There’s been a flurry of Santa sightings all over Palm Beach County.
Everyone is fully embracing this holiday season, and who could blame them? After two years of COVID-19, we need some frivolity! Santa does too. He and his helpers want to see as many local children as possible between now and Christmas Eve, so we found out his schedule.
But is it safe?
Rachelle Crain says yes.
Crain has been welcoming shoppers to the Mall at Wellington Green for 16 years. As the director of marketing, she had a birds-eye view of the pandemic’s effect on shopping habits, and she says we can celebrate the holidays with confidence and joy.
“We’ve been delighted to see shoppers come back to the mall, and we want to help them reestablish some holiday traditions,” she said.
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According to Crain, recent mall events have been really well attended. The mood has been upbeat and festive. She expects the Ice Palace where Santa sits to be especially popular this year, but she understands that some parents might still be a little nervous about having their children so close to a stranger, even if it is Santa.
“We want everyone to feel comfortable,” Crain said. “But from about 18 months to 2½, you never know how they’re going to respond.”
Don't want to sit on Santa's lap, or worried it's too busy? The elves have you covered
Lots of families have a photo of the child reacting badly to the big hairy man in the red suit. Fear of strangers is normal at that age. But kids don’t have to sit on Santa’s lap. There’s a chair where youngsters can cozy up next to the jolly man but still feel autonomous. Some older children might feel too grown-up to sit on Santa, but not too grown-up to stop believing.
Wellington Green also hosts a special “Sensory Santa” time — as most malls do — where the lights and music are turned down and the mood is a little calmer. This gives kids who may get overstimulated by bright lights and loud music time to savor St. Nick.
“We really try to respect everyone’s wishes,” Crain said.
Santas are specially trained and screened, Crain said. “We take the responsibility very seriously, as does Santa. I think it shows in the quality of the photos. One of my favorite things to do is to watch the kids visiting Santa,” Crain said. That sweet interaction makes her heart smile. Crain also enjoys pet photo night because pets are even more unpredictable than children.
“We see a lot of repeat customers for pet photos,” Crain said. Pet photos will be offered on two nights – but no reptiles please. Crain said they did have a pot-bellied pig and a tiny little white mouse one year, but mostly it's dogs and cats.
Local commercial and municipal venues county-wide are amping up the decorations this year, and Wellington Green’s Ice Palace is no exception. “We spent months preparing for this,” Crain said. “The Santa set is really magical.”
There’s a light show and falling snow, and it’s a great place for a family photo with or without Santa. Crain says that her team worked hard to get every store and kiosk involved and to provide stores with the support they need. Bringing people back to the mall is not just good for the mall, it’s good for the community, she says.
“The stage is set. We’re ready for you.”
Santa locations in Palm Beach County
So where is Santa?
COVID-19 protocols on queuing in line are largely in the past, but good manners are still in style. Although walk-ups are welcomed, reservations are the name of the Santa game this year. Local malls are still the best place to see Santa. Most use www.whereissanta.com to schedule visits.
Here’s a guide to mall Santa sightings throughout Palm Beach County:
Gardens Mall Santa
3101 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens; www.thegardensmall.com or 561-775-7750
Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick is at his throne in Santa’s Enchanted Garden in the Grand Court where you can capture the holiday magic with Photos with Santa during mall hours through Dec. 24. Photo reservations are encouraged at www.thegardensmall.com. Walk-ups are welcomed. On weekends, the holiday stilt walkers appear from 1 to 4 p.m.
After their photos, kids get a gold coin that can be used in the Kids Holiday Shop to buy a gift for family or friends. The shop’s proceeds benefit the Arc of Palm Beach County, which helps people with developmental differences live rewarding lives. Additional coins can be purchased, three for $5, at the shop.
Pet Photos with Santa are offered 6-8 p.m. Nov. 27 and Dec. 4, 7-9 p.m. Dec. 11 and 8-10 p.m. Dec. 18 by reservation only at thegardensmall.com.
Mall at Wellington Green Santa
10300 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington; 561-227-6900 or shopwellingtongreen.com
Santa arrived at the Mall at Wellington Green on Nov. 18 and he’s been busy greeting kids and pets at the Ice Palace ever since. Santa will be available for photos by appointment until 3:45 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Then he’s got to get back to the North Pole and harness up his reindeer. The hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Make reservations at whereissanta.com.
If your favorite kid is the four-legged kind, Paws and Claus will be taking Santa pet photos from 5 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 28 and Dec. 5 in the Ice Palace. Reservations are required at whereissanta.com.
Sensory Santa (Santa Cares) will be on site for photographs from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Dec. 4. Make reservations at whereissanta.com.
Town Center Santa
6000 Glades Road, Boca Raton; 561-368-6000 or www.simon.com/mall/town-center-at-boca-raton
Santa Claus arrived at Boca Raton's Town Center just before Thanksgiving and he’s on site for visits with children through Dec. 24.
Erin McGrogan of Delray Beach, who keeps an updated calendar of kids’ events on the website she designed (www.delraymom.com), says the Town Center Santa never disappoints. “My girls (Ashlyn, 10, and Emily, 7) can’t wait! They want to put up lights and play Christmas music and we barely finished Halloween!”
Since it opened in 1980, the mall has seen infants in strollers grow up to be parents with children of their own and they’re visiting the same mall for Christmas. Appointments are needed. Make reservations at www.whereissanta.com.
There are two special Santa days scheduled:
The Caring Santa is coming to town exclusively for children with special needs from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Dec. 4. Reservations are required for this private photo experience.
Pet photos with Santa are offered from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 11. Enter through The terrace entrance by Crate & Barrel and make a right past the play area towards the Nordstrom Court.
Boynton Beach Mall Santa
801 N. Congress Ave., Boynton Beach; 561-736-7900 or www.boyntonbeachmall.com
Santa will be on site beginning Dec. 1 through Christmas Eve. Visits are offered from 11 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 5:45 p.m. Sunday. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended at www.whereissanta.com.
Tanger Outlets Palm Beach Santa
1751 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., West Palm Beach; 561-515-4400 or www.tangeroutlet.com/palmbeach
At Tanger Outlets Palm Beach, instead of a little bit of Santa every day, the mall will host Santa’s Holiday Celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 17 in Center Court near the Holiday tree.
They’ll host a Meet-and-Greet with Santa, live music, a holiday craft station, face painting, a holiday photo vignette, and visits from Rudolph and the Grinch.
Tanger Outlets is also hosting an Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt through Dec. 24. Guests can pick up the 12-page “Merry Moments Begin Here” activity book filled with holiday puzzles and the clues you’ll need to find the scout elves while you shop. Everyone who completes the magical scavenger hunt gets a prize. Sign up and download the book at home at www.tangeroutlet.com/elfontheshelf.
Tanger Outlets is also hosting a holiday toy drive benefitting Little Smiles from Dec. 3 to 11. Visit shopper services to donate new, unwrapped toys and gift cards for children from newborn to age 18. Gifts go directly to Little Smiles’ 32 pediatric partners. www.littlesmiles.org.
Royal Poinciana Plaza Santa
340 Royal Poinciana Way, Palm Beach; 561-440-5441 or www.theroyalpoincianaplaza.com
Because he’s so busy, Santa can only visit Palm Beach for a short time. You may not find Santa at the Royal Poinciana Plaza in Palm Beach, but you will find one of the most unusual holiday trees — and you might even spot its designer.
Iris Apfel, the 101-year-old style icon, glamourous businesswoman and part-time Palm Beach resident, designed the holiday tree this year. Apfel has worked with nine U.S. presidents in her impressive career as an interior designer and fashion trend setter. Her individuality and love of colorful self-expression have inspired artists in every genre.
About her tree, she told WWD.com’s Lisa Lockwood, “What we’ve pulled together emulates my outlook on life. It’s playful, colorful, optimistic and completely unique. I hope everyone who views it smiles and is inspired to walk to the beat of their own drum.”
The tree is made entirely of surfboards and is decorated lavishly with the over-the-top accessories Apfel is known for. As an homage to the grand lady, retailers will showcase Iris-inspired clothes and accessories.
Other artists who have designed surfboard holiday trees for the plaza include Donald Robertson (Drawbertson), Gray Malin, Ashley Longhore, and Johnson Hartig for Libertine.
The big reveal takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, and features bubbles and bites, fashion presentations, children’s activities, and a visit from Santa. The tree will be on display through December.
Because nothing says the holidays like photos of those annual Santa visits, particularly the snaps of those unexpected moments and funny faces, we'd love to see your prized photos from a sit down with St. Nick. Send your faves to us at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Visit Santa at these Palm Beach County malls for Christmas 2022