Tips for visiting Santaland at Macy’s on 34th Street in 2021

Nov 20, 2021

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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. And after a year where some Santa visits had to happen virtually, Santa may on the cusp of experiencing some pent-up demand.

In New York City, Santa Claus officially arrives at the very end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He then sets up shop in NYC for the next few weeks at Macy’s on 34th Street.

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

In the bustling midtown Macy’s, 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.

Here’s what you need to know to visit Macy’s Santaland in 2021.

(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. In a normal year, more than 170,000 visitors make their way through Santaland. While we live in Texas, we’ve made the trek to NYC for a holiday visit that includes Santaland multiple times.

(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. (Note that paid packages start at $39.99, but you’re under no obligation to purchase those.)

(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 starting at 5:30 a.m. EST, five days before your visit.

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

The hours vary slightly by day but generally run from mid-morning until 9 p.m. most days. Santa is in town this year from Nov. 26 until 4 p.m. on Dec. 24, when he has to head back to the North Pole to load this sleigh.

Unlike in years past, this year there is no Express Pass this year, which is good in some ways as by taking that option you missed most of Santaland— and still faced waits that could be around an hour.

(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 to make your visit. 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.

In normal years, even with a reservation, it can be a long wait just to get in the decorated area with little kids, which can leave you feeling less than magical. We don’t know exactly what the wait will look like this year with some distancing in play, but if you can visit on Monday to Thursday before that final week, that’s probably your best choice to keep spirits bright.

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 must go during peak times, just prepare yourself with potty breaks before getting in line, clothing layers that easily come off, a loaded electronic device and some 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. 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’re also going to 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.

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

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 santalandNewYork@macys.com.

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:

Featured image courtesy of Macy’s.

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