Editor’s Note: As of press time, some in-person Santa events were still planned in Chicago. Please check with each location prior to a visit and it’s recommended you pre-schedule appointments due to popularity, and necessity in some cases.

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 a few quick Instagram-worthy photos and hear a token ho-ho-ho or are more comfortable with a virtual gab session, we’ll tell you where Santa’s sleigh is parked for the season.

photo: Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Contactless Santa at Fashion Outlets of Chicago
Typically the Fashion Outlets of Chicago sets up a modern version of a visit with Santa that utilizes digital tools to offer a uniquely magical experience. With COVID, they’ve taken a set back and simplified the experience to make it safer for families. Santa will be located near the Food Court and visits are always free with photo packages available for purchase. Santa and his elves have made every effort to provide a memorable and contact-free experience.

Nov. 20-Dec. 24; 5220 Fashion Outlets Way, Rosemont. Event details. 

Virtual Santa Visits at Oakbrook Center
Ho! Ho! Ho! Make this holiday magical with a virtual visit to the North Pole. Enjoy pre-visit entertainment, storytime with The Clauses or have Santa make a pre-recorded personalized message.

Nov. 14-Jan. 7, daily; 100 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook. Event details

photo: Water Tower Place

Sleigh It at Water Tower Place
“Fly” Santa’s sleigh and discover a virtual reality experience at Water Tower Place that captures the holiday spirit. While you’re there, hit American Girl Place for shopping or a meal. If you’re not comfortable with the in-person experience, schedule a virtual visit with Santa and his team.

Nov. 20-Dec. 24; 835 N. Michigan Ave. (level 7), Mag Mile. Event details

Contactless Claus at Bass Pro Shops
This is a biggie because at Bass Pro Shops’ dazzling Santa’s Wonderland, photos are free and there’s a reservation system that allows you to get in and out without standing in line. Kids can mail their letters to Santa and take home a free holiday craft activity kit.

Nov. 7-Dec. 24; Locations in Gurnee, Bolingbrook & Hoffman Estates. Event details

photo: Santa’s Village

Magical Christmas at Santa’s Village
Santa’s Village will host a COVID-friendly experience that includes a 15-minute visit with Santa for up to 6 people in his mobile house, a reindeer encounter where you can take a photo in the selfie station, hot cocoa and smores by the warmth of a firepit and a Christmas lights show enjoyed at picnic-table seating.

Nov. 21, 27 & Dec. 22; 601 Dundee Ave., West Dundee. Event details

Santa’s Workshop at Wilder Mansion
A holiday store just for kids! Santa’s Secret Workshop is a special place just for children where they can purchase inexpensive holiday gifts for those they love.

Dec. 4-6; 211 S. Prospect Ave, Elmhurst. Event details

swissotelphoto: Swissôtel Chicago

Elf Decorated Room at Swissôtel Chicago
Santa’s certified elves are at it again, spreading holiday cheer for all to enjoy! Created for the special holiday traveler (or staycationer), sleep like Santa in your very own luxurious holiday decorated room.

Nov. 21-Jan. 3; 323 W. Upper Wacker Dr., Loop. Event details.

— Maria Chambers

Featured photo: TerriC via Pixabay

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