Tips for a Tear-Free Santa Visit


happy santa visit

Kids either love Santa or are deathly afraid of him. If taking the kids to see Santa is on your holiday bucket list, here are some tips and tricks to make the visit as happy for everyone as possible! 

Here’s How to Have the Best Santa Visit

When should we go see Santa?

Personally, I take an afternoon off or find a way to go during a weekday. The lines are shorter, and you can make it a special experience for your child. You know when your child’s “happy hour” is, so schedule around that time. 

Check out our guide to where to see Santa in Des Moines; Santa already has hours at many places across the metro, so plan a visit now before lines get too long!

Help! My child is scared of Santa!

Santa tearsIt seems every child goes through a fear-of-Santa phase. My child’s started at 18 months and resulted in this epic picture that’s hands-down in my top 5 favorite photos of all time. It just has everything from the little pointy piggy-tails to the oblivious, smiling Santa. To me, the crying photos are my favorite. If you don’t capture that perfect moment you were hoping for, just know that you may get one in the future when your child is older. My girl’s very first visit to Santa was perfect, so I braced myself for years of hilarious tears.

To help with the visit to the guy with the beard, other moms suggest bringing snacks, a favorite blanket or toy, or if your child is mesmerized by videos on your phone, set the phone in Santa’s lap or in a book he can hold.

Santa visitLast year, Santa shook my hand to show our girl it’s OK to interact with Santa. Genius! We ended up sitting down together with him for the photo, which was really special to me.

Either way, have your own camera ready to snap that picture fast from the sidelines because it all happens very quickly, even if Santa does take his time.

The most frequent advice I heard was: Relax. Go with the flow, make it exciting for your child and roll with it if there’s a nuclear tantrum.

Where should we go?

There are dozens of opportunities to see Santa in the Des Moines metro area starting now through Christmas Eve. Most moms I talked to have found the Santa they prefer and stick with him. Many moms found that if you go to a special event with Santa, you’ll have the added bonus of other activities for your kiddo to do.

Just remember, for your child the experience is mostly the same no matter which Santa they see, so don’t stress about finding the right Santa for your family. Check out our list below of places we heard Santa will be making an appearance in Des Moines. 

I don’t want to go see Santa, but still want that magic.

Another option for your family is to write a letter to Santa. The United States Postal Service responds to letters postmarked before December 15. You can also check with your local community to see if the city office will respond to letters to Santa (I know Johnston does, for example).

Do your kids love or hate seeing Santa?


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Niki grew up in Earlham, Iowa and now lives with her husband Ryan, daughter Riley, and son Merritt in Johnston. Riley has an observant stare that inspired the Facebook page Riley Is Not Impressed. Niki is an assistant director of public relations, social media at Drake University where she runs the university’s main social media accounts. She is also the director of the world-famous Beautiful Bulldog Contest. She has an Olde English Bulldog named Dexter, but he is ineligible to compete because she already knows he’s the most beautiful bulldog. She serves as President on the Board of Directors for Animal Lifeline of Iowa, which is a special needs, no-kill animal shelter. Niki is a two-time graduate of Drake University with a bachelor’s in journalism (2008) and a Master’s in Communication Leadership (2015).


  1. Call us crazy, but we took our 10-day-old to see Santa last year. We got a super cute picture with him at Bass Pro; I’m excited to see what this year will bring with her being a year old!

    • Those are the BEST times to go see Santa. We took our 4-month old and it was the sweetest picture of them. I’m really testing the waters this year with a 4-year-old and an 11-month-old. Cue the tears!


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