Move over mall Santa—these are the most fun and unique places to see and get your photos with Santa in the Bay Area
While Santa may show up in a lot of places like malls, at our favorite, nearby Christmas tree farms, and at various tree lightings across the Bay Area, if your kid is looking for an extra special place to get some extra time conversing with Santa Claus about which this year’s must-have toy, then this list is for you. From Santa arriving by helicopter, and visits on holiday trains to a breakfast with a view of the San Francisco skyline—here are the best ways to get your gift wish list in front of Santa Claus in the Bay Area.
Where to Have Breakfast with Santa in San Francisco
Breakfast with Santa at the Westin St. Francis
This breakfast buffet includes a traditional American breakfast with a view of the San Francisco skyline, along with holiday crafts for the kids, and, of course, the chance to visit with Santa and have lots of photos taken.
Good to Know: Don't miss San Francisco’s largest Sugar Castle, created by Executive Pastry Chef, Jean-Francois Houdré, displayed in the lobby (next to the Sweet Boutique where baked holiday treats will be available fro purchase including gingerbread "Castle Bites."
Date: Dec. 10
335 Powell St.
Breakfast with Santa at Neiman Marcus
Head to Neiman Marcus to have breakfast with Santa that includes hot chocolate, brioche french toast with whipped cream, scrambled eggs, and more. After, get your photos taken with the big guy. And then after that? Head into the store and shop while the kids are dazed and happy from the morning activities.
Date: Dec. 11
Cost: $65/adults, $55/kids ages 3-12
150 Stockton St.
The Best Places to See Santa in the Bay Area
Glowfari at the Oakland Zoo
Even without the draw of Santa, Glowfari is worth the visit as its one of the best holiday light displays in the Bay Area thanks to the lit-up mile-long journey and larger-than-life animals lit up by lanterns. Make sure to ride the gondola to the Land of Bugs, hop on the Express Train through Winter Wonderland and, the reason you're here, finish the evening with a visit to Santa.
Dates: Glowfari dates are Nov. 11-Jan. 29 but Santa visits are Fri-Sun. in Nov; Nightly Dec. 1-23; 6-9 p.m.
Cost: $24 adults/$20 children
Holiday Lights Train
It’s a true Californian Christmas when Santa is at the beach! St. Nick will join your family aboard this vintage train decorated with thousands of lights. During the 60-minute round trip excursion, you'll experience holiday sing alongs, and, of course, a visit from Santa. And the fun doesn’t stop when the train pulls back into the station. For just $6 you can purchase a pass to take advantage of the attractions and arcade at Neptune’s Kingdom.
Dates: Nov. 25-26, Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-23; Times vary
Cost: $45/adults; $33/kid
Neptune’s Kingdom on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk
400 Beach St.
Christmas in the Park
Santa’s home away from home during the holidays, Christmas in the Park in San Jose’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez, is the heart of downtown San Jose’s holiday celebrations. Santa’s den is located at the north end of the park and the best part? Photos are free and folks are encouraged to bring their own cameras, instead of trying to hide behind a present to snap the moment—we’ve all been there. After visiting Old Saint Nick, get inspired for your own tree with the Enchanted Forest Tree Program—locally-designed Christmas trees and stop by the Jingle Bell Stage for fun, local holiday entertainment.
Good to Know: Want to eat breakfast with Santa? On Dec. 10, you can enjoy a breakfast buffet, craft stations, a photo booth and hours of holiday fun with Santa.
Dates: Nov. 25-Dec. 24; Times vary
101 West Santa Clara St.
Santa Arrives via Helicopter at the Hiller Aviation Museum
Join the West Bay Community Band and sing Christmas carols as you watch Santa arrive via helicopter at 10:00 a.m. He will be available, after, to listen to your kid's Christmas wish list.
Date: Dec. 3, 9:30 a.m.-noon
Cost: Santa's arrival and wish list is free; museum admission fees apply if you want to go to the museum
601 Skyway Rd.
Santa Days at Fioli
Get the family dressed in their holiday best for a visit to the Filoli Historic House and Garden in Woodside. Bring the kids on special days where you can visit with Santa on his golden throne plus score some sweet treats in Woodland Court.
Dates: Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, & 23; 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: $24 & Up
86 Canada Rd.
Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Bay Area. During this always fun holiday celebration, kids get to enjoy seasonal build activities like make your own LEGO stocking, go on a scavenger hunt to spot all the gingerbread houses hidden within the Center, along with enjoying all the sparkling holiday decor throughout the Center. Don't miss the opportunity to take some photos in Santa's sleigh, alongside some epic LEGO-snowmen, the newest character—Gingerbread Man—and warm up in front of the LEGO-fireplace. And when you're ready to dish on your gift wish list, head over to spend some time with the big LEGO-Santa himself (who's surprisingly soft for a LEGO figurine!).
Dates: Dec. 3-Jan. 3
Cost: $24 & Up
870 Great Mall Dr.
Black Santa Holiday Faire
Another opportunity to check off your holiday shopping list and visit with Santa at the same time! Book a VIP Black Santa Experience that includes arts and crafts, a photo with the big guy, a copy of the book, "Santa Clause Is Coming to the Town"—a lyrical interpretation of the classic that takes place in Oakland, CA.
Date: Dec. 10; Times vary
Cost: $25 for the full Santa experience, attending the market is free
Suisun Harbor Theatre
720 Main St.
Cocoa and Cookies with Black Santa
Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa, holiday treats, and meet Santa at La Concordia Wellness Center. You can take your own photos with Santa or there will be some helpful elves on-site to take photos for you so everyone can be in on the fun.
Date: Dec. 11; 1-4 p.m.
1070 Concord Ave. Ste 200
Fairy Winterland at Children’s Fairyland
Children's Fairyland transforms into Fairy Winterland at night throughout the month of Dec. with thousands of lights and all-inclusive mutlti-cultural celebrations including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali and Chinese New Year. This year, look for the culturally-inclusive holiday scavenger hunt, special performances, and of course, free hot cocoa and cider. Black Santa will kick off the Festival of Lights Parade (each kid will receive a treat!) at 6:30 p.m. each night and will visit with children after. Don't forget to drop your "Letter to Santa" in the mailbox at the Chapel of Peace.
Good to Know: If you miss your chance to visit with Santa before Christmas, he'll still be hanging out here before heading back to the North Pole from Dec. 26-30 for the "Thank You, Santa" nights.
Dates: Dec. 16-23; 4-7 p.m.
Cost: $18 for non-members
699 Bellevue Ave.