Santa HQ is a fun and exciting immersive experience for the whole family to visit Santa Claus. Located at 15 malls throughout the US. Learn more by reading our experience.
Disclosure: This Santa HQ post is sponsored by HGTV. Thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.
A few years ago, I didn’t even know if we were going to do Santa. Each year, I still question it in the back of my mind. I feel wrong to lie to them. However, the moments and memories that we’ve created around Santa have been completely worth it.
Both girls eyes light up, their little voices glee with happiness, and their laughter brings everyone so much joy. I know in those moments that it’s so worth it.
For the last 4 years, we have been going to Santa HQ over at our local mall. The mall, located in Deptford, NJ, teamed up with HGTV to bring locals “Santa HQ“.
It’s a super fun and exciting holiday experience that the whole family will enjoy in addition to the traditional visit with Santa Claus. *Bonus: Santa in Deptford has a real beard 😉
What is Santa HQ?
As soon as you walk into Santa HQ you are immersed in all things Christmas holidays. Santa HQ works by guiding visitors through an immersive, interactive holiday experience with the use of state-of-the-art digital technology.
You have to absorb everything and be careful not to miss anything, but HGTV has worked really hard to pack in as much of the holiday spirit as they can in this experience. The first thing that happens is you get checked in (it’s better to have reservations).
Then you have four stations:
- Naughty or Nice Meter
- Santa’s Workshop
- Santa’s Observatory
- Finally, Santa’s Sleigh (this is where the big guy is sitting)
Honestly, it’s just such a fun and unique way to enjoy Santa. I know growing up as a kid, I loved going to see Santa. However, I never wanted to stand in the mall lines. The Santa HQ experience not only is a fun way to get into the holiday spirit, but it’s also great for breaking up the line so parents aren’t waiting for an exorbitant amount of time. The elves (staff) and Santa are amazing with the kids and it’s truly just so great.
Plus, you have to see the innovative way that mobile apps, social-media-ready opportunities and augmented reality are woven into the Santa HQ experience.
See a few sneak peaks:
How much does it cost to do Santa HQ?
The Santa HQ experience is completely free of charge to go through the set-up and even speak with Santa. The only thing that you potentially have to pay for is photos and that is completely optional. (They are super cute to look back on every year).
Can I just walk in to Santa HQ or are reservations a must?
You can absolutely just walk in to Santa HQ. However, reservations to Santa HQ are preferred. Trust me, you want a reservation. Especially if the only time you can go is on a weekend, it can get quite crowded.
After all, Santa HQ is completely free. You only pay if you want to purchase pictures. So, it can fill up pretty quickly. Reservations are easily made at Santa HQ.
Also, you can even pre-pay for your photo package. Santa HQ is currently at 15 shopping locations in California, New Jersey, Chicago, NYC, DC, and more. See if there’s a location near here by visiting the Santa HQ site.
The Santa HQ Experience
After you check in with the concierge, you’ll head to meet your first elf. You’ll stand on the Naughty or Nice O’Meter and see if you’ve been naughty or nice (hint: it’s always nice!). The kids name will pop up onto the top of the list that shows they’ve been nice!
Next, they are invited to sit down at a holiday photo set-up at “The North Pole”. The elf taking the pictures stages your family to take some pretty adorably amazing photos at the North Pole before they head off to their next adventure.
Next, families are invited to visit Santa’s workshop where they will find Santa’s Elf Academy.
This year, each kid gets to make their own Elf ID card.
They put their face inside a little oval and then you have the option to mail yourself the ID Card right from Santa’s workshop. It’s fun to do this because of the end of the experience they get a set of Elf ID cards in the activity workbook from Santa HQ. Our girls loved having their own to go along with the “real ones” as they called them.
There’s also a Magic Mirror that they can play with that allows for them to look like an elf and change outfits.
Then it’s time for Santa’s Observatory.
Families head for a fun adventure to the Elf-Ray Vision Station where children use tablets to project elves working, Santa’s sleigh and more.
The tablets come alive and kids will be super intrigued at how it looks like nothing is on the wall but when you hold up the tablet, things are there. It’s pretty nifty actually.
Finally, it’s time to see the big jolly guy and families end the experience with the traditional Santa Claus photo-op.
Just like the shopping mall Santa experience when you were little, this is the best part. You get to see and speak with Santa and afterwards you get a little activity book.
Ready? If you want to spend less time in line, then you will want to purchase a Fast Pass today! Visit Deptford, NJ’s Santa HQ, to make reservations, grab your fast pass and pre-purchase a photo package.
Santa HQ in Deptford, NJ is open 9am-9pm and Christmas Eve 9am-6pm.
Don’t worry, if you didn’t snag a fast pass, there are still kiosks available for you to purchase photos that day too!
Here’s some photos from the last two years. We love that it’s the same Santa Claus, so they can have a similar memory!
Holiday Giving with Santa HQ
Also, when heading over to Santa HQ consider bringing a toy to donate. Visitors at Santa HQ, in conjunction with HGTV’s Help Through Holiday Giving Drive, are encouraged to donate a new, unwrapped toy. Toys go to benefit local organizations like Toys for Tots, Salvation Army Angel Tree, Forgotten Angel Tree and more. However, this is not required.
Check Out Even More By Watching the Video Below: