It’s time to take the kids to see Santa, and have their photo taken for a lifetime of happy holiday memories.
Here are the best places to see Santa in all five boroughs of NYC.
Most visits are FREE, including reservations to reduce the time you spend on line. It’s the photos that cost, and some packages start at a Grinch-like $30, which is neither NYC on the cheap or Santa on the cheap.
Unless otherwise noted, visits with Santa are through mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve.
Where to See Santa in Manhattan
Santaland at the World’s Largest Store is a tradition for many New Yorkers and visitors, too.
Santaland is a world of sparkling pine trees, snowflakes, lights and woodland animals. Elves guide the kids through the North Pole Villages,
The Enchanted Forest and over the Rainbow Bridge to where Santa is sitting and waiting.
For the last few years, Macy’s has required a reservation to see Santa. You can make a reservation any time from 30 minutes to five days ahead.
It’s FREE to make a reservation, and also FREE to see Santa. Making a reservation is a good thing, because it minimizes standing on line with fidgety kids.
There’s also anew Santa Express Lane on weekends only, also by reservation.
Reservations were instituted in 2017 to manage the 170,000 visitors who want to spend time with the big man in the red suit.
- Photo package prices are no longer posted on the Macy’s Santaland website.
- Last year photo prices started at $21.
- 34th St. at Herald Square.
Santa is in residence daily, 1pm to 3pm through Christmas Eve. Look for Santa’s Corner in the gravel area just east of Le Carousel. FREE
Santa holds court daily, 10am to 6pm, thorugh Dec. 23, on the on the 6th floor in the holiday section. No reservations are necessary, but avoid visiting between 1pm and 2pm when Santa, the Elves and the rein deer are out to lunch. FREE
While you’re there, check out the new ice skating rink in the basement and The Grinch-themed holiday windows along Lexington Ave.
- FREE to visit Santa.
- Photo packages start at $22
Bring the whole family to drop in and visit Santa at his workshop and pick up some unforgettable Christmas card photos in the process.
Santa’s Broadway Photo Factory is full of whimsical, wonderful, detailed sets and designs for you to chose for a perfectly personal background for a family photo, and a great gift for Grammie and Grampy. Do it soon, and you have time to send it out before 2018 becomes 2019.
- Discount tickets are $16, for multiple dates and times through Dec. 30.
Give your kids a chance to get up close and personal with ol’ Saint Nick himself at Breakfast with Santa. This is a morning meet-and-greet that includes a continental breakfast and the opportunity to pose for photos and present a holiday wish list to the big guy in red. In addition, Elfprov (from the silly minds behind Improv 4 Kids) perform an interactive musical comedy starring Santa’s favorite helpers. For an extra-special holiday treat, go VIP for reserved stage-side seats, priority access to Santa and tasty treats at your table.
- Discount tickets from $12 for multiple dates in December.
Santa is now in residence at Brookfield Place in Lower Manhattan.
Make a free fastpass reservation to avoid long lines from the walk-ins who don’t know about the fastpass.
Visiting him is FREE, but getting photos of your naughty or nice experience is far from free.
In 2019, reservations are being accepted only for weekdays, not weekends.
Also, Brookfield Place no longer posts photo package prices on the Santa’s Winter Wonderand website.
Last year, photos were a Grinch-like $29 and up, including an add-on $10 for digital downloads, which is not NYC on the cheap, so be sure to bring your own camera.
- Daily except Mondays, with the exception of Dec. 24th. Hours are Tuesday – Friday: 12 – 8pm; Saturdays: 10am – 8pm; Sundays: 10am – 6pm; and Monday, Dec 24: 10am – 4pm
- Also, while you are at Brookfield Place, visit the Winter Garden glass atrium for Luminaries, the fantastic light show, also FREE
The Paley Center for Media is NYC’s media museum, founded by Bill Paley, also the founder of CBS, with both FREE and ticketed screenings of TV shows and films year-round.
There are FREE holiday-themed video games and VR experiences, plus an immersive Instagram experience where you can pose in a whimsical Candy Cane Forest, even FREE hot cocoa. Post your pics using the hashtag #PaleyLand.
Santa is on hand on an irregular schedule through Dec. 22 (see list here), and the exhibit continues without him through January 6, 2019. And there are FREE screenings of holiday movies.
- Professional photos are just $10 – same as last year, 2018 – making this the least expensive photo package on our list.
- The Paley Center for Media 25 W. 52nd St
FULL DISCLOSURE –
- NYC on the Cheap editor Evelyn Kanter worked as a news writer and producer for CBS News, and a reporter for WCBS Newsradio 880 in what I like to call “a previous life”. CBS was founded by Bill
Where to See Santa in Brooklyn
Visit Santa daily, through Dec. 24th, on the second floor of this sprawling shopping center, near Best Buy,
Santa is in residents 10am to 8pm daily except Sundays, when he starts at 11am.
Photo packages start at $29.99.
- 5100 Kings Plaza, at Flatbush Avenue, Mill Basin, Brooklyn.
Where to See Santa in Queens
Santa is housed on Level 2 of this sprawling shopping center, in a North Pole “experience” from the folks at HGTV that includes such interactive electronic games as the Naughty-or-Nice Meter.
Photo packages start at $29.99.
- 90-15 Queens Boulevard, between 57th and 59th Avenues.
Where to See Santa in Staten Island
Visit Santa daily, in the center of the mall, near JCPenney.
On Monday evenings, the kids can bring Fido or Fluffy for holiday photos with their pets.
Photo packages start at a Grinch-like $39.99, including digital downloads, same price as last year.
- 2655 Richmond Avenue
Where to See Santa was published originally in 2015 and is updated annually, including for 2019
I’m also the author of several NYC and Hudson Valley guidebooks, including my latest, 100 Things to Do in NYC Before You Die.