Family Fun: Where to Find the Best Winter Wonderlands and Santa-Centric Events in NY

December 11, 2014

Anyone with kids knows that there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to the sensory wonders of the holiday season. We’ve rounded up some Santa-centric events—from lap-climbing photo-ops to full-on wonderland to brunch with the holiday’s most famous man—that aim to satisfy endless appetites for holiday cheer. We’ve even got a couple for your pets!

macys, santaland, santa village, holiday

macy's santaland Images: Scott McDonough via flickr (top); Lori Florio of My Slice of the Apple (bottom)

Macy’s Santaland: The creative folks behind Macy’s theatrical holiday displays don’t do anything halfway and this 13,000-square-foot North Pole village is no exception, right down to the animatronic reindeer telling snarky jokes. Add an enchanted forest staffed by friendly elves, a train display, a present-laden sleigh and the jolly ol’ guy himself and it adds up to something pretty epic as far as Santaland experiences go. This all goes down on the 8th floor of Macy’s Herald Square through Christmas Eve. Admission is free but photo packages vary in price. A reserve-in-advance express pass will cut your wait time; arrive early in the day and earlier in the season to avoid long lines.

 Shrek and friends at the North Pole Adventure at Westchester’s Ridge Hill mall,  Santa's Village Westchester’s Ridge Hill mallShrek and friends at the North Pole Adventure at Westchester’s Ridge Hill. Image courtesy of the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester 

The DreamWorks North Pole Adventure at Westchester’s Ridge Hill shopping center in Yonkers is more than just your average winter wonderland, it’s a “thrilling hands-on experience unlike any other.” Through December 24th, a cottage lined with interactive LED screens hosts an immersive hunt for Santa accompanied by Shrek and his friends. Passports are issued. There’s mystery, there’s intrigue, and as far as we know, everyone gets out alive–and there’s a private family visit with Santa at the end. And it’s free! Advance reservations are required, and photo (and video) packages are available for purchase.

santas village north pole new york Santa’s Workshop, North Pole NY.

Venture a little further out of town and you’ll find an entire village devoted to all things merry (no passports required). North Pole NY, home of Santa’s workshop, is tucked away in the High Peaks area of New York State’s six million-acre Adirondack Park. A village of lights twinkles while tree-trimming parties, ornament-making workshops, a steam train, a reindeer carousel, bobsleds and, of course, visits from Santa (at breakfast, even!) keep everyone’s spirits bright. Special family packages are offered if you want to make a weekend of it.

santa, rockefeller center, holiday, christmasDine with Santa at Rockefeller Center.

If your city kids are way too cool for a Christmas village, you can, of course, do brunch. With Santa. Yes, Virginia, there are brunches with Santa Claus. Mommy Poppins has rounded up nine opportunities for early- or late-risers to hobnob with the red-suited guy and even meet the missus over breakfast or brunch. The little Eloises among us can even take Tea with Santa at the Plaza Hotel.

santa, cruise, holiday, zephyr Breakfast with Santa aboard the Zephyr.

Still not impressed? How about a visit with Santa on a yacht? A New York Water Taxi breakfast buffet cruise with Santa aboard the Zephyr only costs 35 bucks for kids ($45 for adults) and includes movies, games, a DJ and dancing. Not to be outdone, Spirit Cruises brings you a lunch buffet cruise with Santa at around the same price. Only in New York, kids.

santa, holiday, christmas, pets, staten island Bring the furkids to visit Santa at the Staten Island Mall. Photo: Mike Lawson via flickr.

Crazy cat ladies and deranged doggy dads, get those little bitty Santa hats out and those cameras charged–it’s showtime. Monday (through December 15) is pet day with Santa at the Staten Island Mall. On December 13, from 1 to 4 p.m., all of Petco’s Unleashed shops will offer a photo shoot with Santa for $9.95. Visitors get a 4×6 print inside a festive frame. Proceeds go to its Petco Foundation. And to all a good night.

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