He’s making a list and checking it twice––so go find out if your kiddo has been naughty or nice. We’ve found 17 spots where your eager elf can whisper his/her wish list to the big guy in red. Added bonus: you’ll get a festive photo of your kids with Santa. From Coronado Ferry Landing to Little Italy and the Garden of Lights, read on for where to track down St. Nick across San Diego.

photo: Westfield UTC

Westfield UTC
Santa sets his sleigh down near the Pottery Barn, so head on over. Also, dash in and dash out by making a reservation ahead of time. When done with your holiday pics, stop by the playground so your little snow angels can run around. Finally, it’s time to get that holiday shopping in!

Dates: Nov. 9-Dec. 24; closed Nov. 22

4545 La Jolla Village Dr.
San Diego, CA 92122
Online: westfield.com/utc/holiday

Westfield North County
Happy holidays with Santa and his crew are found center court on the first level near Nordstrom. Also, you can reserve a spot ahead of time. Or find the sensory-friendly Santa meet and greet (in partnership with Autism Society San Diego) on Sun., Dec. 2, from 8-10 a.m. (RSVP required). One last special, Dec. 6 is ugly sweater day. If you wear one you get a discount on your Santa photos.

Dates: Nov. 16-Dec. 24; closed Nov. 22


272 East Via Rancho Pkwy.
Escondido, CA 92025
Online: westfield.com/northcounty/holiday

The Shoppes at Carlsbad
We may not get snow in San Diego, but we have plenty of Santa sightings in town. Find Santa waiting on the lower level near Macy’s Court. Pictures are available to purchase. Also, sign-up for a fast pass and skip the line!

Dates: Nov. 23-Dec. 23; Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Dec. 24, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

2525 El Camino Real
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Online: theshoppesatcarlsbad.com

photo: Rachel Cobb/San Diego Botanic Garden

Garden of Lights Festival
From holiday crafts and a real snow hill to photos with Santa and horse-drawn wagon rides, you’re sure to get great pics at this brightly lit festival. Likewise, find Santa’s gazebo where your little elf can read their wish list and take a nice picture. Then, it’s off to the snow hill!

Dates: December 1-23, 5-8:30 p.m.
Cost: $18/adult; $5/youth (3-17 years old)

San Diego Botanic Gardens
230 Quail Gardens Dr.
Encinitas, CA
Online: sdbgarden.org/lights

Kringle Mingle
Cardiff-by-the-Sea welcomes you to a free festive fete that joins the community. Join in for the photos with Santa and kid favorite songs and music. Sip on a cup of warm savory soup and chow down scrumptious holiday treats. You’ll find hot coffee for you and hot chocolate for the kiddos. For the big finale, wait for the tree to light up at 5 p.m.

Dates: Dec. 2, photos with Santa from 1-4 p.m.

Cardiff Towne Center
North Courtyard
Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007
Online: cardiff101.com/kringlemingle

Fashion Valley
Ready, set, smile! Grab the crew and take a family photo with Santa. You’ll find him by Macy’s. Reserve online and avoid the wait time. Also, on Dec. 2 and Dec. 9 Fashion Valley makes Santa Photos easier for those with special needs with caring Santa. Even more, on Nov. 18 bring your furry friends for pet photos with Santa from 6-8 p.m.

Dates: Nov. 9-Dec. 24

7007 Friars Road
San Diego, CA 92108
Online: simon.com/fashionvalley/santa

photo: Mike Arney via Unsplash

Parkway Plaza
A magical time for your little snow angel to visit with Santa and share their wish list. And for parents? Capture holiday memories with Santa at the Food Court. Try the fast pass and skip the line.

Dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 24; Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; closed Nov. 22

415 Parkway Plaza
El Cajon, CA 92020

Carlsbad Premium Outlets
Ho, ho, ho. Forget the North Pole and sleigh over to the Santa set in center court (near the Gap and Tommy Hilfiger) to take a pic with old St. Nick. Even more, set the date and time online with their fastpass.

Good to know: Santa takes a reindeer break every day from 12:30-1:45 p.m. and 4:30-5:45 p.m.

Dates: Nov. 16-Dec. 28; hours vary check website

5620 Paseo del Norte, Ste. 100
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Online: premiumoutlets.com/santa

Seaport Village
Perfect professional photos of your little tykes with Mr. Claus are taken at the east village gazebo by Buster’s. Secondly, there are different Santas on different days, so pick your favorite. All little ones get a special treat after their meeting with St. Nick.

Dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 24; Weds.-Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Seaport Village
849 West Harbor Dr.
San Diego, CA 92101
Online: seaportvillage.com/traditional-santa

photo: mliu92 via cc

Cape Rey Carlsbad by Hilton
Pop in for the annual open house and pictures with Mr. Clause himself. This free event includes a tree lighting ceremony, kids activity room (including cookie decoration!) and at 6 p.m. photos with Santa begin.

Dates: Nov. 30, 5:30-8 p.m.

1 Ponto Rd.
Carlsbad, CA 92011
Online: caperey.com/holidays

Las Americas Premium Outlets
Kick off the holidays and get your Santa photos done early. Who knows? They could even work as holiday cards. Further, there will be crafts, entertainment and shopping, ending with the lighting of a thirty-five-foot tree.

Dates: Nov. 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

4211 Camino de la Plaza
San Diego, CA 92173
Online: premiumoutlets.com

Grossmont Center
Dash into Santa’s hut for that special photo-op. Let your little ones tell Santa what’s on their list. You can book an appointment or just show up. Pics available for purchase.

Dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 24; Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Grossmont Center
5500 Grossmont Center Dr.
La Mesa, CA 91942
Online: grossmontcenter.com/santa

photo: Tim Mosshold via Unsplash

Little Italy
Little elves can chat up Santa and take a photo starting at 4 p.m. Old St. Nick will be listening to kids’ Christmas wishes in his living room on India St. until 6 p.m. Even more, you’ll find festive décor, seasonal vendors, live music, horse carriage rides, holiday treats and a tree lighting.

Dates: Sat., Dec. 1, 4-6 p.m. to visit with Santa. Tree lighting is at 6:30 p.m.

Piazza della Famiglia
India St.
San Diego, CA 92101
Online: littleitalysd.com/events

Liberty Station
Take a pic with St. Nick then stay for the bands and carolers. Salute the holiday season with Liberty Station. Do a little dance, sing a holiday song and let the littles get their wiggles out. Pictures with the big guy are in the North Promenade!

Dates: Each Sat., Dec. 1-22; 5-8 p.m.

2848 Dewey Rd
San Diego, CA 92106
Online: libertystation.com/events

Westfield Mission Valley
Santa and his elves have set up shop in the courtyard near the Yardhouse. You’ll find him surrounded by lush greenery, twinkling lights, hand-crafted art and vintage toys. Reserve a spot early.

Dates: Nov. 16-Dec. 24; closed Nov. 22

1640 Camino Del Rio North
San Diego, CA 92108
Online: westfield.com/missionvalley

photo: Coronado Ferry Landing

Coronado Ferry Landing
Greet Santa as he docks with the 3:20 p.m. ferry! Better yet, ride the ferry from San Diego to Coronado with Santa and his elves at 3 p.m. Stay for a visit and a pic, the holiday crafts, face painting, jumpers, hot chocolate, cookies and snow! Free event.

Dates: Dec. 7, 2-7 p.m.

1201 First St.
Coronado, CA 92118
Online: coronadoferrylanding.com/events

Westfield Plaza Bonita
Santa is hanging out daily on Level 1 in the JC Penney Court. However, he does take cookie breaks at unspecified times so you may want to call in advance to make sure you’re there when he is. On the other hand, you can make a reservation and walk right in!

Dates: Nov. 16-Dec. 24; Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.; closed Nov. 22

3030 Plaza Bonita Rd.
National City, CA 91950
Online: westfield.com/plazabonita

Featured photo: Bailiwick Studios via Flickr

––Kate Dillon & Nikki Walsh


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