Located at the heart of the Fashion Outlets of Chicago, Santa HQ pairs the traditional photo-op with Santa Claus alongside some new things that the modern generation will appreciate. That includes the "Elfie Selfie," where kids can snap a selfie using a provided tablet, then have it placed into their own custom holiday dance video! There's also an augmented reality portion called "Elf-Ray Vision." Using the provided tablet or a free app from Apple or Google Play, families can check out trigger points that will reveal what the elves are doing. And, if you want to take the fun home, the Santa HQ website has free printable triggers that you can place in your own house!
For our kids, one of the best parts of Santa HQ came right at the start - a chance to find out if they made the Nice List or not. The Naughty or Nice Meters were able to scan our little ones before placing their names atop the constantly updated digital lists. There's also a light show with more than 10,000 lights, along with a chance to flip some switches inside Santa's observatory.
Santa HQ is open seven days a week through December 24. Operating hours are: Mondays through Thursdays: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m; Fridays and Saturdays: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sundays: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Special holiday hours include: Sunday, December 17: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday, December 24: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Reservations can be made online to beat the crowd, though they are recommended - not required. Photo packages are available for a nominal fee.
For readers outside of Chicago, the Santa HQ experience is available at 15 Macerich Shopping Centers. Click here for a full list of Santa HQ locations and details.
Bonus: Do some good and enjoy the holiday spirit of giving through HGTV’s Help Through Holiday Giving Drive. The program encourages visitors to donate new, unwrapped toys for local children in need with the goal of collecting over 1,000 toys per center. In 2016, HGTV’s Help Through Holiday Giving program collected over 66,000 toys benefiting local organizations like Forgotten Angel Tree, Salvation Army Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, and Spark of Love Stuff a Bus. Bring a toy with you on your visit to Santa HQ and drop it into his bag!