How meeting Santa Claus at Walt Disney World has changed
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas throughout Walt Disney World, including the newly named Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney. And as is a long-standing tradition, Santa Claus is meeting with children and their families at his chalet in the shopping and dining district. This year, there are some changes you’ll want to be aware of before you go:
** Santa’s Chalet has moved just past the World of Disney store and is located to the side of the stage, across from Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop. The chalet itself, as well as the way the trees are decorated with toy trains and planes, remains the same. For some of us who enjoy visiting the same location year after year, that’s a welcome status quo.
** What has changed is how guests queue up to meet Santa. All guests are asked to check in at the entrance, and they will be placed in a virtual queue and given a pager. So, even if Santa may not be available to hear what's on your children's must-have lists for another two hours, you won't have to spend that time in line. You can shop, grab a bite to eat, or even just rest your tired feet. I'm told the pagers work from Fulton’s Crab House to Earl of Sandwich. Guests are asked to return to the podium within 10 minutes of being paged. This is different from last year when the pager system was introduced and only used if the line got unwieldy; now it’s standard operating procedure. Last year, cast members tested the option of texting guests, too, when it was their turn to join the queue, but that is not being used this year.
** As in the past, Disney PhotoPass photographers will take photos of your family with Santa, and guests are permitted to do so, as well. So, unlike some of the mall experiences, this trip to see Santa doesn’t have to cost you anything if you are happy with your own photos. We have found the lighting in the chalet to be a bit challenging for those of us using point-and-shoot or smartphone cameras, and this year’s experience was no exception. Still, purchasing a single photo from Disney is only about $15, and that’s still less expensive than many other Central Florida Santa meet-and-greets. And for many Walt Disney World annual passholders, the PhotoPass downloads of images are free, which is a nice perk this year.
** Santa Claus is extending his time at the Disney Springs Chalet this year, and he will be there from noon to 10 p.m. daily through Dec. 24. Santa Goofy takes over Dec. 25 through 29 at Santa’s Chalet during the same hours.
Despite his busy schedule before Christmas, Santa Claus will be making varied appearances at Walt Disney World. It would seem impossible, but the Jolly Old Elf can be found in these additional locations:
** Epcot: Santa and Mrs. Claus meet guests and pose for pictures for 90-minute sets at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 24 at The American Adventure. Plus, each country in the World Showcase also features storytellers who describe local holiday traditions. In many countries, the storyteller is a representation of Santa, such as Pere Noel in France and Father Christmas in England.
** Magic Kingdom: Santa meets with guests during the day through Dec. 24 and at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, where he also makes an appearance at the end of Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade. Admission to the party requires a separate ticket.