Are the kids in bed? Good. Now it’s time to get real: which Santa and which sleigh stop is the best option for your family and your schedule. When it comes to the jolly old elf’s appearances in Wilmington, we’ve got a baker’s dozen to choose from. Some are free, so plan your day accordingly, in case there’s a wait, and be sure those kiddos (or furry kids) get solid naps in before you dress them up. Distract them with crafts and nosh and maybe THIS will be the year everyone smiles and sits still.
1. Even if the mall isn’t your scene, Concord Mall is a must-visit for Photos with Santa. Now through December 24
Last year’s Santa was one of the friendliest fellas to hold the job in recent memory, even garnering news coverage for his tender exchange with a 93-year-old military veteran. Through Christmas Eve, drag the kiddos out in their matchy-matchy outfits and score yourself a photographic keepsake of a rare moment of peace (or, if you love this kind of thing: evidence of your kids’ big time attitudes.)
2. Get INto the vintage spirit with Holiday Open House at Rockwood. December 6 & 7
Talk about traditional! You have two nights – 6th and 7th – to visit an 1850s Victorian mansion, from 5-9pm. The photos with Santa are free and Rockwood will have entertainment and crafts, characters and tours, refreshments and food trucks, as well as a Holiday Shoppe. The lights are stellar, as well. Free parking and shuttle from Rockwood Office Park, 500 Carr Road. Bring a non-perishable food item or warm gloves, hats and scarves for the less fortunate for an extra feel-good boost.
3. Start your season of with a bang by visiting Santa at Hagley. December 7
Hagley Museum has been an enduring gift to Delaware, ever since the gunpowder mills made Delaware workers prosperous. This historic property is another great spot to snag Santa photos on December 7, this time in the Visitor Center from 10-11am, 1-2pm and 3-4pm. Vote for your favorite gingerbread house. The richly-decorated barn and residence will be open for self-guided tours. All activities included with admission.
4. Fuel up for the holidays with Elsmere’s Breakfast w/ Santa & Parade. December 8
Load up buffet-style with scrambled eggs, pancakes, creamed chipped beef, French toast, breakfast meats, hash browns, donuts, fresh fruit, assorted juices and more on December 8. (Pricing caps out at $8!) Then send the kids to the craft center to make a Santa hat or stocking before visiting with Santa for pics (free if using your own camera; small fee if you’d like a print). Santa’s Secret Workshop lets your child purchase gifts for their loved ones – all by themselves (Santa’s special elves will help). The parade follows at 2pm at duPont Road, past the fire house.
5. Woof, woof! Riverfront Pets’ Photos with Santa. December 8
How does FREE sound? If you can get your little wigglers to sit still for a photo with Santa on December 8, you’ll go home with a memory you can brag about to grand-paw. This event is a partnership with Delaware Humane Association, so donations to DHA are encouraged. It’s Riverfront Pets’ two-year anniversary, and they are an excellent addition to what the Riverfront has to offer. (And, pssssst, we bet someone will love on your petto while you find things to stuff in her stocking.)
6. Establish a new family tradition by joining the 3rd Annual Light Up the Village. December 11
One can almost picture Edwardian carolers carrying candles from door to door in Old Brandywine Village. Experience a charming part of the city on December 11 while meeting Santa and helping light the Village Christmas tree. Hot chocolate will keep you warm, the Choir School of Delaware and the Salvation Army Brass Band will perform and then the guests will sing carols. Mayor Purzycki will be on hand for remarks.
7. Stuff yourself at Kid Shelleen’s Brunch with Santa. December 14
Great brunch food for you. Crafts for the kids. Santa rolling up in a fire truck, ready for photos with kids. Sounds like a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday morning. $25 adult price includes soft drinks; $15 for kids (4-12) and free for kids 3 and younger.
8. Say rawr! Breakfast with Santa at Brandywine Zoo. December 14 & 15
A Janssen’s Market pancake, egg and sausage breakfast is a great start for a free Santa sesh (bring your own camera). You can even snap shots with some animal friends, and enjoy a few up-close animal encounters (watch them eat THEIR breakfast) all before the zoo opens. This will sell out, so register ASAP if you caught this listing in time.
9. A wild and educational Breakfast with Santa. December 15
The Delaware Museum of Natural History is a real “gem,” for Wilmington families who “hunger” for knowledge and activities. Enjoy a $14 breakfast and a visit with Ol’ Saint Nick. Meal includes pancakes, sausage, coffee, and juice (vegan food options available), plus the ubiquitous Santa visit. Pre-registration is required. There are three seatings: 9, 9:45 and 10:30am.
10. Jingle brews featuring Santa Sunday with Live Caroling. December 15
Is there anything Wilmington Brew Works hasn’t brought to their corner of Wilmington? Not just a charming brewery/cider-house in an interesting building, it’s a new destination for arts and family activities. On December 15, Santa will be in the taproom for visits with kids, and kids at heart. CoroAllegro, Delaware’s chamber choir, will lead caroling.
11. Choo choo … It’s the Santa Claus Express. Now – December 23
Why stand in line at the mall and wait to see Santa, when you can ride our train and have Santa come to you? The Jolly Old Elf rides the train and greets everyone on board, and gives all children a chocolate treat. Bring your camera and prepare for posing with Santa during the 90-minute trip.
12. Glide toward the big day with Santa and Rudolph Meet & Greet. December 22
Nothing says Christmas like bundling up and strapping on some ice skates. Tell the littles to stuff their Christmas lists in their pockets and get ready for not just Santa…but Rudolf, too! Take in an hour and a half session at the Riverfront Rink during the day, or wait until 4pm when the North Pole’s big stars hit the rink for pictures and wishes.
13. Christmas means ice…cream that is. Santa Is Coming! to Woodside Farm Creamery. December 23
Head out to the ‘burbs, taking in the lights on the drive past neighborhoods from Wilmington to Hockessin, and end with some homemade, farm-fresh ice cream. Santa will be at the Creamery from 3 to 6pm. Bring your own camera and use your pics all year long to remind the kids that Santa is REAL!