What to Expect at Macy’s Santaland: A Complete Guide to Macy’s Santaland in New York City
This post tells you everything you need to know about Santaland at Macy’s, including how to get reservation, how long you have to wait, and what you see inside Santaland (besides Santa).
Christmas at Macy’s Herald Square has long been an annual tradition in New York City. A photo with Santa in his North Pole Villages in Santaland is on every family’s mind when it comes to November and December.
If you are thinking about visiting Santa Claus at Macy’s Santaland this winter, you may be wondering what it is actually like inside Santaland (besides taking photos with Santa of course). There has been little to no information on what exactly happens inside Santaland, so hopefully you will find this post informative!
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Why is Macy’s Santaland Special?
Macy’s Santa is the “OG” Santa in New York City since 1861, when Macy’s advertised that Santa came to Macy’s Herald Square location to stock their counters with Christmas gifts. The Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street also features Santa Claus at Macy’s.
Every year at the end of Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, Santa Claus arrives on a float and enters the Herald Square store. This marks the beginning of Santaland for the winter season.
A visit to Santaland at Macy’s is an annual tradition for many families. There are families that visit Santaland annually for 10 to 20 years because it is such a special experience and holiday tradition. To be honest I think I would be one of those families too since Santaland really is magical.
When does Macy’s Santaland Start and Finish Every Year?
Santa arrives at Macy’s at the end of the annual Thanksgiving parade, so Santaland officially starts on Black Friday (the 4th Friday of November) at 10am and runs till December 24th Christmas Eve.
What Cities Are Macy’s Santaland Located in?
There are currently 5 Macy’s Santaland in the United States, and they are in:
- New York City
- San Francisco
The New York City Herald Square one is THE one to be, but the experience should be similar in the other cities.
How to Make a Reservation for Santaland at Macy’s
Reservation opens up at 6:30am local time everyday and you can reserve 5 days in advance. So if you want to go to Santaland on a Saturday, you will need to make that reservation at 6:30am the Monday before.
Once you select the location, you will see some information before the big red button “Book Now”. Enter the Captcha, pick the location and enter your group size (maximum group size is 9 including babies).
You can pick your vision of Santa:
Macy’s says that your vision of Santa and group size determines availability (clearly the more people you have in the group the fewer time slots are available).
The next screen shows you a calendar of available (and unavailable) dates. As you can expect, weekends are usually fully booked within a few minutes, but weekdays (especially in November and early December) are usually pretty empty even if you do not book at 6:30am.
After picking a date, you will pick a time slot, which is the time you arrive to check in. Lastly, enter your personal information and you are good to go! You will get a confirmation email as well as reminder emails a few days before the event.
Be sure to keep the confirmation email as it has your reservation details, QR code for checking in (even though they didn’t check it), and a barcode for photos. This bar code will allow you to check and purchase/ download photos with Santa so don’t lose it!
Santaland is located on the 8th floor of Macy’s at Herald Square.
Once you get off the elevator (assuming you take the elevator up), go left and you will see Santaland. There is no sign when you get off the elevator so it was a bit confusing for us to find.
How Long is the Wait to Enter Santaland at Macy’s
Santaland is busy, really busy! Even Macy’s website says you may wait between 30 to 90 minutes from when you first arrive.
As you can expect, you will probably wait for a long time on the weekends and during the week before Christmas when everyone tries to get a photo with Santa.
On the first day Santaland is available (Black Friday), the morning time slots actually have a much longer wait than the afternoon time slots. Our friends visited first thing in the morning and the whole experience took 2.5 hours (they waited 90 minutes to enter Santaland and another 20 minutes to meet Santa Claus).
When we visited in the afternoon on Black Friday, we only waited 45 minutes to enter Santaland and another 20 minutes to meet Santa. The people that checked in after us around 4pm had an even shorter wait than us!
In summary, I would say expect to wait between 20 to 90 minutes to enter Santaland and another 20 or so minutes inside Santaland till you meet Santa Claus.
What do you see inside Macy’s Santaland?
While you wait in the long line (that goes all the way to the back and circles back around), there really is nothing to see sorry. You will see hope when you are outside of the actual waiting area when you see 3 small window displays from Miracle on 34th Street and the North Pole Express train engine.
Once you enter Santaland, it is when the fun begins. You will first enter a train car looking room before meeting an elf at the North pole Station Visitor Center. The Elf will ask you what you want for Christmas and chat with you before you continue down the path.
You cannot wander off in Santaland since you have to follow an established path, but you will see a super festive village with magical trees, Mrs. Claus’s Bakery, “wrapping station”, Christmas tree forest, and polar animals on artificial snow.
Soon you will cross the sparkling rainbow bridge and arrive at the centerpiece, a large and elaborate train display behind glass. The display features a miniature village and a large Christmas tree and a moving train. Be sure to hold your little one up so they can enjoy this display.
After that you will eventually arrive at your first official photo spot, the Balsam Hill Tree Lot. The photographer will ask if you want to take a photo or skip it. They can help you take a photo on your phone usually but before that, they will scan your barcode (in your email confirmation) and take a couple of professional photos.
After the photos, pay attention to the cute wall paper before continuing on the path to enter the magical forest. Soon you will come to the second photo spot with two giant nutcrackers. There is no official photography session there but a staff member will help you take photos on your phone or camera.
You will see a giant countdown to Christmas and see the famous sleigh before finally reaching North Pole Village. At the entrance a friendly elf will look at your barcode (so they know which version of Santa you chose) and talk to you about your wishlist before another elf comes to take you to a room with Santa.
There are multiple Santas in the village but you will only see one. They do a pretty good job of hiding the other Santas so your child will not get confused.
You only get a couple of minutes with Santa but he is very friendly and patient. He will ask you (or your children) what’s on their wish list. There is a professional camera set up in the room, so the staff member will scan your barcode once again and take a few photos. You can also take your own photos after they finish.
That is the end of Santaland! You will exit and wait in another line to see the photos and decide if you want to purchase their photo package or not.
There are 3 different photo packages you can purchase. The photo package at Santaland starts at $39.99 for your photo with Santa but no digital copy. The mid tier one is $45 but gives you the digital copy of your photos with Santa. The most expensive package gives you all the photos (including the one you took inside Santaland) plus the digital copies.
Other Questions About Santaland at Macy’s
How much is Macy’s Santaland?
Santaland is free to visit (reservation needed) but it costs between $39.99 to $59.99 for their photo package.
Can you check in early?
You can only check in about 5 minutes early at Santaland. They are pretty strict on the time slots. You have 20 minutes to check in based on your time slot, so don’t be too early or too late.
Is there a bathroom at Santaland?
There are no bathrooms at Santaland. You have to use the restrooms on the 7th floor, so it’s best to have two adults in line (so one can stay in line while the other one goes to the bathroom).
Do you need an ID to check in at Santaland?
You do not need to bring your ID to check in at Santaland. They will ask you for your name and date, you can also show them your confirmation email but they mostly rely on the names you give them (and the number of people).
Can you take your own photos at Santaland?
Yes, bring your phone and camera. The elves (staff) are friendly and can help you take photos, but only after they take the official photos.
Are there rides at Santaland for kids?
I heard in the past you can ride in the train in Santaland. But this year (2023) there were no rides for kids in Santaland.
Can you bring a stroller to Santaland?
Yes you can bring strollers to Santaland at Macy’s.
Does everyone need to wait in line?
You only need one person to wait in line if others need to use the restroom or go out to grab food or shop around.
Tips to Visiting Santaland at Macy’s
- Be sure to make your reservation at 6:30am for popular days (weekends), otherwise those time slots are gone within minutes
- Weekdays are a lot less busy than weekends, so if you can, visit on a weekday
- Use the bathroom before you check in. Even though you can go use the bathroom (if someone else in your party stays on line), but it is annoying to come back since the waiting area is narrow.
- Bring snacks, entertainment and toys for your kids since the wait can be really long and boring.
- If you love photography, then make sure to bring a wide angle lens. It is dark inside Santaland so a lens with a large aperture would be the best
- If you can, visit as early as possible (like right after Black Friday). Mid December till Christmas is the most busy so if you don’t want to wait, try to avoid those dates
- Morning slots tend to have longer wait time than late afternoon slots in our experience
- It is not cold inside so you might not want to have too many layers (you will have to hold them)
- Wear something festive and have fun!
Is Macy’s Santaland Worth it?
Santaland is truly a magical experience especially if you or your kids believe in Santa. Even if you do not believe in Santa the displays are really pretty and there are plenty of photo opportunities.
Santaland is a great opportunity to take beautiful family photos during the holiday season even if you do not intend on purchasing the photo packages.
If you can, visit on weekdays, otherwise go later in the afternoon on the weekend to avoid the long queue.
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