TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Christmas is looking a lot different this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and many parents are working to establish a sense of normalcy for their families around the holidays, all while remaining safe.
One time-honored tradition is a child’s photo with Santa Claus at a local mall or breakfast with Santa events.
Despite the pandemic, many Tampa Bay area attractions, locations and shopping centers are offering socially distanced meet and greats with Jolly Ol’ Saint Nicholas
8 On Your Side has compiled a list of places families can safely meet and get photos with Santa Claus to continue the tradition. We also have listed virtual opportunities for families not able or wishing to venture out this holiday season.
If you have a local event where socially distanced photos and meet and greets with Santa are available that is not listed, please send a note to email@example.com!
Where can my family meet Santa at Tampa Bay area attractions?
Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park
Santa Claus will be making a surprise visit to the Winter Village at Curtis Hixon park when the annual marketplace and ice skating rink will be open from Nov. 20 through Jan. 3. According to the event’s website, families should stay tuned to the Winter Village Tampa Facebook and Instagram pages for clues as to when Santa might pop up for a visit.
Mrs. Claus will also be on hand to help children write letters to Santa and pose for photos at the Winter Village on Nov. 27 and Dec. 23 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. More information
Zoo Tampa – Sundays with Santa
Outside of the zoo’s “Christmas in the Wild” event, the attraction will be offering “Sundays with Santa.” According to their website, socially distanced visits and photos with Safari Santa will be available on select dates. More information
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is holding a holiday breakfast visit with Santa on Dec. 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Guests are encouraged to wear their favorite holiday sweater or pajamas to breakfast. Reservations are encouraged and tickets include admission, breakfast and a family photo with Santa. More information
Busch Gardens is offering a meet and greet with Santa daily beginning at 3 p.m. The Busch Gardens website says the meeting will be contact-free and includes family photos. Guests can also visit “Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland,” also open at 3 p.m. daily, for socially distanced photos with Rudolph and Clarice. More information
Santa Claus is also visiting the Florida Aquarium for meet and greets this year on select Fridays and Saturdays through November and December. Social distancing is also required at these events. “This festive, unique photo opportunity will provide a wonderful holiday keepsake as you capture Santa inside his ‘snow globe,'” according to the aquarium’s website. More information
Humane Society of Tampa Bay
The Humane Society of Tampa Bay is continuing its annual tradition of family photos with Santa Claus this year at their new shelter location on Dec. 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A $10 donation is suggested. More information
The Humane Society’s first annual breakfast with Santa will take place prior to that on Dec. 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Breakfast includes pancake decoration, a holiday craft, a visit and photo with Santa and a hot chocolate bar. Temperature checks, social distancing and face makes will be enforced. More information
Yacht Starship Santa’s Holiday Brunch Cruises
Santa can be found on Yacht Starship’s holiday brunch cruises this year. The two-hour cruise features brunch and a special visit with Santa. Cruises take place Dec. 13 and Dec. 20 and boarding times are 12 p.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. More information
Where can my family meet Santa at Tampa Bay area malls and shopping centers?
Cherry Hill Programs is offering socially distant, in-person visits with Santa at various shopping centers across the Tampa Bay area this year.
According to the company, face coverings will be required for guests ages 2 and older. Physical distancing will be enforced in queue lines and advance reservations are required. Increased sanitation will be in place and hand sanitizer will be available in high traffic areas.
If you are looking to visit Santa in a socially distanced capacity in-person, here is a list of locations, and you can find more online, as well:
- International Plaza
- 2223 N West Shore Blvd, Tampa
- Westshore Plaza
- 250 Westshore Plaza, Tampa,
- Westfield Citrus Park
- 8021 Citrus Park Town Center, Tampa
- Westfield Brandon
- 459 Brandon TownCenter, Brandon
- Westfield Countryside
- 27001 US Hwy 19 North, Clearwater
- Tyrone Square
- 6901 22nd Ave North, St. PetersburgGulf View Square
- The Shops at Wiregrass
- 28211 Paseo Drive, Wesley Chapel
- Gulf View Square
- 9409 US Hwy 19, Port Richey
- Lakeland Square
- 3800 US Highway 98 N, Lakeland
- Eagle Ridge Mall
- 451 Eagle Ridge Drive, Lake Wales
- Sarasota Square
- 8201 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
Can my family meet Santa virtually this year?
Yes! There are multiple opportunities for children and families to meet Santa Claus without leaving the home this year.
In addition to their shopping center in-person visits, Cherry Hill Programs is offering online opportunities that include photos with Santa, storytime, and a live video call with Father Christmas himself. You can find out more about online opportunities through the company online.
Though Enchant Christmas is not taking place in St. Petersburg this year, the City of St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation is offering phone calls from Santa. The service is free, though parents are asked to register for a call by Dec. 11. The calls will happen on Dec. 15 and 17.
Other national companies are also offering virtual visits and calls with Santa Claus, including JingleRing.com and SantaTheExperience.com. JingleRing is $25 and can be personalized for your family. The prices of Santa The Experience vary by date and time.
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