Dress your kids in their holiday best and get the bribes ready—it’s time to saddle up to the big guy in red. To help make the Santa photo process as easy (and tear free) as possible, we’ve rounded up the city’s top spots for pictures and dished on the extras. Scroll down to find out where to take your well-dressed kid crew for Instagram-worthy pics this season.
The Ultimate Santa: Downtown Nordstrom
If you grew up around the Seattle area, chances are you and your siblings had photos taken with the Frederick and Nelson’s Santa, and remember waiting impatiently in line, dressed to the nines while you drank in all the magic and splendor of Santa’s Workshop. For the current generation of kids, Nordstrom has captured this magic – and then some. Yes, the wait is still long—getting there early in the day and season is highly advised—but now the downtown Nordstrom has a multitude of rotating Santas on the schedule, including an African-American Santa, an Asian-American Santa and a Santa that knows ASL (American Sign Language). And once again, you won't have to wait outside in the cold to see the big guy in red. Just leave your cell number with the elves and you'll receive a text alert when it's time to enter. Once inside Santa's Lane, there will be a wait time of approximately an hour, but at least your toes will be warm and toasty!
For special needs kids or large groups, Santa can meet up with you in a private room, away from the hubbub. If any of these preferences sound good to you, be sure to call Santa Lane at 206-628-1000 and follow Nordstrom Downtown Seattle on Twitter or Facebook for additional details, including wait times and diversity Santa hours. (Or call him up if your kiddo just needs to hear Santa’s kind voice).
Good to Know: In addition to Santa at the Downtown Seattle Nordstrom (pictured above), kids can visit him (with much shorter wait times) at the Nordstrom stores at Bellevue Square, Westfield Southcenter and Tacoma Mall. All photo packages will be mailed to you once completed. Psst! If you want them mailed before Christmas, make sure to visit Santa by Dec. 17, 2018.
Dates: Nov. 23–Dec. 24, 2018
Times: View this year's schedule on Facebook
Cost: Last year's photo packages ranged from $22 to $87. 2018 prices TBD.
500 Pine St. (on the corner of 6th & Pine)
Seattle, WA 98101
Step Inside Santa’s House: University Village
In his own cozy cabin near Sephora, the University Village Santa definitely draws crowds, so plan your visit accordingly. There are many Santas to choose from, although all have real beards and sit on a big green chair. Furry friends are also encouraged to join your human babies on Mondays, with a portion of the sales benefiting Seattle Humane. University Village is a popular spot for Santa, so your best bet is to plan your visit on a weekday. But regardless of when you visit, you can take home your printed or digital photos when you leave.
Good to Know: One family is invited into Santa’s cabin at a time, allowing children quality, one-on-one time with Santa.
Dates: Nov. 23–Dec. 24, 2018
Times: Nov. 23-Dec. 6, Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 7-23, 9 a.m.- 9 p.m., daily. Dec. 24, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: $23.95 to $65 (electronic images also available)
2623 N.E. University Village St.
Seattle, WA 98105
Make Snow with Santa: Snowflake Lane Factory at The Bellevue Collection
This year, you and your little elves can experience the magic of Santa and Snowflake Lane at the Bellevue Collection's brand-new Snowflake Lane Factory. Combing the best of both worlds, a trip through the Snowflake Lane Factory will not only give you access to Santa’s adorable new workshop and plenty of one-on-one time with the big guy in red himself, but the opportunity to help make the snow that falls every night along Snowflake Lane. If you're looking to experience the magic of the holidays with Santa and Snowflake Lane, this is the Santa for you!
Good to Know: Be sure to bring along a penny and take home a memory from Santa's souvenir factory penny press. The Snowflake Lane nightly parade includes dazzling lights, delightful holiday music, holiday characters, toy drummers and dancers and falling snow at 7 p.m. from Nov. 23 through Dec. 24. The parade travels between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square from N.E. 4th to N.E. 8th Streets. View the parade route here.
Dates: November 23-Dec. 24, 2018
Times: Pictures will take place during Bellevue Square's holiday hours. View hours and schedules of all the Santas here.
Cost: $26.95 & up
Bellevue Square – Second Level Center Court
575 Bellevue Square
Bellevue, WA 98004
Visit Space Santa at the Top of the Space Needle
Blast off to Santa Planet this holiday season and visit the Number One Elf at the top of the newly remodeled Space Needle. Santa will be landing his super-sleek all new glass sleigh on The Loupe (the world’s first revolving glass floor!) starting on Friday, Nov. 23, just in time to hear your little Earthlings’ wish lists and let them check out his awesome (and shiny) Santa spacesuit. This Santa is out of this world!
Dates & Times: Nov 23-25, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec 1, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec 2 , 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Dec 8-9, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec 15-16, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec 21-24, 2018, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Professional digital download of your Santa photo is free; a trip to the top of the Needle starts at $22.50. (Psst...buy your tickets online and avoid the lines).
400 Broad St.
Seattle, WA 98109
Santa Without Tears: Westfield Southcenter Mall
Santa with a real beard and lots of holiday cheer will arrive at his beautiful Santa set (designed by Westfield and brought to life by Warner Brothers Studios in 2015) at Westfield Southcenter on Nov. 9, 2018. Conveniently located on the main level, this Santa pulls out all the stops to bring his biggest fans special events throughout the holiday season. View this year's events online.
Good to Know: Skip the lines by reserving your time with Santa online before you visit. In addition to a dedicated time with the big guy in red, each online reservation will also receive an exclusive e-book, I Can't Wait To Visit Santa. Psst...book your time with Santa on select Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays in November or December and take advantage of $5 off your picture package. Book your reservation here.
Dates: Nov. 9–Dec. 24, 2018
Times: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., noon-6 p.m.
Cost: $39.99 to $49.99. View packages online.
2800 Southcenter Mall
Seattle, WA 98188
Reindeer Games: Swansons Reindeer Festival
In addition to (or in lieu of) visiting with the Swansons Santa on weekends starting Nov. 17, 2018, don’t forget about the real workhorses of the holiday season: his reindeer! They like their photos taken, too and at the Reindeer Festival at Swansons Nursery in Ballard you can visit with Dasher and Blitzen. Informal meet and greets happen Mon.-Fri. at 11 a.m. and on weekends at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Psst...on Dec. 24 at 2 p.m. you can wish the animals "Bon Voyage" as they go off to help Santa!
Good to Know: Swansons Nursery will once again be offering the Santa photo website scheduler, so you don’t have to wait in line to see the big man in red. Check the website for more info.
Dates: Reindeer Festival, Nov. 10–Dec. 24; Santa pictures, Nov. 17-18, 23-25 & 30 and Dec. 1-2, 7-9, 14-16 & 21-23, 2018
Cost: Photo packages with Santa start at $24.95; reindeer photos are free (BYOC). A digital photo can be added to any package for a fee. View photo packages and prices online.
9701 15th Ave. N.W.
Seattle, WA 98117
Special Black Santa Visits: Northwest African American Museum
Swing by the Northwest African American Museum in December to get your pic taken with Santa. Whether you’re a kid or a kid-at-heart, Santa will listen to your holiday wishes and check his list twice to make sure you’ve been good this year. Expect lots of arts and crafts, hot cocoa and cider and even a movie screening, to keep those wiggle worms busy while they wait.
Dates: Dec. 9, 15 & 16, 2018
Times: 11:30 a.m.
Cost: $10/sitting fee for 4 people; $15/sitting fee for 5 or more people. Sitting fee includes one 4x6 print with additional prints available to order directly from the photographer.
2300 S. Massachusetts St.
Seattle, WA 98144
Up, Up and Away Santa: Museum of Flight
Make sure to touch down at The Museum of Flight on December 15 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., where you can catch Mr. and Mrs. Claus as they arrive from the skies (no reindeer required for this flight). Photo ops with the dynamic duo, including ample time for reciting wish lists, will also be available. Plus, various musicians including the Boeing Concert Orchestra and the Boeing Concert Band will be there to rock the holiday spirit.
Date & Time: Dec. 15, 2018 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Cost: Outdoor activities free; indoor activities free with Museum admission or membership. BYOC (bring your own camera).
9404 E. Marginal Way S.
Seattle, WA 98108
Holiday Wonderland: Redmond Town Center
The Santa at Redmond Town Center sets up shop in the Center Street Plaza, where kids and their beloved pet can sit with the jolly ol' fella in red. Mondays are pet photo days, so bring your fur babies along for the shoot. Or take advantage of the Quiet Hours on Wednesdays (Nov. 28 and Dec. 5 & 12) where families with special needs kids can take advantage of a less stressful, quieter environment. There are four Santas to choose from this year, so pick your day and time and head on over. Photos are all digital, so you get to take them home with you right away. And while you're there, visit the holiday carousel, take a ride on the holiday train, twirl around the outdoor ice skating rink and enjoy live holiday music that will surely delight and impress your little elves. Sounds like the perfect way to round out your holiday season to us!
Holiday Extras: Santa story times will take place at Brick & Mortar Books (next to the Gap) on select Tuesdays (Nov. 27 and Dec. 4 & 11) from 9:45 a.m.-10 a.m. Come back to hear a new holiday favorite each week.
Dates: Nov. 23–Dec. 24, 2018
Times: Varies. View times online
Cost: $26.95 & up
7525 166th Ave. N.E.
Redmond, WA 98052
Sing-Along Santa: Pacific Place
You’ll find Jolly Old St. Nick, perched in his oversized ornament chair on the 2nd floor of Pacific Place, starting on Nov. 23 through Christmas Eve. Come for the nightly Big Screen Sing-Along; then get ready to take pics with your well-dressed kidlet. Look for special themed nights to bring even more magic to your holiday season and plan to bring your furry kids to Santa's special Paws with Claus event on Dec. 12 from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. On Dec. 2 from 10 a.m.-11 a.m., families of children with special needs are also invited to visit with Santa in a private, sensory-friendly environment on Level 2 before the shopping plaza opens. Register for your complimentary ticket to Santa Cares here. Note: Professional photographs will be taken and available for sale during the event.
Holiday Extra: Every child who visits with Santa from Nov. 23-Dec. 24 will receive a free cupcake or macaron from Trophy Cupcakes.
Dates: Nov. 23-Dec. 24, 2018
Times: Varies. Check website for hours.
Cost: $24.99 to $49.99
600 Pine St.
Seattle, Wa 98101
A Victorian Country Santa: Washington State Fair Events Center
When you visit Santa’s Village at the 31st annual A Victorian Country Christmas Festival, you can rest assured there will be plenty to do! Start with your Santa pics, that include both print and a digital images. Then, wander the grounds in search of the carousel, Santa Tram and the horse-drawn sleigh. Or jump in Santa's Jump Zone provided by Springfree Trampoline on your way to mailing Santa a letter in his North Pole express mailbox. Our only advice, other than making a day of it, is to take those pictures first, so your sidekick doesn’t have to worry about keeping his or her brand-new Santa pic outfit from getting rumpled.
Good to Know: Don’t forget to snag tickets to the event online to save some dough (they range in price from $8-$12 and kids under 5 are free). Not sure if you’ll make it down? Tickets will be on sale at the gates too, for a few dollars more. Psst...bring some cash because they don’t take cards or checks at the gates.
Dates: Nov. 28-Dec. 2, 2018
Santa Times: Wed. & Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $25 (includes eight photos and a digital image)
Washington State Fair & Events Center
110 9th Ave. S.W.
Puyallup, WA 98371
Most Authentic Santa: Alderwood Mall
According to local parents, the Alderwood Mall Santa wins for "most authentic” and we couldn't agree more. They’ve had the same Santa here year after year, which is really convenient for taking those holiday photos as the kids get older (and wiser). And who can resist Santa's awesome and adorable outfits?
Good to Know: Once again, you can skip the lines by reserving your time with Santa. In addition to a speedy visit with the big guy in red, you'll save $5 when you book a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday session before Dec. 6. If you're looking for some holiday picture inspiration, a number of special event days are planned this year (think: Ugly Sweater Day, Grandparents Day and Holiday PJ Day).
Dates: Nov. 9-Dec. 24, 2018
Times: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Sun., noon-6 p.m.
Cost: $39.99 to $49.99
3000 184th St. S.W.
Lynnwood, WA 98037
Seeing is Believing: Macy’s SantaLand
Santa Claus makes his home on the 2nd floor of the downtown Seattle Macy’s, complete with everything you’d expect: elves, an enchanted holiday wonderland and a special place to mail your Santa letters. Macy’s would not publicly comment on whether there was more than one Santa, if their Santa has a real beard or if they have any ethnic or multilingual Santas on the schedule…so you’ll just have to see for yourself. We were told, “Officially, there is only one Santa.” (David Sedaris’ famous SantaLand Diaries comes to mind here).
Good to Know: Believers of all ages are invited to drop off letters - stamped and addressed to Santa at the North Pole - at any Macy's store Santa Mail letterbox.
Dates: Nov. 23–Dec. 24, 2018
Times: Varies. View schedule online.
Cost: An assortment of digital photography packages are available starting at $20.99 and will be ready to take home immediately.
1601 Third Ave.
Seattle, WA 98101
Santa Outside the Box: Wing Luke Museum
For a Santa photo you might not find on everyone else’s mantle this holiday season, head to The Wing Luke Museum on Dec. 3, 2018 from noon-3 p.m. An Asian-American Santa will be visiting the Museum that day, coinciding with the Museum's local artist craft fair and trunk shows, to help you get your holiday shopping started on the right foot. There will be a photographer on-site to snap a photo with your little elves and the photo is only $6 if you are a member of the museum. Non-member photos are $12 for the first photo, with additional photos available for purchase the day of.
Good to Know: Before your visit, RSVP for a Santa time online. Your reservation includes time with Santa, one photo print of a single family pose and access to light refreshments, music and games in the Community Hall 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Date: Dec. 1, 2018 from noon-3 p.m.
Cost: $6 to $12
719 S. King St.
Seattle, WA 98104
Online Santa: Portable North Pole
Has the tree been chosen and decorated, the stockings hung, the presents purchased and the cookies baked (and eaten), and you just plain ran out of time to say cheese with St Nick? Don’t you cry and don’t you pout, because thanks to the internet, Santa can be wherever you are! The folks at Portable North Pole have created a festive and fun way to customize a personal message from Santa to your kiddos, including their name, age and what they’ve been especially good (or bad!) at in the past year. Blow their little minds when they see photos of themselves in the video—a guaranteed way to keep them nice for the whole next year.
Cost: Three minute videos are free; longer personalized videos, letters or phone calls from Santa start at $4.99. Get the unlimited pre-season pass here.
All Around Santa: Santaphotos.com
Arthur & Associates, the local photographers behind santaphotos.com are everywhere you want Santa to be. The website lists dozens of locations---from Bellevue Square to the Commons at Federal Way to The Town Center at Lake Forest Park and Everett Mall. The best part? You can check out photos and schedules of all of the Santas online. Just like online dating, but better! So if you really like the look of Santa Bob, you can book accordingly. And here’s a special note for nostalgic natives: the original Frederick & Nelson Santa displays can be found at Town Center at Lake Forest Park, so if you were one of those kids who had a series of F&N photos lined up at Grandma’s house, here’s your shot at keeping that holiday tradition alive.
Dates: Nov. 23-Dec. 24, 2018
Cost: $26.95 & up (view package prices online)
—Kristina Moy, Allison Sutcliffe & Erin Cranston
Featured image courtesy of The Museum of Flight.