Is that the real Santa? How can he be in so many places at once? How does he fit in a chimney? Why does he like to hang out at the mall? Yep, the season of wonder is back (get your answers ready!) and it isn’t complete without a visit with Mr. Claus. Whether you want to sit down for a meal or just get a few quick photos and hear a token ho-ho-ho, there’s something for you if you read on!

photo: Fashion Outlets of Chicago


Fashion Outlets of Chicago
Presented by HGTV, Santa HQ is a thoroughly modern, extraordinarily experiential visit with Santa. The experience invites guests to customize their individual experience by using augmented reality to view Santa’s Workshop and Observatory in magical ways. Visitors can download the Elf-Ray Vision app or use a provided tablet to discover the enchanting world of Santa HQ in stunning 2D or 3D digital scenes. Families can continue their adventure with a custom photo opp and an in-person visit with Santa inside his modernized sleigh.

Nov. 10-Dec. 14; times vary, check website for information
5220 Fashion Outlets Way

Oakbrook Center
Oakbrook Center’s Santa experience is all new this year! Set up in a glass house across from Starbucks, it will feature an interactive activity, snow and a digital countdown to Christmas. Save $5 on photos when you book a Monday-Wednesday through December 9.

Nov. 10-Dec. 24; times vary and reservations are recommended
100 Oakbrook Center (glass pavilion across from Starbucks)
Oak Brook
Reserve online:

bass-pro-santaphoto: Bass Pro Shops

Bass Pro Shops
This is a biggie because at Bass Pro Shops’ Santa’s Wonderland, photos are free and there’s a waiting system that allows you to roam the store instead of standing in line. Santa’s magical Christmas village features rustic cabins, holiday characters, live elves set amongst a dazzling backdrop of snow-covered hills and illuminated trees, remote control trucks, laser/ foam toy arcade, Lincoln Logs building area and much more. Kids can also spend time at one of the activity tables where they can write a letter to Santa, color and do fun crafts, all for free.

Nov. 11-Dec. 24
112 W. Grand Ave.
709 Janes Ave.,
6425 Daniel Burnham Dr.
Portage, IN

Water Tower Place
Let your little elves share their hopes and dreams for the perfect Christmas present at Michigan Avenue’s shopping Mecca. Santa is all ears and will sit for a memorable photo that will look great on holiday cards or your Instagram feed. While you’re there, hit American Girl Place for shopping or tea.


Nov. 17-Dec. 24; times vary and reservations are recommended
835 N. Michigan Ave. (level 7 near Harry Caray’s)
Gold Coast
Reserve online:

Driehaus Museum
Go back in time to the Gilded Age to celebrate the traditions of storytelling and sing-a-longs that spread Christmas magic. The little ones can share their wishes with Santa and participate in art projects, a lively story time and sing-a-longs. Afterwards, the family can gather for a photo in the festive grand ballroom.

December 2, 9 & 16; timed tickets for 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m. & noon
40 E. Erie St.

swissotelphoto: Swissôtel Chicago

Swissôtel Chicago
Hotel guests and the general public alike can tour the 41st-floor Santa Suite, featuring 12 Christmas trees, a table set for Santa Claus and his reindeer, snacks and giveaways.

Starting Dec. 2
323 W. Upper Wacker Dr.
The Loop


Drury Lane Theatre and Conference Center
This venue has a few different options for Santa sit-downs.

Saturdays thru Dec. 23, 11 a.m.
Get into the holiday spirit with an omelette station, donut-making, yogurt and hot chocolate bars and a heartwarming production of A Christmas Carol. Little believers can write handwritten letters that will be sent directly to the big guy in the North Pole.

Dec. 13, 5 p.m.
Experience the magic of Christmas with Santa and a special performance of A Christmas Carol. The fam can enjoy a traditional holiday meal with honey glazed ham, pot roast, creamy mac and cheese and, as a special treat for the kiddos, an ice cream station. Don’t forget to take a pic with the man in red!

Sundays, Nov. 26-Dec. 17, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.,
Extravagant decorations will transport you to a holiday wonderland during Brunch with Santa. Nibble on everything from homemade donuts to hand-carved prime rib. Of course, your extravagant holiday experience wouldn’t be complete without a chat with Santa Claus between bites.

100 Drury Ln.
Oakbrook Terrace

macys-santaphoto: Macy’s on State Street

Macy’s on State Street
Choose your feast — breakfast, lunch or dinner — and grab Santa’s ear. The merriment takes place in Macy’s Narcissus Room.

Dec. 2-23; times vary, see website for details
111 N. State St.
The Loop

Soldier Field
Secure your spot on the nice list by attending Breakfast with Santa. The gang can sit down for a holiday breakfast, decorate cookies and check out the Pocket-Circus performance. If you have creative ones in the family, they can create their own handmade ornaments. They will get the chance to see their ornaments on the Stadium Holiday Tree, and the top three winners get special prizes.

Dec. 2, 10 a.m.
1410 S. Museum Campus Dr.
South Loop
Reservations: 312-235-7063 or email

Spirit of Chicago
Visit Santa on the high seas when you climb aboard the Spirit of Chicago. The Chicago Santa Lunch Cruise will give the kiddos a chance to meet jolly old Saint Nick while the fam enjoys views of the skyline and a buffet lunch. Don’t worry; no one is going to get too frosty, the ship is climate controlled.

Dec. 9, 1:`15 p.m.-3:15 p.m.
600 E. Grand Ave.
Navy Pier
Reservations: 866-273-2469 or online at

Brookfield Zoo
Everyone can munch on a breakfast buffet overflowing with fluffy French toast, crispy bacon, muffins, pastries and so much more. The little ones can strike a pose with Mr. and Mrs. Claus while they boogie to the live music.

Dec. 9, 10, 16 & 17, 9 & 11 a.m.
8400 W 31st St.

cpd-santaphoto: Chicago Park District

Chicago Park District
Sip cocoa, munch on cookies, jump on the inflatables, get crafty and snap a few pics with Santa during Cookies and Coco with Santa at Armour Square.

Dec. 8, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
Armour Square Park
3309 S. Shields Ave.

daley-plaza-santaphoto: City of Chicago

Lambs Farm
Munch on breakfast, and give a big smile to the camera when your kiddo takes photos with Mr. Claus. After the kids have eaten their weight in holiday treats, they can relax with crafts and activities. And don’t forget the important mission of this non-profit: It provides a safe and caring living environment for people with disabilities.

Dec. 9, 10, 16 & 17 seatings at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. & noon
4245 W. Rockland Rd.
Reservations: 847-362-5050

Tavern on Rush
Grab the camera and get ready to snap some pics with Santa. The little ones can have a range of food from cheesy scrambled eggs to chicken fingers and fries to celebrate the holiday season with Mr. Claus.

Dec. 10, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
1031 N. Rush St.
Gold Coast

SafeHouse Chicago
SafeHouse, Chicago’s super secret, spy-themed restaurant, is hosting a spy-cial brunch with the world’s most elusive man, Santa Clause. Junior spies will enjoy top secret reconnaissance missions and a brush past control, which sees them walking away with a special gift.

60 E. Ontario
River North

Where will you visit Santa this year? Let us know in the Comments!

— Maria Chambers