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 for a meal or just get a few quick insta-worthy photos and hear a token ho-ho-ho, there’s something for you if you read on!

photo: TerriC via pixabay


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

Nov. 12-Dec. 24; times vary and online reservations are recommended
100 Oakbrook Center (glass pavilion across from Starbucks), Oak Brook
Reserve online:

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

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. 9-Dec. 24; times vary, check website for information
5220 Fashion Outlets Way, Rosemont

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. 10-Dec. 24
112 W. Grand Ave., Gurnee
709 Janes Ave., Bolingbrook
5225 Prairie Stone Pkwy., Hoffman Estates
(847) 645-0400

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.

Saturday & Sundays, December 8-16; timed tickets for 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m. & noon
40 E. Erie St., Downtown

swissotelphoto: Swissôtel Chicago

Swissôtel Chicago
Hotel guests and the general public alike can tour the 41st-floor Santa Suite, which has a new look and layout for its 5th year in operation. Santa is bringing along traditions from countries around the world including France, Switzerland, the Philippines, Kenya, Peru and more with this year’s theme Christmas Around the World. Visitors will be treated to a letter-writing station for holiday wish lists, face painting and kids crafts, as well as a complimentary hot chocolate bar, holiday cookies, candy and fairy floss, and a cash bar for adults. Guests can step into Santa’s office where he is closely monitoring the weather patterns for Christmas Eve and finalizing his naughty and nice list.

Starting Dec. 1
323 W. Upper Wacker Dr., The Loop

photo: Bruce Mars via


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

Saturdays, Nov. 24, Dec. 1, 8, 15 & 22, 11 a.m.
Experience the magic of Christmas with Santa and a special performance of A Christmas Carol. Stop by our omelette bar, make your own doughnuts, and enjoy the hot chocolate station.  Don’t forget to take a pic with the man in red!

Wednesday, Dec. 12, 5 p.m.
Join in for a special one-night-only event of A Christmas Carol dinner and show. They have something for everyone, from pot roast and turkey and gravy to mac and cheese and an ice cream station. Don’t forget to take a photo with Santa in front of the sparkling 20-foot Christmas tree!

Sundays, Nov. 25-Dec. 23, 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

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. 8, 1:`15 p.m.-3:15 p.m.
600 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier
Reservations: 866-273-2469 or online at

photo: jill111 via pixabay

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. 1-23; times vary, see website for details
111 N. State St., The Loop

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. 8, 9, 15 & 16, 9 & 11 a.m.
8400 W 31st St., Brookfield

Chicago Park District – Vittum Park
Sip cocoa, munch on cookies, jump on the inflatables, get crafty and snag a few selfies with the big guy during Cookies with Santa.

Dec. 8, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Vittum Park, Garfield Ridge
5010 W. 50th St.

Chicago Park District – Seward Park
Enjoy games, dance, art and refreshments while snapping a few pics with Santa.

Dec. 15, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Seward Park
375 W. Elm St., Near North Side

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. 8, 9, 15 & 16 seatings at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. & noon
4245 W. Rockland Rd., Libertyville
Reservations: 847-362-5050

Tavern on Rush
Grab the camera and get ready to snap some pics with Santa. The little ones will be treated to a range of food from silver dollar pancakes to cheesy scrambled eggs to celebrate the holiday season with Mr. Claus. While kids are mugging for the camera, parents can indulge in the crab cake Benedict, stuffed french bread or breakfast pizza.

Sundays, Dec. 10 & 16, 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

Smoke Daddy
Break (monkey) bread with the man in red at a signature Smoke Daddy family-style brunch with the choice of an entree plus unlimited monkey bread, hash browns, bacon, sausage, fruit and pancakes for the whole table. A la carte options are also available.

Dec. 16, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Smoke Daddy
3636 N. Clark St., Wrigley

Remington’s invites guests to mingle with Santa and enjoy prime rib hash with two eggs over easy, peppers, cilantro and chipotle sour cream and lobster deviled eggs with three halves loaded with lobster and lobster oil.

Sun. Dec. 9, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
20 N. Michigan Ave.

— Maria Chambers