Magical Places to Meet Up with Santa (& Mrs. Claus, Too!)

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The man in red is back in town! Checking his list, once, twice, three times! The season of wonder calls for a visit with Mr. Claus, if only to ensure that you’re off the naughty list for 2021. Whether you want a few Instagram-worthy photos or a quick check-in with the North Pole’s toy manufacturer-in-chief, here’s where to find Santa Claus this holiday season in Chicago. 

AMAZE Light Festival

Santa's Workshop at the AMAZE Light Festival

Rosemont’s Impact Field will sparkle with millions of lights at the inaugural AMAZE Light Festival. Pay a visit to Santa’s Workshop to swirl on the lighted seesaws and decorate with the giant light brights, and then check-in for a photo opp with Santa! Save time for a snow tube ride down the Thrill Hill. Reservations are required at
Through Dec. 23; 9850 Balmoral Ave., Rosemont; Event details

Winter WNDR at the WNDR Museum 

Immerse your family in the magic of the holiday at the multi-sensory, interactive WNDR Museum. Settle into Santa’s interactive light-up sleigh installation and snap a one-of-a-kind photo with Santa, who will be on hand every Sat., 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and every Tues., 4 p.m.-8 p.m.

Through Dec. 21; 1130 W. Monroe, West Loop; Event details. 

Santa at the 900 North Michigan Shops

Santa loves hanging out in his cozy cottage on Level 3 of the 900 North Michigan Shops, and welcomes kids to share their wish lists every day throughout the holiday season. 2021 visits with Santa will be by reservation only, noon-6 p.m. daily. 

Nov. 26-Dec. 24; 900 N. Michigan Ave. (level 3), Mag Mile; Event details.

Photos with Santa at Gallagher Way

As part of Gallagher's Winterland festivities, kids can take photos with Santa in his workshop at the base of the Chicago Cubs' office building. The experience is even open to pets on Sundays.

Nov. 26-Dec. 19; Gallagher Way, 3635 N. Clark St., Lakeview; Event details

Polar Express


THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is a magical re-creation of the classic children’s story led by a cast of talented actors on board a real train. Have your golden tickets ready for the Conductor! Passengers are served hot chocolate and Walkers Shortbread by dancing chefs, enjoy a reading of the classic book by Chris Van Allsburg, and receive the First Gift of Christmas after Santa boards the train to greet families. Performers engage passengers in caroling and fun holiday activities on the heartwarming trip back to the station.

Dates through Dec. 24; 222. S. Canal St., Loop; Event details

Sleigh It with Santa at Water Tower Place

Cap off a day of holiday shopping with a visit with Santa at Chicago's Mag Mile shopping hub. Visits are always free, but you can save 30% on your photos by pre-ordering a package online, where you’ll also receive a coupon for $30 to spend towards Tiny Prints!  

Nov. 19-Dec. 24; 835 N. Michigan Ave. (level 7), Mag Mile. Event details

Lincoln Park Zoo

Meet Santa at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Zoolights

ZooLights returns Sat., Nov. 20, transforming Lincoln Park Zoo into a twinkling winter wonderland. This treasured Chicago holiday tradition illuminates the zoo with dazzling lights and dynamic displays. Santa will be on hand for photo opps through Dec. 23.

Nov. 20-24, 26-30, Dec. 1-23, 26-31, and Jan. 1-2; 4 to 10pm; 2001 N. Clark St, Lincoln Park. Event details.

Santa at Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Santa’s winter wonderland is landing at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago, near the food court, so you can meet the man in red and holiday shop ‘til you drop. Visits with Santa are always free at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago (with photo packages available for purchase) but you’ll need to make a reservation. Choose your experience to capture the magic, socially distant or sit with Santa, who is of course, fully vaccinated. Bonus: Join Santa at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago, Sun., Dec. 5, 8 a.m.-10 a.m., for a sensory-friendly visit with Santa for all ages and abilities, without sensory triggers like lights, music or crowds.

Nov. 18-Dec. 24; 5220 Fashion Outlets Way, Rosemont; Event details. 

Museum of Illusions

Santa Sundays at the Museum of Illusions Chicago 

With over 80 highly Instagram-able exhibits, Chicago’s Museum of Illusions is a magical spot for the entire fam. During the 2021 holiday season, the mind-bending museum is hosting Santa Sundays: From Nov. 28-Dec. 19, 9 a.m.-noon, Santa can be found strolling around the museum’s interactive exhibits for fun photo opps. 

Sundays, Nov. 28-Dec. 19; 25 E. Washington St., Loop. Event details.

Santa Visits at Oakbrook Center

Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa loves shopping at Oakbrook Center when he’s not busy at work in the North Pole. Take a moment to share your wishlist with him at the center’s Lawn, on Level 1. 

Nov. 17-Dec. 24, daily; 100 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook; Event details. 

Swissotel Chicago

Swissotel's Santa Suite

Chicago's Swissotel's 8th Annual Santa Suite and Santa Claus is ready to show off his swanky Chicago pad! Each year the Swissôtel Chicago Presidential Suite is transformed into Santa’s home-away-from-the-Pole for the holiday season. The suite offers sweeping views of the city, where Santa can closely monitor the weather patterns before his busy Christmas Eve and provides a cozy retreat for finalizing his naughty and nice list. This year for the holiday season, Santa is taking a more intimate approach with his planned festivities by offering deluxe accommodations and private experiences. 

323 E Wacker Dr., Loop; Event details

Santa Claus at Bass Pro Shops

Bass Pro Shops is once again offering the Santa’s Wonderland Christmas-themed events including a free 4x6 studio-quality photo with Santa and a free digital video greeting card to share on social media plus free giveaways. Advance reservations are required for all stores. 

Nov. 6-Dec. 24; Locations in Gurnee, Bolingbrook & Hoffman Estates. Event details.

Magical Christmas at Santa’s Village

Begin your holiday season with a drive-thru light show experience at Santa’s Village. Drive through the park and enjoy over 2 million lights synchronized to music plus dazzling displays and meet Santa’s real reindeer. At the end of the route, you’ll have the opportunity to park, take photos with Santa Claus (!!!!), and dig into delicious funnel cakes and hot chocolate.

Select times & dates Nov. 26-Dec. 19; 601 Dundee Ave., West Dundee; Event details. 

Strolling Santa at Six Flags Holiday in the Park

Make merry memories at Six Flags Holiday in the Park! Enjoy twinkling lights, spectacular shows, delicious snacks, and holiday shopping. See if you can spot Santa as he strolls the park with his magical elves. 

Nov. 26-Dec. 10; 1 Great America Pkwy., Gurnee; Event details.

Santa at North Riverside Mall

The magic of the holiday season comes alive with a visit to Santa’s workshop. Santa will be here starting Nov. 13 and will be located in Center Court. A visit with Santa is always free and photo packages are available for purchase.

Through Dec. 24; 7501 W. Cermak Rd., North Riverside; Event details

City of Aurora

Santa at the Gazebo in Aurora

Santa will be visiting Millennium Plaza in Aurora on the first three Saturdays in December. Stop by Santa at the Gazebo and receive a free photo download. On Dec. 4, you'll also be treated to a visit from Mrs. Claus.

Dec. 4, 11 & 18; 21 S. Stolp Ave., Aurora; Event details


Santa at Macy's State Street

Santa is a busy, busy man this time of year, so make a reservation to meet and snap a pic with him at the iconic Macy's State Street. If you can't join in person, set off on an interactive online journey through the North Pole with Santaland At Home, beginning Nov. 26. 

Nov. 5-Dec. 24; Macy's, 111 N. State St., Loop; Event details

Pajama Party with Mrs. Claus at Southlake Mall

Southlake Mall is hosting a kids Pajama Party in the Center Court with special guests including Mrs. Claus and her elves. Mrs. Claus will gather the kids to read holiday books while they enjoy goodies and treats. Campagna Giving Tree will be collecting pajamas for their resident children and giving out $10 gift cards to the first 200 shoppers to be used at one of the food court restaurants. The Hobart YMCA will also be on-site leading a holiday-inspired craft for the children. A dance party featuring holiday tunes will take place in Center Court, as well. 

Dec. 11, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.; Southlake Mall, 2109 Southlake Mall, Merrillville; Event details

— Amy Bizzarri


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