30 places you can bring your kids (or dogs) to get photos with Santa this season

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For many parents, the most anticipated event of the Holiday Season is capturing that magical moment of watching their children sit on Santa’s lap. We’ll wait for hours and hours, keeping our ever growing impatient kids calm by feeding them snacks and threatening to tell them they’ll get coal for Christmas if they don’t settle down. Then, when it’s finally our turn, they break down in tears, afraid of the jolly fat man in the red suit.

There’s always next year, right?

Capture your magical moment of Santa at one of these 30 places. As an added bonus, we threw in a few pet photo options, too.

Santa Photo Experience at SouthPark Mall

4400 Sharon Road

When: Daily through December 24. Times vary by day. Consult Southpark’s website for details.

Cost: Sitting with Santa is free but capturing those memories to go will cost you. Packages start at $24.99.

Good to know: Fast Passes and Skip the Line tickets are available. Bring your pets for their Santa photo op on November 25 from 7-9:00 p.m. Sensory-friendly Caring Santa events take place on December 2 from 9:30-11 a.m. and December 9 from 8:30-10 a.m.

Santa Photo Experience at Concord Mills

8111 Concord Mills Boulevard, Concord

When: Daily through December 24. Times vary by day. Consult Concord Mills’ website for details.

Cost: Sitting with Santa is free with photo packages start at $24.99.

Good to know: Fast Passes and Skip the Line tickets are available.

Photos with Santa at Tinsel Town at Northlake Mall

6801 Northlake Mall Drive

When: Daily through December 24. Times vary by day. Consult Northlake Mall’s website for details.

Cost: Sitting with Santa is free with photo packages start at $24.99.

Good to know: Skip the line with Santa’s Fast Pass. December 2 from 8-11 a.m. is Soothing Santa for those with sensory, physical, and other developmental needs (be sure to reserve your spot in advance).

Santa at Carolina Place Mall

11025 Carolina Place Parkway, Pineville

When: Daily through December 24. Times vary by day. Consult Carolina Place Mall’s website for details.

Cost: Sitting with Santa is free with photo packages start at $39.99.

Good to know: Reservations are encouraged. Pet nights are scheduled on Mondays from 5-8:00 p.m. There’s also PJ days and ugly sweater days.

Santa’s Wonderland at Cabela’s

1000 Cabelas Drive, Fort Mill

When: Daily through December 24. Times vary by day. Consult Cabela’s website for details.

Cost: Free!

Why it’s awesome: Because nothing says Christmas like camouflage and Santa… Only kidding. Cabela’s offers plenty to do while you wait for Santa from games to writing a letter to Santa and activity tables.

Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops

8181 Concord Mills Boulevard, Concord

When: Daily through December 24. Times vary by day. Consult Bass Pro Shops’ website for details.

Cost: Free!

Why it’s awesome: Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops are pretty much one in the same. Expect the same as you would in the previously mentioned Cabela’s listing.

Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway

5555 Concord Parkway South, Concord

When: Thursdays through Sundays from 6-10 p.m. until December 31.

Cost: $25 per car, $50 per van, and $175 per bus.

Why it’s awesome: 3.5 million lights, a chance to drive on the track, a 50-foot Ferris wheel, fire pits, and, of course, Santa!

Santa is in the Village at the Charlotte Christmas Village

7th Street and North Tryon Street

When: The following are for Santa only, not the entire Charlotte Christmas Village. Thanksgiving Day from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Fridays November 23 and December 21 from 12:30-2:30 p.m., Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Sundays from 12-3:00 p.m., and Christmas Eve from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Cost: Free!

Why it’s awesome: The Charlotte Christmas Village is a delicious event for the whole family with local vendors, hearty German-influenced food, live music, and plenty of holiday cheer via local breweries and cideries.

Breakfast with Santa at Coco and the Director

When: November 22 from 7:30-9 a.m.

Cost: $30 gets you a photo with Santa, choice of breakfast sandwich, side of fruit or yogurt, non-alcoholic beverage, and VIP bleacher seating for the Thanksgiving Day Parade (#WorthIt).

Why it’s awesome: If you haven’t been to the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, then you’re missing out.

Holidays at the Garden at Daniel Store Botanical Garden

6500 South New Hope Road, Gastonia

Dates, times and costs: It’s complicated. Starting November 23, a photograph is available with Santa on Mondays through December 17 (you have to buy a photo package). Selfie Santa opportunities are available until December 20. The event itself runs from 5-9 p.m. but Santa is only there from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Oh, and you have to buy an admission ticket. Adults cost $14.95, seniors cost $13.95, and children cost $8.95. Whew!

Why it’s awesome: Over a million lights, caroling, holiday shopping, model trains. Need I say more?

South End Tree Lighting at Atherton Mill + Market

2104 South Boulevard

When: November 24 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Cost: Free!!!

Why it’s awesome: Holiday music, cocoa from Not Just Coffee, hot doughnuts, and live performances to help get your holiday cheer on. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand for a photo opp after they light the tree. After, stop by your favorite South End Brewery in search of your favorite winter warmer.

Good to know: Parking will be mad chaos due to construction. It’s recommended to take the light rail. If drive you must, park at 214 West Tremont or the Design Center Parking Garage at 240 Doggett Street.

Photos with Santa at BLACKLION

10635 Park Road

When: Saturdays November 24 through December 22 from 1-4 p.m. There are select Thursday sessions. Consult their website for details.

Cost: Free!!!

Good to know: This is a BYOC (bring your own camera) event.

Santa’s Bag at the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte

ImaginOn, 300 E. 7th Street

When: November 28 through December 1 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Cost: Free

Good to know: This isn’t necessarily your traditional photo with Santa event. Instead, it’s a store open for those under 12 to buy inexpensive gifts (priced $.50 to $6) for their loved ones. Santa will be on hand for selfie opportunities (read – no photographers present).

Santa at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

4150 Yancey Road

When: November 30 from 4:30-8 p.m. and December 15 from 2-5 p.m.

Cost: Free!

Good to know: This is part of OMB’s Christmas Market. Santa is available for photos during the above select times, but no photographer is available.

Paws with Claus at Bulldog Beer and Wine

1434 Winnifred Street

When: December 1 from 1-4 p.m.

Cost: A $10 donation scores you a digital photo of your pet with the fat man himself.

Why it’s awesome: Because 100% of proceeds go to RescuedMe. Added bonus, the first 50 participants over the age of 21 receive a free drink ticket to help get their Holiday swagger on.

ChristmasVille in Rock Hill

Historic Old Town Rock Hill

When: November 29 – December 1

Cost: Free!

Why it’s awesome: Rock Hill transforms into a Christmas Wonderland with over 70 different events and workshops schedule during the festival like an ice skating rink, gingerbread house competition, photos with Santa, Santa letter writing, and strolling Dickens carolers.

Breakfast with Santa at Harris YMCA

5900 Quail Hollow Road

When: December 1 at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Cost: $12 for members and $15 for non-members

Good to know: Book your tickets in advance!

Candy Cane Hunt and Paws with Claus on the Greenway at Anne Springs Close Greenway

195 Adventure Road, Fort Mill

When: December 1 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The Candy Cane Hunt sessions are at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Pooches can get their photos with Santa from 2-4:00 p.m.

Cost: Tickets are $15 per child ($10 if you’re Greenway member). There’s a suggest $10 donation to Mary Warner Mack Dog Park for Paws with Claus.

Why it’s awesome: Besides that fact that a candy cane hunt sounds amazing? Smores, storytelling, and caroling!

Cookies & Cocoa with Santa at the Metropolitan

1111 Metropolitan Avenue

When: December 1 from 1-4:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

Good to know: Photos with Santa are part of the Met’s Christmas celebration with an outdoor train ride, face painters, balloon artists, and live holiday music. Adults can enjoy nibbles and alcoholic beverages from Met restaurants while the kids nosh on their milk and cookies. There’s also a small market of pop-up vendors.

Cookies with Santa and Carolina Portrait Designs at the Cabarrus Arts Council

65 Union Street, South, Concord

When: December 5 from 3-6 p.m.

Cost: Free!!!

Winter Wednesdays at Waverly

Providence Road and Ardrey Kell Road

When: The first three Wednesdays in December from 5-7:30 p.m.

Cost: Free!!!

Good to know: Santa appears with different characters for added fun. On December 5, he’ll be with Olaf from Frozen; December 12, Anna from Frozen; and December 19, Frosty!

Cookies with Santa at My Gym

5110 Park Road

When: There are two sessions on December 7. The first is from 3:30-5:00 p.m. and the second from 5:30-7:00 p.m.

Cost: The first child is $15 and tag along siblings are $10.

Why it’s awesome: This event is for young kids only (newborn to 10) because big kids can be intimidating.

Ballantyne Village Holiday Spectacular

14825 Ballantyne Village Way

When: December 8 from 12-3:00 p.m.

Cost: Free!!!

Good to know: The first 500 lucky kids receive a free goodie bag.

Breakfast with Santa at Blackfinn

14825 Ballantyne Village Way

When: December 8 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Cost: $10 for children and $15 for adults.

Good to know: Reservations are required. Call (704) 900-6095 or email community@BlackFinnBallantyne.com.

Visit with Santa at the Coalition for Cultural Compassion

5735 East WT Harris Boulevard

When: December 8 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Cost: Free but donations are accepted.

Why it’s awesome: Along with Santa and Mrs. Clause, there’s also hot chocolate and cookies, festive music, and kids’ crafts and activities.

Teddy Bear Tea at the Westin

601 South College Street

When: Weekends in December through December 16 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Cost: Kids under the age of two are free, children are $20, adults are $50, and adults wanting to slam bottomless mimosas to the face while pretending to be responsible parents (no judgment here) are $58.

Why it’s awesome: Besides a private photo session with Santa, cookie decorating, tea sandwiches, and an included Build-a-Bear? A portion of proceeds benefit the Hospitality House of Charlotte. Reservations are highly encouraged. Email stephanie.hunt@westin.com or call 704-335-2103.

Breakfast with Santa at the Matthews Community Center

100 McDowell Street

When: December 8 and 15 with sessions at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.

Cost: $7

Good to know: This event is for ages 2-8 and includes a performance in the theatre and a take home craft.

Magical Morning: A Sensory-Friendly Santa Experience at the NASCAR Hall of Fame

400 East Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard

When: December 9 from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Cost: $15 for the whole family

Good to know: The NASCAR Hall of Fame has teamed up with Autism Charlotte to create a magical Santa experience for families living with autism or other special needs. No loud music, no flashing lights, just a quiet atmosphere to enjoy Santa in. The cost includes crafts and a Christmas movie in the High Octane Theater. Reservations are required.

Holiday Magic at the Arboretum

8008 Providence Road

When: December 15 from 2-5 p.m.

Cost: Free!

Why it’s awesome: There’s also face painting, trackless trains, and horse carriage rides.

Breakfast with Santa at the NASCAR Hall of Fame

400 East Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard

When: December 22 and 23 from 8:30 – 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Cost: $25 for adults and $22 for children ages 3-10. Children 2 and under are free.

Good to know: We did the Easter Bunny Breakfast and Egg Hunt last year, and I can confirm that the Hall of Fame does it up right, y’all! The cost includes breakfast, a picture with Santa, crafts, and games. Plus, each child ticket comes with a same-day complimentary admission to the ice rink on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza. Reservations are required.

This list is long, but I’m sure I missed something. Add your events to the comments below!

Photos: CharlotteFive Archives

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