Santa in the City: 50 Awesome Santa Activities for NYC Kids

Where to See Santa in New York City, Photos, Brunches, Holiday and Christmas Fun
Splurge on a meal at the Rock Center Cafe for a memorable family treat. Photo courtesy the Rink at Rockefeller Center

Christmas in New York is nothing short of magical. From fabulous holiday windows to dozens of tree lightings, magical seasonal shows, and multiple iterations of The Nutcracker, New York is the place to be during the holiday season. The biggest star of all is, of course, Jolly Old St. Nick. We've rounded up plenty of spots to take a photo with him or even break bread, but have never compiled all the ways you can share a special holiday moment with the big guy...until now. So grab a hot cocoa and read on for 50 awesome Santa experiences to enjoy before he takes flight from the North Pole on Christmas Eve.

As always, be sure to click through to our listings for more details.

1. Watch the city's bravest rescue a stuck Santa at the Annual Santa Rescue at the New York City Fire Museum. FREE to watch the rescue; party entrance is extra and you must purchase tickets in advance.

2. Celebrate an old-fashioned St. Nicholas Day at the Onderdonk House in Queens.


Hop in the snowy express elevator after visiting Santa at Winter Onederland at One World Trade. Photo courtesy of the event

3. Santa's reindeer surely appreciate the sky-high parking (and the view) at the Winter Onederland at One World Trade, where Santa takes requests and poses for one-of-a-kind photos. Other holiday photo ops await, too, including an interactive snow globe, a snowy express elevator to the top, and other wintry scenes!

4. Visit the Village Christmas Fair at the First Presbyterian Church to celebrate the season and nab some facetime with St. Nick.

5. Splurge on a family meal with Santa at Rockefeller Center's Sea Grill or Rock Center Cafe.

6. Book a holiday-card-worthy session with Santa at Big Apple Portraits.

7. Catch a holiday show with the star of the season at the Paley Center, which hosts HolidayTime in PaleyLand with Santa visits on select weekdays and weekends. Classic holiday shows will be screened and Santa will take requests and say cheese.

8. Celebrate all the magical winter holidays at the Willamsbridge Oval Recreation Center Winter Wonderland Party, where Santa will be on hand, along with crafts, games and (of course!) hot cocoa.

9. With apologies to The Rockettes, doesn't everyone visit Radio City to catch Santa doing his best high-kick?

10. The one true Santa (in my kids' eyes anyway) resides at Macy's Santaland. Be sure to book your reservation to meet the big guy in advance!

11. If Santaland isn't extra enough for you, Santa is taking reservations at Stella 34 Trattoria, where you'll get a tasty meal, takeaway treats, and a bit of extra time to share your list, plus an iconic Santaland photo.


The big man himself stops by Winter Village for free photos. Photo by Angelito Jusay for Bryant Park

12. BYOC to Santa's Corner in Bryant Park, where you can snap a free picture the final weekend before the holiday.

13. Visit the Queens Botanical Garden for its annual tree lighting where Santa will be on hand to assist and (most important!) take photos and gift lists!

14. Santa is but one of the elaborately costumed performers in the Cirque Dreams Holidaze playing at the spectacular Kings Theater.

15. Santa leaves his reindeer behind, but brings a horse-drawn carriage to his appearance at the Hudson Yards holiday lighting at the 35th Street Playground.

16. It's no surprise the festively-plump, cookie-loving man in the red suit shows up at the Taste of Christmas Cookie Walk, is it?

17. Grab a gourmet bite and chat with Santa at The Plaza Food Hall.


Join in the fun family event Tea with Eloise and Santa at the Palm Court at the Plaza. Photo courtesy of the Plaza

18. Or share a rawther fancy mealtime with him at The Eloise Boutique's Tea with Santa.

19. Trek to Dyker Heights, Brooklyn to play Santa I-Spy. How many glowing St. Nicks can you spot among the extravagant decorations?


Rolfs, the Gramercy Park Bar and Restaurant, is famous for having the most Christmas decorations of any bar in NYC. Photo courtesy of Rolf's

20. Another spot full of over-the-top decor perfect for Santa spotting? Rolf's restaurant near Gramercy Park.

21. Visit upscale home store ABC Carpet & Home where the jolly man holds court and poses for photos. No pros here; bring your own camera.

22. Enjoy a soulful holiday celebration at the storied Apollo Theater in Harlem, where Santa is on hand for photos and plenty of carols fill the air.


Grab a friend and hit the ice at Bloomingdale's new indoor 'rink.' Photo by Janet Bloom

23. Bloomingdale's mounts its own Santa Experience where the big guy poses and takes requests daily until December 23. While you're there, check out all the other holiday fun including an ice skating rink and VR sleigh ride!

24. You'll be in stitches by the time you meet the big guy if you take in a Elfprov show at the Broadway Comedy Club. Showtime is followed by selfies with Santa, though those laugh-inducing elves have been known to moonlight as photographers, too.

25. Movies Under the Stars goes inside for a screening of Elf at the McCarren Play Center.


Enchanting model trains zip through a display of more than 175 New York landmarks at NYBG, each re-created with bark, leaves, and other natural materials. Photo courtesy of NYBG

26. Spot St. Nick in one of the classic movies screened at the NYBG as part of the festivities surrounding its annual Holiday Train Show.

27. Whether you're two-legged or four, Santa's waiting for you at Brookfield Place. Special needs sessions are also available.

28. Visit an outer-borough mall for a Santa photo op. He's holding court at Bay Plaza, the Bronx; The Queens Center Mall; Kings Plaza in Brooklyn; and the Staten Island Mall.

29. Sinterklass, aka the Dutch Santa, helps light the Lott House tree in Marine Park, Brooklyn.

30. Hop aboard an old-fashioned trolley for a ride through Bay Ridge with Santa.

31. Brooklyn home store Items of Interest offers five-minute mini photo sessions with the big guy.

32. The Brooklyn Museum is turning its grounds into a six-week-long Winterfest where Santa is but one of dozens of festive, fun attractions.

33. Visit the spectacular Church of the Intersession for a reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas, followed by a procession to the grave of the story's author, Clement Clark Moore. An old-fashioned St. Nick leads the way, and there's plenty of goodies and fellowship to share.

34. Sail away with Santa aboard a Spirit Cruise. You'll get kid-friendly eats and time to visit with Jolly Old St. Nick.

35. Dress your daughter and her favorite doll in their holiday best then head to the American Girl Store for a Santa brunch in the on-site cafe.

36. Aviator Sports and Events Center's Santa event has grown so popular, he's hosting a pair of brunches.

37. Sing old-fashioned Christmas carols and see if you can catch a peek of Jolly Old St. Nick at Christmas in Richmond Town.

38. Forget meeting Santa in person. A VR visit is soooooo much cooler at City Point's Arctic Adventure.

39. The Sony Wonder Photo Shop hosts Santa for an Instax photo event. Pets and people are both welcomed to pose.

40. Santa stops by to help light the Fort Greene Park Christmas Tree.

41. Celebrate the holiday season with community org NYSoM and East Harlem Tutorial Program as they host Santa and his crew, including Papa Kwanzaa, the Dreidelator, and Lady New Year for an inclusive holiday party.


Entertainers Skoppa and Skrítla return to Scandinavia House with Iceland’s Santa Claus to introduce the Icelandic advent to NYC kids!  Photo courtesy of the Scandinavia House

42. Celebrate Christmas in Icelandic style with Skoppa, Skirtla, and Iceland's Santa at Scandinavia House.

43. Sing carols along with Santa, then help him countdown to the tree lighting in Washington Square Park.

44. Head to the Staten Island Zoo for a Beastly Feast with Santa, a carousel spin with Chuck the Groundhog, and more seasonal fun.

45. Dumbo's tree lighting wouldn't be complete without a visit to the on-site Santa photo booth.

46. Mrs. Claus joins her husband to dole out candy canes at the Jackie Robinson Recreation Center in Harlem, where Mr. Claus poses for photos.

47. Atlantic Avenue lights its tree with help from St. Nick and offers plenty of other holiday happenings.

48. Pop into The Playroom from Fatherly for loads of free classes, toys to test, and, yes, photos with Santa.

49. Catch a little culture with your Santa visit at Brooklyn's Industry City which has a photo installation from Jesse Rieser documenting all the wacky, weird ways Americans celebrate the holiday. Santa hangs out and poses for pictures on weekends.

50. For the most outrageous, un-PC, question-inducing Santa experience, venture out during SantaCon when twenty-somethings embark on a day-long bar crawl in their classiest Santa attire. The route isn't announced until the night before, but no matter where you go that day, you're likely to run into some especially festive Santas. Don't say we didn't warn you!

Still not enough Santa fun for you? Keep an eye on our packed events calendar, which will be updated continually as we learn of new, fun St. Nick sightings.