Tips for visiting Santaland at Macy’s on 34th Street

Nov 28, 2019

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For many families, the most wonderful time of the year isn’t complete without a visit to the big man in red. In New York City Santa Claus officially arrives at the very end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and then sets up shop in NYC for the next few weeks at Macy’s on 34th Street.

Santa at the parade. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In the bustling midtown Macy’s, Mr. Clause hangs out in Santaland, a very festive place that feels like the North Pole.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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What is Santaland

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. More than 170,000 visitors make their way through Santaland each year.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

How to visit Santaland

Macy’s Santaland is free to visit, but Santa is a popular man.

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 anywhere from 30 minutes to five days before your visit.

Reservations required at Santaland (Photo courtesy of Macy's)
Reservations required at Santaland. (Photo courtesy of Macy’s)

Reservations are now open for Santaland’s opening day, Black Friday, and first few operating days since the booking calendar extends five days out. The first couple of days are already largely booked, so you need to use strategy to see Santa and hop on exactly five days before your visit when the booking calendar opens that morning.

On Monday – Thursday from 2 p.m. – 9 p.m. and from Friday to Sunday, you may also have the option to make your wait even shorter with a Santa Express Pass. This pass skips most of Santaland and sends you directly to Santa himself. If time is of the essence, this can be a good option, but I recommend taking in the whole Santaland experience if you can. Also, know that the Express Pass doesn’t always truly mean express. It can be an hour in that line, too, so prepare yourself.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

When to visit Santaland

Santa is at Santaland from Black Friday through Christmas Eve, giving you almost a month. However, some times are better than others. Santaland is usually busiest on Black Friday, on the weekends and in the final days leading up to Christmas. Even with a reservation, it can be a long wait just to get in the decorated area with little kids — and that doesn’t always feel magical.

The magic was fading in this moment (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
The magic was fading in this moment. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

If you can, try to visit Santaland during the week and/or very early in the day or very late in the evening. If you must go during peak times, just prepare yourself with potty breaks before getting in line, clothing layers that easily come off, a loaded electronic and patience.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Santaland pro tips

The North Pole may be freezing, but Santaland is not. Based on my multiple visits, Santaland is actually warm — which seems silly. Come on, Macy’s! Those thick coats and sweaters you needed outside will make you melt in a long, slow line to Santa, so dress in layers.

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 $20 to $25 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. When paying for photos, use your registered Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) to earn 5% cash back (5 points per dollar) this quarter at department stores (up to $1,500 quarterly limit).

tips for visiting Santaland
Santa lets you take your own photos if you wish. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Also, should you or your child prefer a visit to an African-American or Spanish-speaking Santa, just let the elves know when you arrive and they can make it happen. Those who require special accommodations to visit with Santa can call (212) 494-1917.

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. If a family trip to NYC is in your future, here are some additional articles to point you in the right direction:

Featured image courtesy of Macy’s.

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