My daughter has always been afraid almost afraid of Mall Santas. Last year she said she did not want a picture with him and I said sure, I mean why push it. This year to my surprise she asked to go. From some mom friends, I heard about the “Adventure to Santa” experience from Dreamworks Animation and GGP at a local mall, so I decided to give it a shot. I did a tiny bit of research and found I needed to make a reservation for this FREE inactive experience. Despite being booked most days, we got in for Monday afternoon right after school.
We showed up at our appointed time and went to the sign in desk to get our “Passport” which I had created when I reserved our time. The experience is located inside a huge house. with interactive screens surrounding the walls and windows. Some effects were it would start to snow on the screens and the Shrek characters came to windows and doors. The two story house was quite impressive.
We waited about 5 minutes to check in, get our reindeer ears, our official Passport ticket and were told we could get our photos with Shrek, Fiona and Donkey. These are not people in costume, but statues, though the photo did look like characters. A photographer took the photo and I was allowed to take a picture as well.
After our photo we moved to the passport line to get in the house. There were a few families in front of us and we waited about 15 minutes until we were at the red doors with our guide to take us in the house to see Santa.
Once inside the house, our guide told us to put all cameras and phones in a pocket or purse that they MUST be covered as modern devices deactivate the magic. Bummer. The room had a curtain with Santa on it and we were told he was behind the curtain, but to get in the spirit we needed to sing Jingle Bells. The big reveal time came, and NO, Santa – whomp whomp . He did leave a note and to see Santa we would have to get to the North Pole.
We went to the next room and each family designed a sleigh on a screen to get us to see Santa. It was similar to the new Test Track queue at Epcot in Walt Disney World. I respected the Elf Magic effect and took zero photos, but a friend of mine shared this one with me….. and the magic lived on despite these pixelated stealth photos.
Next we entered a room with a Sleigh and all took a seat. What followed was a motion simulated ride in our sleigh to the North Pole. I have to say the take off portion of this was WAY COOL! It really felt like the sleigh was moving, but was all effects from the screen around us. Mini me LOVED this and I had no idea we would be “riding a ride” as part of the experience.
After this we moved to next room which was holding place to meet Santa, complete with some video games to keep the kids occupied while waiting, nice touch!
The Santa room was so pretty and Santa was super nice. He talked to my daughter about what she wanted for Christmas and made a plea to her to help mom and dad out this time of year.
After that we exited a retail area while waiting for the photos. Cute Dreamworks merchandise from all films – shirts, plush, mugs, etc. You can access this area from the mall. We were also given an ornament as a keep sake. Its cute, white blown glass.
After a few minutes, our pictures were ready. They had printed out a whole set of the Santa pictures in many sizes for us to review, the sleigh photo my daughter designed and the Shrek photo. The Shrek Photo was fun and looked fab better than the one I took. The sleigh photo was cool, my daughter was super excited to see her princess inspired ride. Our Santa photo, was completely disappointing to me.
The Santa room was like his library or study, great details on par with the top Orlando theme park attractions. That was nice and set them mood but all I wanted was a Santa photo with my child, NOT a photo of the couch and the room that looks off center to me. I pointed out to the salesman my disappointment and was told if I purchases the full package, I could get a digital image and crop it any way I wanted. True, and I suppose it doesn’t help that all I ever want is one photo, a 5 x 7. or just digital image option. These were not options. I could purchase all the photos they had printed out already including receiving the digital image OR purchase 2 of the sheets printed for $35…….and that did NOT include the Shrek Photo, that was $19 by itself. Here are the options I was told were the only ones available to purchase.
Option 1 Buy All the Photos at $50 including Digital Downloads. You could also pick out any item in the retail store for $15…many were priced above that.
Option 2 Two of the sheets with the exception of Shrek for $35. Shrek Photo was an additional $19
NO Digital Image Only Option which I had previous years at the mall . They printed all the photos out before I said yes or no which to me was a total waste of paper and in my opinion driving up their costs.
I opted for option 2 and low and behold, I can log on to www.myalbumpics.com which is a company you can purchase photo gifts with your images and yes, a digital download of each image is available at $19.99 each. So yes, buy the big package at the mall and you get it all, it is the cheapest way to go, but I was expecting to spend $25 or $30 as in years past for a digital image, not be forced to spend $50 for items I didn’t need or want. At no time did my photo sales person tell me I could order digital after I purchased the smaller package and it made sense to go that route. He told me the only way to get digital images was to buy the full package…..OK, its cheaper that way, but that is not how it was explained. While disappointed, the photo pricing did not ruin this experience for me.
TO SUM IT UP:
Photography NOT allowed inside the house including using your own camera to photograph or make video of Santa Visit.
Photo options purchased onsite very limited in selection and in my opinion wasteful of photo paper. Basically if you want photos its either $35 or $50. If you want a digital image, spend the $50 – in the end it makes the most sense.
Website advertises as 15 minute experience is misleading. From the time we stepped in check in line, to purchasing our photos was about an hour and we were there on a very slow day. My friend waited an hour just to get inside the house once her Shrek photo was done on a busy Saturday.
Santa photo setup pretty, but our photo did not focus on Santa and My Child – off center, showed LOTS of floor in front of sofa, and bookshelves behind sofa. Yes, I know I could have paid the big bucks to get what I wanted photo wise.
Not the Santa experience for babies in my opinion, you will be waiting to go through the house. This was the ONLY Santa option at the mall, you had to go through the whole schtick.
The experience itself is free and includes a fun motion simulator sleigh ride.
Souvenir Christmas Ornament to everyone.
It was fun and unique experience for seeing Santa.
Daughter LOVED designing and naming her sleigh.
Sleigh Ride was a blast, especially the take off.
Detail in the decorations inside and out.
Appointment system helps keep people from spending mall time in line.
Santa was sweet to my daughter and reminded her about doing her part around the house, gotta love that!
We had a blast and I recommend this for anyone wanting a little adventure in their Santa visit. We love Shrek, but you don’t have to be a fan to have fun . I can certainly get over my irritation with the photos and have reset my expectations for next year. I had a blast sharing the experience with Mini Me and she wants to do this again next year if offered.
Do you visit Santa every year? How does this experience sound to you?
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