Great Places to See Santa

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    North Pole

    Photo courtesy of Santa's Workshop, North Pole NY.
    ••• Photo courtesy of Santa's Workshop, North Pole NY.

    Celebrating Christmas away from home? Here's how to create Santa magic for your kids wherever you may be.

    Looking for somewhere magical to see Santa this year? Let's start with a relatively small attraction, in New York State.

    Santa's Workshop, North Pole, NY
    Twelve miles from Lake Placid in the Adirondacks is North Pole, NY, a "workshop village" open in summer and on weekends leading up to Christmas. Santa's village has shops, farm animals, candymakers, glassblowers, puppet shows, talking Christmas tree... Rides include Santa's Sleigh Coaster and Reindeer Carousel.

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    Christmas at Disney World

    ••• photo courtesy of Walt Disney World.

    Starting in mid November, Walt Disney World celebrates Christmas, 1500 trees are put in place, and major annual celebrations get underway. The biggest event happens in the Magic Kingdom, where Mickey has a Very Merry Christmas Party on many nights, and Mickey's Very Merry Parade features a March of the Wooden Soldiers and dancing gingerbread men. 

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    Universal Orlando

    Macy's Holiday Parade. Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.
    ••• Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.

    Christmas at Universal Orlando means wonderful decorations and Grinchmas

     

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    Hershey PA: Christmas Candylane and More

    Photo courtesy of Hershey Entertainment.

    Hershey PA-- aka "Chocolate Town USA"-- serves up a lot of family fun every year for Christmas-time, including opportunities to see Santa. Most notably, the HersheyPark theme park opens up for Christmas Candylane, with more than 1 million twinkling lights, Santa and live reindeer, a Christmas show, giant carousel and other decorated rides.

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    The Polar Express and Other Christmas Trains

    Photos courtesy of the Grand Canyon Railway
    ••• Photo courtesy of the Grand Canyon Railway.

    "The Polar Express" is a beautifully illustrated children's book by Chris Van Allsburg (recently made into a movie-- see links below) about a child's train ride to see Santa at the North Pole. In a number of locations in the US, a family can have a "Polar Express" experience: a real-life train ride for kids, that re-creates the mood and even some events from the classic book.

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    Breckenridge, Colorado: Victorian Holiday Wonderland

    Photo courtesy of Breckenridge Resort Chamber, © Timothy Faust.
    ••• Lighting of Breckenridge, part of Breckenridge’s Victorian Holiday Celebration. Photo courtesy of Breckenridge Resort Chamber, © Timothy Faust.

    Breckenridge is one of Colorado's excellent ski destinations, and is also a quaint town with Victorian architecture that dates back to mining days. Have fun with your kids in the Victorian Christmas atmosphere, with decorated shops on Main Street, A Christmas Carol, lighting of Breckenridge and Santa's arrival in horse-drawn sleigh.

    Visiting at Christmas? Don't forget to set up a special phone call or video from Santa.

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    Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

    ••• photo courtesy of the Williamsburg Inn.

    Colonial Williamsburg is fun throughout the year, with a beautifully restored historic district peopled by real-life actors bringing to life the days just before the American Revolution.
     

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    Holiday Windows in New York

    ••• Holiday Window at Macy's, photo © Heather Cross, About's Guide for New York City for Visitors.

    In New York City, the Christmas spirit gets started with Santa's appearance at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which kicks off the season of Christmas sparkle in NYC.

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    Bethlehem CT: The Christmas Town

    Photo courtesy of Northwest Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau.
    ••• Bethlehem's Christmas cachet's at the Post Office - ready to stamp. Photo courtesy of Northwest Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau.

    Bethlehem -- a pretty place to visit, in Connecticut's Litchfield Hills-- is a small town that makes the most of its name at Christmas time. Each December, thousands of people make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem to mark their Christmas mail with not only the Bethlehem postmark, but also special rubber-stamps known as "cachets". The best time for families to visit is during the Bethlehem Christmas Town Festival, a two-day event in early December. Opening night has a candlelight processional, and arrival of Santa to light a 75-foot Christmas Tree.

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    Santa Claus Indiana

    Santa Claus Parade - photo courtesy of Spencer County Visitors Bureau.
    ••• Santa Claus Parade - photo courtesy of Spencer County Visitors Bureau.
    Santa Claus is a great name for a town, most kids would agree. This town in southern Indiana got its name way back in 1856; by 1935, someone had seen the potential for the place to be a tourist attraction, and "Santa's Candy Castle" was opened, reportedly the first themed attraction in the United States.
     
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    Christmas in Santa Fe, New Mexico

    Santa Fe Plaza Holiday Lights - photo courtesy of Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau.
    ••• Santa Fe Plaza Holiday Lights - photo courtesy of Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau.

    Santa Fe -- with its adobe architecture, and mix of Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American cultures-- is a strikingly beautiful city to explore. At Christmas-time, traditions from these three cultures come together for a unique festive season.

    For starters, there are the "farolitos", the "little lanterns", also called "luminarias": hundreds of glowing lights line walkways and rooftops, each one a small paper bag with a candle set in sand inside. On Christmas Eve the Santa Fe Plaza glows with farolitos.

    A good place for kids to see Santa and his elves is "Christmas at the Palace", with Hispanic, Anglo, and Native American Christmas traditions, carols, story-telling, Matachine dancers, and an appearance by Santa Claus. "The Palace" is the Palace of the Governors, an elegant adobe-style building dating back to the 17th century. Christmas at the Palace dates are typically early in the month.

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    See Santa at Christmas Grottos in London

    Christmas Grotto - photo courtesy of Selfridges.
    ••• Christmas Grotto - photo courtesy of Selfridges.

    It was news to me that kids in the UK see Santa, not at his Workshop, but in his "grotto": grottoes which, some quick googling showed, are not dark and cave-like, phew, but rather are Christmas-y settings with elves, bright lights, decorated trees, etc.

    Apparently the tradition started in Adelaide, Australia, with a "Magic Cave" set up in a department store in 1896, and the practice caught on in British stores. Nowadays, you can find a "Santa's Grotto" at most department stores and shopping centers in the UK. Kids queue up to see Santa and get a little gift. Grottos are not always free; some charge the equivalent of $5 or more (and presumably Father Christmas then gives the kids a nicer little gift.)

    Families ready to grab their winter coats and off-season airfares can have a wonderful London Christmas that includes holiday lights at famous sights, outdoor skating rinks, Winterfest in Hyde Park, caroling, Christmas markets, and generally a good chance to imagine you're back in...MORE Christmas Past where Scrooge and Bob Cratchit walked the Victorian-era streets. London also has a gigantic New Year's Day parade.

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    Santa's Village, White Mountains, New Hampshire

    Places to See Santa - Photo courtesy of Santa's Village, New Hampshire.
    ••• Photo courtesy of Santa's Village.

    This amusement park for little kids is open for the summer season, with Christmas-themed rides like the "Reindeer Coaster" and the "Yule Log Flume Ride": kids can see Santa and and his reindeer even in July. Santa's Village re-opens after Thanksgiving for special weekends leading up to Christmas Eve. Most rides are open; fun includes Christmas carousel, ferries wheel, Santa's Express Train, and visits with Santa. Read more about Santa's Village at Christmas-time; also see summer-time photos at About.com's New England Travel site.