Raise your hand if you’ve been suckered into spending way too much money on those holiday photo packages at the mall? Mine’s up. If yours is too, don’t feel bad LOTS of people fall for the Santa visit smoke and mirrors.
What I have learned over the years is that there’s actually quite a few places where your kids can see Santa for free! While you might not get the digitally re-finished fancy pants pictures with the date printed on them, you can definitely take a decent shot with your phone and then touch it up later for free.
Check out some of the options below so you can pick the Santa visit that fits your budget the best. I’ve listed them from cheapest to most expensive.
City of St. Charles (IL) Santa Hut: As far as I can tell, this event is totally FREE! It’s every Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 pm. You take your own pictures with your phone. Check out the link for location and dates.
City of Lombard Lilacia Park Free Santa Visits: On select Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through December you can visit a variety of Christmas icons from Jolly old St. Nick himself to Mrs. Clause and Rudolph. There’s also a magical elf hunt. Again, have the camera on your phone ready to go. Check out the link for location and dates and while you’re there don’t forget to check out the free light display!
Bass Pro Shop/Cabela’s: I’ll admit that when I think of hunting and fishing, I do not usually think of Santa Claus, but someone in the marketing department had this brilliant idea to bring customers into the store for the holiday shopping season! All through December you can visit Santa at any Bass Pro Shop or Cabela’s store for free and take your own photos. Just a head’s up- don’t forget to SIGN UP IN ADVANCE!
PetSmart Pet Photos: Yeah, so this one is mostly for the family pets, but I don’t see why you couldn’t sneak the kids in with the family cat or dog. Photos are free at any PetSmart location, but again, don’t forget to SIGN UP IN ADVANCE!
Park District Events: Unfortunately, many of these events are already sold out, but they are options to keep in mind for next year. In order to get a spot, you pretty much have to register for them back in September/October. Options and cost may vary from park district to park district. Ours is offering: Storytime with Santa at the Sportsplex ($7/per person), Woodland Santa’s Holiday Workshop at Hickory Knolls Nature center ($10/per person), Breakfast with Santa at Pottawatomie Community center ($15/per person)
The Mall: I don’t think most people know this, but you can go to the mall and have your kids sit on Santa’s lap for free, but you’re technically not allowed to take your own picture.
The hyperlink will take you to a site called Santa Magic where you can find a mall Santa near you. I would recommend making a reservation especially as it gets closer to Christmas, on weekends, or on winter break although you can just show up any time. This year I chose the option where you can reserve your spot and decide on a package later. That way if the picture turns out awful, you’re not stuck with a huge picture package.
I Ho, Ho, Ho-pe this information has helped you save some green on your kid’s Santa visit this year.