Santa Claus will be making an appearance as well, posing for photos on top of his stagecoach, for a Wild West Santa photo op!

Pictures with Santa the Los Angeles Way: Diving Santa
Look out behind you, Santa!  Photo credit: prweb

5. Santa Diver — Long Beach

December 4 & 5, 2021
Santa dives in among the underwater critters at the Aquarium of the Pacific to bring them some Christmas treats, and guests can pose for photos from the dry side of the glass.

6. The California Great Santa Stroll — Hermosa Beach

December 11, 2021
At Hermosa Beach Pier's Great Santa Stroll, everyone can be Santa, and part of a worldwide competition for the most Santas gathered in one location. The admission price includes a five-piece Santa suit

Pictures with Santa the Los Angeles Way: Surfing Santa

Of course SoCal Santa likes to surf. Photo courtesy of surfingsantacontest.org

7. Surf Santa — Redondo Beach

December 11, 2021
Too obvious? Even if it is, our LA kids need to be photographed with Santa and his surfboard at least once in their lifetimes. Redondo Pier offers its annual opportunity. FREE

8. Santa Brunch at American Girl — Beverly Grove

December 5, 2021
Head to The Grove's American Girl store where Santa will be making a special appearance. Bring your camera and snap a photo of your child, their doll, and the big guy! A delicious brunch is included in the price of admission.

Pictures with Santa the Los Angeles Way: Disneyland Santa
St. Nick is at Disney's California Adventure for Santa's Holiday Visit. Photo by Scott Brinegar/Disneyland Resort

9. Santa at Disneyland — Anaheim

November 12 - December 24, 2021
This is a pretty traditional Santa Claus, and the visit is not remotely free, but what could be more SoCal than hanging with the happiest dude on earth at the happiest place on earth? The King of Christmas can be found at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in California Adventure, where his elves have some outdoor games set up and he takes photos with fans, through Christmas Eve.

10. Holiday Family Faire at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum — Topanga

December 11, 2021
Head to Topanga's Theatricum Botanicum for a unique, only-in-LA Christmas celebration. A live performance of Henry Nilsson's 1970 album The Point by his son Kiefo Nilsson and an 18-piece band with narration by actor John C. Reilly is the centerpiece of the event, but Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there for family photo-ops!

11. Miracle on Main Street — Santa Monica

December 4, 2021
After a year of being socially distanced, the Santa Monica Miracle on Main Street is back with carolers, a tree lighting, and of course, Santa! FREE

Pictures with Santa the Los Angeles Way: Irvina Park Railroad 
Mrs. Calus gives the best hugs (though she's more into elbow bumps this year). Photo courtesy of the Irvine Park Railroad

12. Irvine Park Railroad Christmas Train — Orange

November 26 - December 23, 2021
Irvine Park Railroad is one of our favorite holiday trains, and it's a great place to get your Santa photo. The ride travels through Irvine Park before arriving at the North Pole, where kids can show Santa their wishlist and take pictures. 

13. Hikari - A Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms — Irvine

November 26 - December 23, 2021
Hikari - A Festival of Lights is hosted by Tanaka Farms in Irvine and includes much more than photos with Santa. At the event, you'll also be able to ride a holiday wagon ride, walk through the Gingerbread Forest of lights, and much more.

Pictures with Santa the Los Angeles Way: Skypark Santa 
Take tea with Mrs. Claus, and have breakfast with Santa. Photo courtesy of Skypark at Santa's Village

14. Skypark at Santa's Village — Skyforest

November 17, 2021 - January 2, 2022
Check the website for times Santa and Mrs. Claus are in residence.
One of the quintessential Southern California photo ops with Santa, Skypark at Santa's Village has a few experiences available where you can snap a picture with the big guy in red. From Breakfast with Santa to Tea with Mrs. Claus, you'll be able to get a one-of-a-kind photo.

15. Ski with Santa — Wrightwood

December 19, 2021
Mountain High's annual Santa Sunday offers two equally great options: come to the resort dressed as Santa Claus and get a free lift ticket (with a $20 donation to charity) or just come to the resort to ski with 100 or so Santas all day. Either way, it's a great photo op, with the bonus of a great day on the slopes.

Pictures with Santa the Los Angeles Way: Manhattan Beach 
Smile for posterity! Photo courtesy of the Manhattan Village Mall via Facebook

For the Best Mall Santa Pictures

Sometimes you just want that amazing picture to send grandparents and need to do it fast and easy. That might mean you just want to head to your local mall or playspace. These mall Santas are the cream of the crop and we truly recommend them all. 

16. Manhattan Village — Manhattan Beach

November 19 - December 24, 2021
Santa's Back at the Manhattan Village Mall, where everyone can reserve a time to take photos with the jolly fellow!

17. Santa Visits Winter Wonderland at the Beverly Center — Mid-City

December 12 & 19, 2021
Santa is popping by this Instagramable display of a magical forest, where it's perfect to snap your photo with him.

18. Pretend City— Irvine

December 8, 2021
He's not a mall Santa, but a jolly guy in red at Pretend City is even better! Kids can meet jolly ol' Saint Nick, tell him their holiday wishes, and pose for a photo. Be sure to bring a camera and plenty of energy to enjoy one of our favorite indoor play spaces

19. Lakewood Center — Lakewood

November 29 - December 25, 2021 (except November 25)
If you're in the South Bay, make an appointment at the Lakewood Center for your Santa pictures. He'll be set up at the Center Court near Macy's. Photo packages are available for purchase.

20. Del Amo Fashion Center — Torrance

November 19 - December 24, 2021
Del Amo has a classic Santa photo experience this November and December until Christmas Eve.

21. Santa Monica Place — Santa Monica

November 29 - December 25, 2021 (except November 25)
Santa Monica Place brings back this fantastic Santa experience at the Center Plaza. To reduce touch points, you'll text when you arrive to start your experience with Santa and reservations are recommended to reduce wait time. 

22. Sensory Santa Photos at the Westfield Santa Anita - Arcadia

December 5 & 12, 2021
Meeting Santa can be an overwhelming experience for many children, especially those with different abilities. Autism Speaks is working with the Westfield Santa Anita to offer special "Sensory Santa Photos" for two Sundays in December.

23. Westfield Topanga - Canoga Park

November 17 - December 24, 2021 (except November 25)
Santa will be in the Valley in November and December for free pictures as the Westfield Topanga! Like its sister mall in Arcadia, the Westfield Topanga will have a sensory Santa event on December 5 & 12. FREE

24. Tree Lighting Spectacular at the Sherman Oaks Galleria - Sherman Oaks

December 3, 2021
Santa will b3 at the Sherman Oaks Galleria on Friday, December 3. Photos with the big guy are free! FREE

25. Glendale Galleria - Glendale

November 18 - December 24, 2021 (except November 25)
The Glendale Galleria has photos with Santa from November 18 until Christmas Eve. With the reservation system here, you don't have to spend an hour in line to get a photo. 

And finally, if you're game for an only-in-SoCal holiday photo op without Santa, don't miss Hermosa Beach's annual Sand Snowman Contest!)

Originally published November 28, 2013

Places featured in this article:

Manhattan Beach Hometown Fair
Live Oak Park - 10:00 AM Pick
Annual Pumpkin Festival Cal Poly Pomona
Cal Poly Pomona Pumpkin Festival at AGRIscapes - 8:00 AM
Underwood Family Farms' Annual Fall Harvest Festival
Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark - 9:00 AM
Southeast Asia Day
Aquarium of the Pacific - 9:00 AM
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides