Skip the long lines at the mall and hit up one of these under-the-radar D.C. spots to get your best and brightest pics with Ol’ Saint Nick (or with one of his doppelgangers) and the little ones, too. We promise the memories will be better than any sugar plum fairy dream.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.55.45 PM

Toy Building Santa at the Ellipse
Get the kids over to Santa’s workshop at the Ellipse this holiday season. Take in the sights and sounds and browse the many vendors as you gaze upon the National Tree. Kids can get involved at the workshop and see how Santa and his crew make all the toys each season. Play some games, snag a snapshot with Santa (scoot over when the line is short) and sing some carols with the family for a truly hands-on holiday moment to remember.

When: First three weeks in Dec.
1600 Constitution Ave., N.W. (National Mall)
202-208-1631
Online: thenationaltree.org

Thrill-Seeking Santa at The National Harbor
Keep the spirit of Christmas alive with visits to the National Harbor hanging on the carousel with Santa. If that’s not enough, then prepare to soar with Saint Nick to new heights as you celebrate the season by riding the Capital Wheel while getting a photo or two with the big guy himself. Rides begin on December 6 and go through the month of December. Temperature-controlled gondolas ensure your ride will stay toasty warm as you take in the winter views.

When: Saturdays, 2 pm-4 pm
165 Waterfront St. (National Harbor)
877-628-5427
Online: nationalharbor.com

Hungry, Hungry Santa at Mount Vernon Triangle
Easy peasy is sometimes what it takes to get the job done during this festive time of year. What better way than a family outing to the Mount Vernon Triangle Santa Celebration in Northwest? Have a photo-op at Le Pain Quotidien (433 Mass Avenue) with Kris Kringle and then head over to the free hot chocolate bar with added treats of cookies, fresh popcorn and some tiny morsels for man’s best friend. Le Pain Quotidien is serving up its own piping hot Belgian chocolate and tasty organic treats. It’s a celebration not to miss!

When: Dec. 11, 4:30 pm-8 pm
5th and K Sts., NW (Mount Vernon)
Online: mountvernontriangle.org

Water-Loving Santa in Occoquan
Did you know that Santa leaves the North Pole and heads to historic Occoquan by boat every December? Yes, Virginia, we swear on a stack of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’ books. Tiny tots can crowd along Mamie Davis Park Dock and see Santa arrive by boat this Christmas season. From there he will ride a fire truck down Main Street and make a stop at the Town Hall (you can walk off the holiday cookies in this short trip) for self-done photos and wish list wants with the kiddos.

When: Dec. 6, 12 pm
Historic Occoquan Town Hall
314 Mill St. (Occoquan, Va)
Online: historicoccoquan.com

Where do you go to get your Old St. Nick pics? Tell us in the Comments section below. 

—Victoria Mason