By Erin Dougherty for the City of Overland Park
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact much of our lives, but it won’t stop Santa from spreading holiday cheer to kids of all ages.
While it’s not advisable to stand in long lines or sit on Santa’s lap this year, there are still many options for your family to enjoy the timeless experience of a child telling Santa what they want to find under the tree on Christmas morning.
As we’ve all become more accustomed to using virtual technologies to interact with co-workers, teachers, friends and loved ones, there are several fun and memorable online events and activities designed to brighten everyone’s spirit this holiday season. While one of these Santa events is an in-person visit, the others are virtual visits that allow for customized family preferences for spending time with Santa.
These opportunities to share your child’s Christmas list with Santa Claus while avoiding public places and groups of people are safe and interactive alternatives. However, many online Santa visits are already reserved to capacity, so book time for children soon, if possible.
In-Person visit options
11149 W 95th Street
Oak Park Mall will host “Santa’s Come to Town,” an in-person, socially distanced visit with the man in red, by appointment only. Hand sanitizing stations are available, and masks are required—you’re encouraged to wear face coverings with festive, holiday designs. No contact with Santa is allowed, but you can still get a photo taken with him.Located in the Center Court near Dillard’s South, lower level
“Santa’s Come to Town” is in the Center Court near Dillard’s South on the mall’s lower level.
Visit the Oak Park Mall website to view scheduled visit times and photo package pricing.
8788 Metcalf Avenue
On December 12 and 13, the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center will host a unique holiday party for the whole family! This event is part in-person holiday celebration, part virtual visit with Santa Claus. Guests will purchase a four-person table in a socially distanced space at the Arts & Heritage Center that will be sanitized between sessions. The event will also adhere to COVID health and safety guidelines from the Johnson County Health Department and Johnson County Park and Recreation District.
Festivities will include holiday-themed crafts, community holiday cards, and each group will leave with a special holiday cookie decorating kit. Santa will check in throughout the celebration, live from the North Pole, to interact with those in attendance. This is a great activity for parents or grandparents to participate with children or grandchildren to get into the Christmas spirit.
Register on the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center website.
Virtual Santa visits
Oak Park Mall also offers Zoom visits with Santa for a fee. Photos with Santa are available with this virtual event, as well as various other online holiday activities.
While we have a local Macy’s store here in Overland Park, the New York City store is a Christmas icon that really shines during the holidays. This website celebrates all that generations of Americans have long enjoyed about Macy’s holiday festivities—especially Santa visits. Several Macy’s Christmas activities are hosted on Facebook Live, such as Story Time with Santa, Christmas Craft Time, It’s a Merry, Merry Sing-along, a heartwarming light show, and the classic Dickens Village.
Santa’s Club is a personalized online visit with Santa that offers intimate live video conversations between children and Father Christmas—broadcast from the North Pole. Santa’s Club reservations are nearly percent full, so sign up and check pricing on the Santa’s Club website.
Another popular place online where children can share their Christmas lists live and in real time with Santa is Chit-Chat With Santa. He’ll want to know if they’ve been naughty or nice but will also answer questions and is sure to lift any child’s holiday spirit. Make a reservation at chitchatwithsanta.com
Write to the big guy, and hear back
If they haven’t already, it’s time for the kids to get a letter in the mail to the Jolly Old Elf. The Postal Service can help.
Children can write letters and decorate cards to Santa. Adults, help your child prepare the envelope the right way so the USPS can get the letter all the way to the North Pole, by way of the Anchorage, Alaska postmaster.
After the USPS hands the letter off to Santa’s elves, Santa will send a response back.
Watch Santa’s travels on Christmas Eve night
The COVID-19 pandemic will not stop Santa from delivering presents to good girls and boys around the world, nor will it stop the North American Aerospace Defense Command from tracking his journey, so kids can see exactly how close he is to their chimneys when they go to bed.
NORAD will track Santa on Dec. 24, as it has for 65 years. Kids are encouraged to call Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, at 1-877-HI-NORAD to see if Santa and his reindeer are close to their rooftops beginning at 5 a.m. on Christmas Eve. There will be fewer volunteers answering phones this year, so please be patient when calling. If callers don’t get through, there will be recorded updates on Santa’s location as he makes his way across the globe.
Fees are associated with most virtual visits, at different price points based on a variety of options, such as story times, photo packages and videos. Since it doesn’t matter where you live to enjoy a virtual Santa visit, there are surely more available that are not on this list. For additional online experiences, search “virtual Santa visits” in your web browser.
Depending on how much your little one loves sitting on the big guy’s lap, some of these local variations on the traditional Santa visit might even be more fun than the “real thing.”