The annual trip to get Santa photos is a big day for many young families.
Dressed in their holiday finery, young children are ready to recite their Christmas wishes with the hopes that the big guy will bring everything they want. Parents are eager for adorable santa photos to post on social media for friends and family to admire.
Then, reality sets in. After finally finding a parking spot in the packed mall lot, the kids, tired and overwhelmed, sob the very moment they see St. Nick. And parents realize just how much they’re going to have to shell out for that picture of their kids, crying with Santa. (Though, those sobbing pictures Santa can be, admittedly, adorable).
A Time magazine story found that Santa photos packages at U.S. malls range between about $25 and $87. That can add up once you consider the number of years your kids may want to see Santa.
But, thankfully, the mall isn’t the only place to meet up with Santa. In fact, at many places, families can meet and get Santa photos for free.
If you’d rather save your money for actual Christmas presents, here are five places to pose with St. Nick for free. If you go, be sure to bring your own camera because, most of the time, the picture taking will be up to you.
Cities and towns across the United States hold tree lighting ceremonies, Christmas parades and other seasonal celebrations that often include a visit from the big guy and a chance for families to take their own pictures with him for free. What’s more, these free events offer plenty of other Christmas-related fun and activities to keep families busy for hours.
Library storytimes and events should be at the top of the list for any family on a tight budget, looking for free and cheap activities to keep the kids busy. They are educational, fun and -- almost always -- free. What’s more, many libraries go all out during the holiday season with special events. Some of those include the opportunity to meet up with Santa. Check your local library to see what’s offered.
Store open houses and events
Starting around Thanksgiving and throughout December, holiday store open houses include the opportunity to “say candy cane” with Santa for free. Without big advertising budgets, small boutiques and shops often create Facebook event listings with their plans. So, be sure to check Facebook for events near you.
National chains also plan similar activities for their shoppers. Outdoor retailer Bass Pro Shops’ Santa’s Wonderland typically starts up in mid-November and runs through Dec. 24, offering free photos with Santa, crafts, games and more at locations across the country.
Churches and community groups hold holiday bazaars and shopping sprees, featuring homemade goodies and gift items. Often, they’ll also include a few hours with Santa.
Tree farms, light shows and holiday destinations
Your holiday traditions may already include a trip to your local Christmas tree farm, light show or holiday fun farm. Many offer special chances to meet up with Santa and get a picture with him for free. Before you make your annual visit, find out Santa’s schedule so you can be sure to see him when you’re there.
And that might just be the key if you want to take advantage of these free opportunities to see St. Nick -- planning ahead. It might take a little research up front, but that work will make it possible to fulfill at least one of your child’s Christmas wishes without breaking the bank doing it.
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