Holiday Recap: The Santa Experience at Mall of America

It went well... until it didn't

The holiday blitz continues! We took Julian to The Santa Experience at Mall of America. This is less of an experience than an encounter β€” a photo op, basically. The breakdown….


πŸŽ„ You pre-book a time slot, so you don’t have to wait in a long line to see Santa. With a baby that could start fussing at any moment β€” not to mention RSV and Covid swirling around β€” we were grateful to get in and out. (You can also book a virtual visit if you’re not comfortable going in-person.)

πŸŽ„ There are six Santas to choose from β€” the most diverse mix the mall has ever hosted. Santa Pat, pictured here, has a great smile. Julian only cried when one of the β€œelves” rattled a toy that scared him.

πŸŽ„ You can submit a short message for Santa to relay to your child, which is fun (though not guaranteed). Julian likes octopuses, so Santa Pat told him that if he was a good boy, his parents might surprise him with a trip to the Osaka Aquarium next year!

πŸŽ„ No kids? No problem. Adults can schedule meet β€˜n’ greets with Santa, too, and there was a designated pet night earlier this week.


πŸŽ„ The wham-bam-thank-you-Santa nature of the encounter can feel transactional. The photo shoot itself is three to five minutes, which we expected, but choosing the images you want to buy feels a bit rushed.

πŸŽ„ The pop-up is located in an empty storefront. While the photo backdrops are festive, the check-in area has all the charm of the DMV.

πŸŽ„ Package prices aren’t posted online, which is annoying; you have to decide what you want on the spot. We paid a $35.18 booking fee and realized only on arrival that a $30.99 credit would go toward the photo package of our choosing. We picked the most basic package for $30.99, which included one pose, plus an a la carte add-on with a second pose for $14.99. The two most affordable packages do not include digital copies of your prints. For that, you have to pay upward of $80. The baller package β€” with digital photos, prints, and video β€” costs more than $120. Yeesh!

All that said, we liked Santa Pat and are pretty tickled by our pics. It cost a pretty penny, but can you really put a price on the alternate take below? πŸ˜‚

The Santa Experience
Mall of America, 105 South Ave., Bloomington, MN; 612-203-2656.