For many families, the most wonderful time of the year isn’t complete without a visit to the big man in red. And after a year or two where some Santa visits have happened virtually, he may be on the cusp of experiencing some pent-up demand this holiday season.
In New York City, Santa Claus officially arrives at the very end of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He then sets up shop in NYC for the next few weeks at Macy’s on 34th Street.
In the bustling midtown Macy’s on 34th, Mr. Claus hangs out in Santaland, a very festive place that feels like the North Pole. But while Santa and his elves are going to be thrilled to visit with kiddos this year, there are some things to know before you visit — including the fact that reservations are required and are filling up quickly.
Here’s what you need to know to visit Macy’s Santaland in 2022.
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Things to know about Macy’s Santaland in NYC
Santaland at Macy’s Herald Square in NYC is a holiday wonderland. You wander through a 13,000-square-foot Christmas village featuring an enchanted forest, rainbow bridge, trees, lights, snow-capped mountains, reindeer, train sets, Santa’s sleigh and oh so much more. In a normal year, more than 170,000 visitors make their way through Santaland.
When you get through Santaland and it’s your turn to visit Santa (in a private-ish room), you get a few minutes to chat with him about your holiday wish lists, what the reindeer are up to, etc. There is also time for photos — both with your own camera and the official cameras. (Note that paid packages start around $40, but you’re under no obligation to purchase.)
Related: Tips for watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in NYC
How to get a Macy’s Santaland reservation
Macy’s Santaland is free to visit, but Santa is a very popular man.
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In years past, the wait to see him has gotten long. Hours long. Macy’s has tweaked the process over the past few years and now the NYC Santaland requires reservations.
You can make free reservations online starting at 6:30 a.m. EST five days before your visit. And know that so far, reservations have been filling quickly, so you will want to set yourself an alarm to book that slot you want if you don’t have much flexibility.
The hours vary slightly by day but generally run from morning until around 9 p.m. most days. Santa is in town this year from Nov. 25 until the afternoon of Dec. 24, when he has to head back to the North Pole to load his sleigh.
You can make reservations for up to six people, and Macy’s asks that you bring a printout of your reservation with the QR code.
The best time to visit Macy’s Santaland
Santa is at Santaland from Black Friday through Christmas Eve, giving you almost a month to make your visit. However, some times are better choices than others. Santaland is usually busiest on Black Friday, on the weekends and in the final days leading up to Christmas.
Note that even with a required reservation, Macy’s says it can take 30 – 90 minutes to get to Santa which pretty much matches our experience in previous years. If you can visit from Monday to Thursday before that final week before Christmas, that’s probably your best choice to keep spirits bright and waits lower.
If you must go during peak times, prepare yourself with potty breaks before getting in line, clothing layers that easily come off, a loaded electronic device and some patience.
Tips for visiting Santaland
The North Pole may be freezing, but Santaland is not. Based on my multiple visits, Santaland is actually warm, which seems silly. Those thick coats and sweaters you needed outside will make you melt in the long, slow line to Santa, so dress in layers.
This year, you’ll also need face masks for your visit with Santa. Santa and his elves will also be wearing face coverings.
A visit to Santa is free, but photo packages aren’t. You don’t have to buy the official photos, but if you do, they start around $40 and there’s another line for that after Santa. Only have one person wait in that line and send the rest of the crew to another, less crowded, part of Macy’s to wait for you.
Should you or your child prefer a visit to a Black or Spanish-speaking Santa, just note that on your reservation or you can usually let the elves know when you arrive. Those who require special accommodations to visit Santa also can note that on their reservation and then email [email protected]
New York City is especially magical during the holidays, so don’t miss Santaland while you are in town. Just be sure to make a free reservation in advance of your visit. If a family trip to NYC is in your future, here are some additional articles to point you in the right direction: