I admit, we’ve been slackers when it comes to Santa. Our oldest son will be celebrating his fourth Christmas this year, and we’ve never taken him to see Santa.
My husband and I never wanted to subject him to what we were certain would be a terrifying experience when he was 1 (and again when he was 2), since he was in the throes of separation anxiety and extreme shyness, respectively. Plus we weren’t sure how big of a presence Santa should have in our family’s celebration of Christmas — after all, we want to emphasize the fact that it is a religious holiday first.
So that brings us to this year. John is 3, and he now understands the whole Santa phenomenon. He’s excited for Christmas and even wanted to ask Santa for “rubber piggies,” so I felt like we had to oblige. Rather than stand in line at the mall and pay for a photo, we opted to attend a Breakfast with Santa event in our hometown. We talked about it for days leading up to the event and John was thrilled: pancakes (his favorite) and Santa are a winning combination in his book.
Of course, Northeast Ohio weather being what it is, we woke up to a slushy, icy mess on Saturday morning and learned the breakfast had been canceled. My quick search for a Santa experience close to home uncovered the Santa Express Train Rides at Ohio Station Outlets in Burbank.
We arrived early to buy our tickets for the first train of the day at noon, then did some shopping and ate lunch in the food court before boarding the train. The $7 price per person (baby brother was free) was a great value, since it included a roughly 20-minute train ride around the mall property and among the rows of stores, and a lengthy visit with Santa, complete with a North Pole Q&A, a reading of the “‘Twas Night Before Christmas” by the jolly old elf himself, and the chance for a one-on-one conversation and photo op (parents bring their own cameras).
The inclement weather meant a less-than-full train, so there was only a small number of children in our group. John adored the train ride — we’d been to the mall many times, but he’d never ridden the train before — and thoroughly enjoyed the interactive Santa experience. He even got to hold Santa’s key ring, which held several giant keys to various buildings at the North Pole.
And extra points go to the gentle, patient Santa who didn’t even bat an eye when a little boy asked him for a set of rubber pigs for Christmas.
If you’re still in need of a Santa visit this year, Ohio Station Outlets still has a few events from which to choose:
Santa Express Train Rides run from noon to 5 p.m. on the following dates:
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016
Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016
Friday, Dec. 23, 2016
Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016
If your family would rather skip the train experience and just do a brief visit, the mall offers walk-in meet and greets with Santa Wednesday, Dec. 21 through Friday, Dec. 23, 6-7 p.m.