Smile Time! The City’s Best Places for Santa Photos

Read next

It’s that time of year again. Time to dress the kids in their holiday best (mask included, of course) and head out in search of the cutest Seattle Santa pictures around. Here’s how to plan your annual holiday photo shoot at one of our favorite places, holiday wish list in hand. Say cheese!

photo: The Bellevue Collection

Snowflake Lane Factory: Bellevue Square Santa 
There are more than a few ways to celebrate the holidays on the Eastside this year, and Bellevue Square Santa pictures are just the beginning. Schedule your socially-distanced sit down with the Big Guy at Snowflake Lane Factory on the second level. It's by appointment only, and you can count on Santa wearing a mask and staying socially distant while checking his list. in the evening to enjoy the nightly parade and occasional snow showers that add a touch of magic to the season at Snowflake Lane. If you're able, stop by the Holiday Wishing Tree in center court to pick up a tag and support a local family in need.

Dates: Nov. 26-Dec. 24, 2021
Times: vary
Event details

Redmond Town Center
Your mask won’t hide your smile when your kids get to meet Santa at this favorite spot on the Eastside. You'll find this jolly old elf at Redmond Town Center where he sets up shop in the Center Street Plaza. There are five Santas to choose from this year, each with a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly and a twinkle in his eyes. So pick the Santa (and day) that works best for your family and make your reservation soon.

Insider tip: Psst.. schedule later at night and catch the Redmond Lights while you're there.

Dates: Nov. 26-Dec. 24, 2021
Times: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec. 24, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Event details

Nordstrom Stores
Your annual pilgrimage to see Santa at his ornate shop at the downtown Nordstrom is sill on hold for 2021. But kids can still get a phone call from Santa or a pre-recorded video message from the season's jolliest character to find out which list they're on this year.

photo: Space Needle

Santa Lands on the Loupe
Jolly St. Nick returns to the Space Needle in his all-glass sleigh! Venture out onto the world's first and only revolving glass floor to meet Santa and the Needle’s professional photographers will snap your free digital photo for the ultimate holiday photo op. Here’s when Santa will be at the Space Needle.

Dates: Nov. 26-28, Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19 & 22-24, 2021
Times: noon-6 p.m.
Cost: Included with admission
Event details

Magic at the Market
If a chance to shop for great local products and snag a free Santa photo while you're at it is part of your holiday to-do list, head to Pike Place Market for some holiday Magic. Santa will be under the iconic Market clock taking pictures with visitors before he heads off to help light the tree. Then he'll be back on Dec. 4 & 11 with Crafty in tow (the magical snow monkey, of course) to take more pictures with his fans.

Date: Nov. 27, 2021
Times: 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
Event details

photo: University Village

University Village
In his own cozy cabin near Room & Board, the University Village Santa is a Seattle favorite for a reason. Not only do families get to visit him in a private, cozy cabin that makes kids feel extra special, but parents can sneak off to do some covert holiday shopping while they're there. Schedule time to visit online and plan to arrive with about five minutes to spare before your appointment. While you’re there (and if you’re able) families can give a Winter Wish to a child in need. How? Just pull a tag from a Winter Wish tree (located between Sole Food and Ben Bridge Jeweler). Then return your purchased, unwrapped gift to the house before December 17. 

Dates: Nov. 26-Dec. 24, 2021
Times: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec. 24, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Event details

Swanson’s Nursery
While we’ll all miss Swanson’s amazingly sweet reindeer who love to pose for pictures, families can still find St. Nick at a his cabin in the Cafe building this year. He’ll be waiting to meet your little elves and have a quick convo with your crew before snapping that holiday photo you came for. Families will need to schedule online before heading over. While you're there, enjoy watching the dinosaur train make its rounds and check out the great light displays, including dinosaur Humphrey who looks great in photos. 

Dates: Nov. 20-Dec. 24, 2021
Times: vary
Cost: $44 + tax for printed photos; $54 + tax for digital photos
Event details

Wing Luke Museum
Asian American Santa is back at the Wing Luke Museum for 2021! While he was safe at home last year, he's happy to make his way back to sit with children and put on his best smile. You'll need to schedule photos in advance and things will move quickly (time slots are 3 minutes long!) when you get there. Please remember to bring proof of vaccination for anyone over 12 (negative tests will not be accepted) and masks for anyone over the age of 2. Spots are filling up quickly, so grab yours soon!

Date: Dec. 4, 2021
Time: noon-3 p.m.
Event details

Northwest African American Museum
Black Santa is back and will be safely chatting with kids on December 19 and 20 at the Northwest African American Museum. Reservations will be part of the safety protocols in place, so make yours as soon as information is available. While you're there, be sure to check out this holiday market too. Keep up the joyful tradition this year!

Date & Time: TBD for 2021 (usually the first week in Dec.)
Cost: Free
Event details

Kirkland Urban
All those in favor of pictures with Santa in a snow globe raise your hand. Then head to Kirkland Urban on a Saturday afternoon to snap one starting the weekend after Thanksgiving. That’s when families will find Santa, safely behind a plexiglass window ready to take pictures with your best-dressed kiddos. Our favorite part? Julie from Clown Buggie will also be there to lead kids through a craft and you can score extra pics to post at the holiday-themed selfie station too.

Insider tip: Schedule your photos on Dec. 4 to coincide with Kirkland's Frost Fest for some added festivities.

Dates: Nov. 27, Dec. 4, 11, & 18, 2021
Times: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Cost: Free
Event details

photo: Pacific Place

Holiday Magic Village at Pacific Place
Two Christmas icons will be waiting to greet your kids at this new-this-year interactive display at Pacific Place downtown. Jolly Old St. Nick will be there to greet kids with open arms and a joyful laugh. But so will reformed Christmas bad guy, the Grinch. Schedule your photo online with one of these icons for the perfect holiday remembrance. They take the picture, you find the frame.

Dates: Nov. 18-Dec. 24, 2021
Times: vary
Event details

Alderwood Mall
According to local parents, the Alderwood Mall Santa wins for "most authentic” and we couldn't agree more. They’ve had the same Santa here year after year, which is really convenient for taking those holiday photos as the kids get older (and wiser). And who can resist Santa's awesome and adorable outfits? Book time with this popular Santa online (recommended) or cross your fingers for a walk-up appointment.

Dates: Nov. 18-Dec. 24, 2021
Times: vary
Event details

photo: Rachael Brandon

Issaquah Reindeer Festival
If meeting Santa and seeing his reindeer sounds good to you, reserve your spot to do both at the annual Issaquah Reindeer Festival at Cougar Mountain Zoo. Safety measures are in place at this outdoor activity so families can have face time with the Big Guy in 2021. Picture this: Santa (or Rudolph) sitting atop his festive sleigh while your cute kiddos, dressed in their holiday best, perfect that winning smile. Sounds like a holiday card in the making to us. Be sure to visit with the other animals while you're there too! Although the Reindeer Festival goes through the end of December, Santa will only be there for photos through December 23.

Dates: Dec. 1-23 & 26-30, 2021
Times: Dec. 1-23, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Dec. 26-30, 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Event details

A Victorian Country Christmas
Santa isn't the only thing you'll see when you head south to the Victorian Country Christmas at the state fair grounds. In fact, you and the kids can enjoy more than 500 exhibits decorated to look like Victorian shops with thousands of unique holiday gifts, handcrafted items and great specialty foods items. Professional entertainment is featured on two stages, and kids will flock to Santa’s Village. Why? Because it's where they can have their photos taken with Mr. Claus and send wishes in the Magical Mailbox.

Dates & Times: Dec. 1 & 2, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 3 & 4, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Dec. 5, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Event details

photo: iStock

Find Santa at These Malls
Arthur & Associates, the local photographers behind santaphotos.com are working hard to make Santa photos safe this year. In addition to spots listed above, you can find them at the Commons at Federal Way, Lake Forest Park Town Center, Renton Landing and the Everett Mall. The best part? You can check out photos and schedules of all of the Santas online. Just like online dating, but better! So if you really like the look of Santa Bob, you can book accordingly. And here’s a special note for nostalgic natives: the original Frederick & Nelson Santa displays can be found at Town Center at Lake Forest Park, so if you were one of those kids who had a series of F&N photos lined up at Grandma’s house, here’s your shot at keeping that holiday tradition alive.

Dates: Nov. 27-Dec. 24, 2021
Cost: $42 & up (view package prices online)
Online: santaphotos.com

Special Santa Experiences

Kids can also climb aboard a vintage train car to visit with Old St. Nick. It's a clickety-clack excursion they won't soon forget. Book your ticket on the Yuletide Express that departs weekends from Snoqualmie, November 27 through December 19. It’s an abbreviated train ride (just 25 minutes), but kids will get to see Santa and receive a little gift too. It's ho ho ho awesome! And although the Mt. Rainier Railroad is closed, kids can hop aboard the Polar Express with the Chehalis Centralia Railroad. It's everything your kids love about the movie with the chance to meet Santa at the end. He makes his way through the train car on the trip home, bearing a small gift (you know the one) for all the kids.

For a real adventure, we're talking overnight, put Leavenworth on your winter travel list.  can’t go wrong visiting Santa at the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, where kids can meet his friendly reindeer (and feed them by hand, too!). Reserve your Farm Tour with a side of Santa from November 20 through December 29, 2021. 

—Allison Sutcliffe, Kristina Moy & Erin Cranston

RELATED STORIES: 

Make the Season Bright with Seattle’s Best Holiday Light Displays

Oh Christmas Tree! 10 Places to Cut Down Your Tree This Season

WildLanterns Returns: Your New Insider’s Guide Is Here

10 Can’t-Miss Holiday Attractions in Downtown Seattle

From Sound to Shore: Where to See This Year’s Christmas Ship Festival