You hardly need the NORAD tracker to spot Santa Claus in LA, since the man of the holiday hour can be found on every other block, but let’s face it–not all santas are created equal. Your family deserves a truly magical experience, and that takes more than a red suit and a white beard. Help your kids truly believe in the magic of Christmas, and have some fun yourself, at LA’s three best places to visit jolly old Saint Nick.
LA Zoo Lights
Meet Santa and his reindeer in the glittering winter wonderland on display at LA Zoo Lights. Every night until January 4, the LA Zoo lights up with LED animals, twinkling tunnels, and overhead projections. Stroll down the path of glowing monkeys, elephants, and rhinos, making sure to stop by Reindeer Village – where your delighted kids will take a wide-eyed peek at a real, live Prancer and Blitzen. You’ll find Saint Nick waiting for you on his ice throne at the Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel. Snap a family photo, then hop on a carousel panda, mantis, or unicorn (or pretty much any animal you can think of), and go for a spin. Top off the evening with a round of cookies and steaming hot chocolate at the cafe, the perfect place to find out what, exactly, the kids asked Santa to bring them.
Mall Santas may be a dime a dozen, but The Grove knows how to do this Yuletide tradition in style. Head to Santa’s Cottage – a colorful, life-sized gingerbread house decked out in giant candy canes and gumdrops – in the middle of the bustling outdoor shopping mall. Your excited little ones will snap a perfect pic with jolly old Saint Nick while they tell him how good they’ve been this year. Afterwards, follow the path to the central fountain, where you’ll look up and see Santa’s sleigh and reindeer flying high above a dazzling, hundred-foot tree. Get into the holiday spirit with some live music and join your kids as they dance gleefully under the nightly LA-style “snow.”
There’s no better place to spot the jolliest man alive than at the happiest place on earth. Disneyland goes all-out for the holidays, with bright lights and colorful decorations invading every inch of the massive theme park. There are so many places to see Father Christmas in the resort, your kids will be wondering how the man with a belly like a bowl full of jelly can move from place to place so quickly. Smile along with your little ones as the man in red waves to you from his sleigh in the Main Street Christmas Fantasy Parade. Round up your cowboys and cowgirls and visit Santa at the West Pole at Big Thunder Ranch, where they can decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus while they wait for their turn to take a picture with Santa. If you still haven’t gotten your fill, hop over to California Adventure and say hello to yet another Saint Nick at Elias and Company, where you can ask the big man for some last-minute shopping advice.