Now that the air has turned cooler and the days have gotten shorter, it means that the holidays will be here faster than you can say “Elf on the Shelf.” The best way to get the yuletide party started? A photo with the big guy in red of course. Thankfully, Santa-spottings are pretty abundant around Los Angeles so if you’re ho-ho-hoping to meet him this year, read on for the best places to get that quintessential pic!

photo: Jenifer Scott

Paley Center For Media
Christmas is in full swing at the Paley Center. Celebrate the joy of the season with complimentary screenings of beloved holiday classics, ornament craft sessions, hot cocoa and (of course) a visit from Santa to round out the merriment. Bring your camera along because this is a great opportunity for parents to take photos themselves, for free (or purchase their high-end photo with a digital file for only $10 = total bargain!) with Santa who hangs out in his beautifully decked-out surroundings each weekend.

Date: Weekends from Nov. 25-Dec. 24
Time: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Free or $10 for digital file
465 North Beverly Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210


photo: Los Angeles Zoo via Facebook

Santa and His Reindeers at the LA Zoo
Sure, you can see Santa in plenty of places (have fun explaining that to the kids!), but there’s only one place in town where you can see Santa and his reindeer.  And that’s the LA Zoo.  You can visit with Santa Claus in a whimsical Santa Village and take pics every weekend. And any time that the zoo is open, you can visit with a reindeer family, including their two babies, in their Reindeer Village home.  In addition to Santa on the weekends, there are a host of other activities, like reindeer keeper talks, holiday crafts, ice-carving demonstrations, Swazzle Holiday Extravaganza puppet shows, seasonal music by the Beverly Belles and a rotating schedule of animals unwrapping gifts all their own.

Date: Weekends from Nov. 18th-Dec. 17th
Time: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cost: Varies depending on photo package
5333 Zoo Dr.
Griffith Park

fillmore-western-railway1photo: Fillmore & Western Railway

Fillmore & Western Railway: North Pole Express
All aboard for a vintage train ride that kids won’t forget for some time. Hop aboard the North Pole Express where the family can really get into the holiday spirit. Come in your pajamas (yes, really do it) and ready for a good time. During your trip, you’ll be visited by the trains elves for a round of Christmas carols and a holiday story all while your little elves enjoy yummy cookies and chocolate milk. Bring your camera as you will have a chance to take photos with Santa at the end of the ride. Be sure to make your reservations early as seats are assigned and sell out.

Date: Dec. 1-Dec. 23
Time: Departure times vary
Cost: Adults are $30, kids 2-12 are $20 and 2 and under are free
364 Main St.

underwoodphoto: Underwood Family Farms

Underwood Family Farms
If you have the chance to combine a visit with Santa with picking that perfect tree and some yummy produce to boot, why not take it? Head out to Underwood Family Farms and it’s all yours. Big Wave Dave provides the top pick of fresh Northwest trees complete with mistletoe, wreaths and all the other holiday fixing. For two weekends only, Santa makes a special appearance at the Underwood Family Farm. Be sure to bring your camera along for this trip. Admission is $6 per person, and you can snap all the pics you like with Santa.

Dates: Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10
Times: 11 a.m-4 p.m.
Cost: $6 per person, children under 2 are free
3370 Sunset Valley Rd.


photo: Malibu Country Mart via Facebook

Malibu Country Mart
You know things are going to be a little bit fancier in the ‘Bu. If a little fancy helps to rev up your feelings of fa-la-la-la-la, take a trip to the Malibu Country Mart, which is transformed for the holiday season with twinkling lights, Christmas trees and a menorah. Because of how jolly his visits tend to be (live reindeer, carolers and much more) it’s probably a good idea to arrive a bit early so your young ones have lots of time to find out if they are on the nice list (or not). There is also great shopping here (win-win!) so you can finish up some of your holiday gifting all while kids play at the playground. By the beach. The way Christmas was meant to be celebrated.

Date: Dec. 9, 16, and 23
Time: noon-4 p.m.
Cost: Free
3835 Cross Creeek Rd.

_m__3735photo: The Grove

The Grove
Smack dab in the middle of the city is a winter wonderland dreams are made of complete with an adorable life-sized gingerbread house fit for Mr. Kringle himself. To say Christmas at the Grove is stunning can be a bit of an understatement so naturally, there can be a wait to see Santa on the weekends. Avoid the lines and make advance reservations online for your tiny tots to see the big man or take your chances and grab a number to be called for your special moment (perfect time to grab a meal or do some shopping while you wait!). And this Santa is worth the wait as many say he’s one of the best in town.  He talks with the kids and makes them feel like he is the real deal, commenting on new glasses or how much they’ve grown! Be sure to take a ride on the trolley while you’re there or walk through the Farmers Market to enjoy all the delightful sights and smells (peppermint latte anyone?) the holidays have to offer.

Date: Now through Dec. 24
Time: Times vary
Cost: Varies depending on photo package
189 The Grove Dr.

The Americana at Brand via Facebook

The Americana at Brand
For more of an East-side feel, this upscale, outdoor shopping center is decked out for the holidays and, like it’s sister establishment The Grove, features a massive tree covered with thousands of twinkling lights. The Santa House here is nothing short of magical and, in fact, will have your darling dreamers seeing visions of more than just sugar plums (make sure they bring their lists so Santa can check it twice!). Also like The Grove, reservations to sit with St. Nick are recommended (he books up fast) but not at all required.

Date: Nov. 17-Dec. 24
Time: Times vary
Cost: Varies depending on photo package
889 Americana Way

photo: Vincent Sandoval

Santa Monica Place
Santa has a lot of work to do toward the end of the year so it makes sense he’d be spending some time seaside (in such beautiful surroundings) before his big night of deliveries. Visit him at the ocean-adjacent Santa Monica Place’s Center Plaza and get that priceless Santa photo and even a commemorative gift! This location also has several fun events like breakfast with Santa on December 2nd from 9 – 10:30 a.m. (RSVP here) and a Holiday Kids Club with fun seasonal activities for your mini-marshmallows to enjoy. Fido feeling left out? Not to worry as you can even bring your pets along for photos on select Wednesdays (Dec 13th an 20th from 5 – 8 p.m). But if you’re just in the market for a plain old Santa snap (reservations available through their website but not required), head on over

Dates: Nov. 18-Dec. 24
Time: Times vary
Cost: Varies depending on photo package
395 Santa Monica Place
Santa Monica

black-santa-3photo: Lucy Nicholson

Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza
If it’s the quintessential mall Santa experience you crave, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza is just the place. In the center of the mall, a little North Pole is carved out just for Santa who’s in town from Thanksgiving weekend through Christmas Eve. Word on the street, however, says that he’s also going to make an appearance at their Holiday Winter Wonderland celebration on December 9th (sledding and snow play inside a mall in Los Angeles? Yes please!) When the wait to see the man of the hour works up an appetite (and you want to look beyond the food court), check out the delicious Mexican fare at Mexicano or local food taken to the next level at Post and Beam.

Date: Now through Dec. 24
Time: Times vary
Cost: Varies depending on photo package
3650 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Baldwin Hills

beverly-centerphoto: Mike Windle/Getty Images

Westfield Century City
In lieu of the traditional long lines, cranky kids and quick pictures, jingle all the way to the Westfield mall in Century City for their Cocoa with Santa event. This intimate and immersive experience includes holiday entertainment, surprise gifts, cocoa (of course), desserts, photo ops, snacks and craft activities for kids of all ages to enjoy. Check out their website to purchase tickets for this very merry opportunity as tickets go on sale soon!

Date: Dec. 9th, 16, and 23
Time: 11:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Cost: To be announced
10250 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Where does your family like to go for your annual wish list declaration? Let us know in the comments your favorite places to meet the big guy!


—LeTania Kirkland Smith & Jenifer Scott