We bet your little elves made the nice list this year, so we’ve found 13 fabulous places beyond the mall where they can whisper their wish lists to jolly ol’ St. Nick. From a spectacular seaside village and an idyllic winery to a lively nut farm and a wild animal park, scroll through our slideshow to find the best spots to get face-time with Santa and a priceless photo op this holiday season.

photo: Hotel del Coronado

Holiday Festival at Hotel del Coronado

Join The Del for a merry start to the season! Spend time in Santa’s Village and enjoy a professional ice skating show, carnival games, s’mores on the beach, fireworks, live music, visits and photos with Santa and much more.

Date: Weds., Dec. 6
Time: 4 p.m.
Cost: Varies based on activities; photos with Santa are $15/photo

1500 Orange Ave.
Coronado, Ca 92118
Online: hoteldel.com


photo: Del Mar Village

Santa by the Sea, Del Mar

Santa Claus is coming to town (and he’s bringing the missus!) You’ll love that you can bring-your-own camera for that annual family pic with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Before the big meet and greet, kids can create a wish list (at Santa's workshop), deck out a Mad Hatter fedora, eat (free) holiday treats and listen to live music by the original Dickens Carolers.

Date: Sun., Dec. 3
Time: 3-6 p.m.
Cost: Free

L'Auberge Amphitheater
Camino Del Mar & 15th Street
Del Mar, Ca
Online: santabythesea.com

photo: John Cocozza Photography

Santa Breakfast, Harbor House

Breakfast with Santa sells out fast, so act quickly. Little elves can bring their toy wish list and you get that family portrait. After eating a filling breakfast, there's plenty of holiday fun. From face painting and balloon twisting to an exciting holiday kids' show, your little reindeer are sure to have a good time.

Dates: Dec. 16 & 17
Time: 9-10:30 a.m.
Cost: $25/person

Seaport Village
Harbor House Restaurant
831 W. Harbor Dr.
San Diego, Ca
Reservations required. Contact Holly at 619-738-1627
Online: seaportvillage.com/santa


LEGOLAND's Brick Santa

Do you have a LEGO fanatic in your house? If so, a photo op with the LEGOLAND brick Santa and the reindeer pulling his sleigh will be a super fun option this year. Plus, you're at LEGOLAND! Check out the 30-foot tall LEGO Christmas tree, then head to Heartlake City for the holiday shows and winter wonderland.

Dates: Nov. 18-Jan.1
Cost: Admission to park

1 Legoland Dr.
Carlsbad, Ca
Online: legoland/holidays

photo: Eileen Lapins

Traditional Santa, Seaport Village

Does your family dress-up for that holiday portrait? Let the crew at Seaport Village work their magic. Guess what? There are different Santas on certain days. So personalize your Christmas pic. You'll love his real beard and gold-trimmed glasses and his words will charm even the youngest elf.

Dates: Nov. 18-Dec. 24
Time: Check website, times vary
Cost: $25-$50/photo package

840 W. Harbor Dr.
San Diego, Ca
Online: seaportvillage/traditionalsanta

Santa Breakfast, Bernardo Winery

Wake up, smell the coffee (and have breakfast) with Kris Kringle at Bernardo Winery. There are plenty of pint-sized activities, animals from Wild Wonders, face painting, holiday crafts and cookies to decorate (that you get to take home). Add-in the most important part: face-time with Santa Claus. Get your reservation soon because the tickets go fast.

Dates: Dec. 18-23
Time: 9:30 a.m.-noon
Cost: Presale only––no tickets day of event; $40/adult; $30/child (7-12 years); $10/child (2-6 years); infants free

13330 Paseo Del Verano Norte
San Diego, Ca
Online: bernardowinery/santa

photo: Bates Nut Farm Facebook page

Christmas in the Valley, Bates Nut Farm

Your little helpers will be amazed as Santa arrives by fire truck. Then they get to take a Polar Express ride to visit Old Saint Nick himself. There are also crafts, carols and plenty of holiday fun. Bonus: you can check a few people off your holiday gift list at the cute shops. And if you have a little singing dove in your fam there will be a carol contest too.

Dates: Fri. & Sat., Dec. 8-9
Time: Fri., 3:30-8 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

15954 Woods Valley Rd.
Valley Center, Ca
Online: batesnutfarm.biz/events

photo: Global Winter Wonderland

Global Winter Wonderland Santa

Go big and bold (like the man in red!) at this international winter festival. It's a multi-cultural celebration of holidays around the world (and yep, Santa will be there too). You'll find carnival rides, international food to eat, shopping, crafts, activities and a nice photo op with Santa Claus himself.

Dates: Nov. 19-Jan. 7
Time: Check website, times vary
Cost: $22/adult; $19/child (ages 4-12)

SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm Stadium)
9449 Friars Rd.
San Diego, Ca
Online: globalwonderland.com

photo: San Diego KOA

Santa Breakfast, San Diego KOA

Make your reservations today for a camping trip and breakfast with Santa at the San Diego KOA. Santa will be looking for your pixies to hear their wish lists and for the whole crew to take a happy camper Santa pic. The day before Santa's visit, little elves can decorate gingerbread cookies and eat them with hot cocoa while watching the evening entertainment. This event sells out, so book now.

Dates: Dec. 8-10
Time: All weekend
Cost: $41-$75/day per campsite

San Diego KOA
111 N. 2nd Ave.
Chula Vista, Ca
Online: sandiegoKOA/events

photo: Santee Lakes

Santa at Santee Lakes

It’s a festive winter event. Santa sleds into Santee Lakes bringing snow for sledding (and look-out!) there may be a snowball fight! Your little helpers can ride a pony, pet a goat, make a winter craft and kick it on the carnival rides. Snap a shot with the big guy before the merrymaking begins. Good to know: the line for Santa can be a long wait.

Date: Dec. 11
Time: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: $5/vehicle (small fee for activities & rides)

Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve
9310 Fanita Pkwy
Santee, Ca
Online: santeelakes.com

photo: San Diego Zoo

Jungle Bells, San Diego Zoo

What's cooler than seeing wild animals (in cages of course) at nighttime? Head out to Jungle Bells fun at the San Diego Zoo. Find a seat next to Santa (at his igloo) for that holiday photo op. Little revelers can join the reindeer games and watch the elf trampoline show over at Sydney's Place.

Dates: Dec. 8-Jan.1
Cost: Photo Packages start at $29.99 (plus zoo admission)

San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Dr.
San Diego, Ca
Online: sandiegozoo.org

Santa Breakfast, Safari Park

Santa Claus is coming for breakfast at the Safari Park and would love to take a picture with the whole family. After the snapshot, gather together at the scenic Kilima Point for a hearty breakfast buffet with Santa himself. Stay for the winter festivities and wild animals at the park.

Dates: Dec. 9 &; Dec. 10
Time: 9-10:30 a.m.
Cost: $26.95/adult; $16.95/child; Plus admission to park

San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The Grove
15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd.
Escondido, Ca
Online: sdzsafaripark.org/diningevents

photo: Mirna E. via Yelp

Holiday in the Village, La Mesa

Santa is waiting at this charming festival, so grab your camera and be ready to get that perfect picture for holiday memories. Walk downtown and warm your hands by the firepit, let little ones create some festive crafts and enjoy the sights and sounds of merriment.

Date: Sat., Dec. 9 & Sun., Dec. 10
Santa's Hours: Sat., Noon-9 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Free

La Mesa Blvd.
La Mesa, Ca
Online: lamesa/christmasinthevillage

Where do you go to see Santa? Tell us in the comments below. 

––Nikki Walsh



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