For many families, the most wonderful time of the year isn’t complete without a visit to the big man in red. And one of the best spots in the U.S. to see him is at Macy’s on 34th Street in New York City.
Santa Claus officially arrives at the very end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and then sets up shop in New York City for the next few weeks at Macy’s on 34th Street.
In the bustling midtown Macy’s on 34th, Mr. Claus hangs out in Santaland, a very festive place on the eighth floor of the store that feels like the North Pole. But while Santa and his elves will be thrilled to visit with kiddos this year, there are some things to know before you go — including the fact that reservations are required and will likely fill up quickly.
Here’s what you need to know to visit Macy’s Santaland in 2023.
What is Macy’s Santaland in New York City?
Santaland at Macy’s Herald Square in New York City is a holiday wonderland. You wander through a 13,000-square-foot Christmas village featuring an enchanted forest, a rainbow bridge, trees, lights, snow-capped mountains, reindeer, train sets, Santa’s sleigh and oh so much more. More than 170,000 visitors typically make their way through Santaland each year.
When you get through Santaland and it’s your turn to visit Santa (in a private-ish room), you get a few minutes to chat with him about your holiday wish lists, what the reindeer are up to and more.
There is also time for photos — both with your camera and the official cameras.
How to get a Macy’s Santaland reservation
Macy’s Santaland is free to visit, but Santa is a very popular man. For the last few years, the New York City Santaland experience has required reservations, which remains true in 2023.
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You can make free reservations online starting at 6:30 a.m. EST five days before your visit. For the first day Santa is in town for visits on Nov. 24 (the day after Thanksgiving), reservations open early in the morning on Nov. 19 — and they will go quickly, so set an alarm so you don’t miss out.
The hours vary slightly by day but generally run from morning until around 9 p.m.s. Santa is in town this year from Nov. 24 until the afternoon of Dec. 24, when he has to head back to the North Pole to load his sleigh.
You can make reservations for up to nine people, and Macy’s asks that you bring a printout of your reservation with the QR code.
The best time to visit Macy’s Santaland
Santa is at Santaland from Black Friday through Christmas Eve, giving you almost a month to make your visit. However, some times are better than others. Santaland is usually busiest on Black Friday, on the weekends and in the final days leading up to Christmas.
Note that even with a required reservation, Macy’s says it can take 30 to 90 minutes to get to Santa. If you can visit from Monday through Thursday before that final week before Christmas, that’s probably your best choice to keep spirits bright and the wait shorter.
If you must go during peak times, prepare yourself with potty breaks before getting in line, a loaded electronic device and some patience.
Tips for visiting Macy’s Santaland
The North Pole may be freezing, but Santaland is often not. Based on my multiple visits, Santaland is actually warm, which seems silly. Those thick coats and sweaters you need outside will make you melt in the long, slow line to Santa, so dress in layers.
A visit to Santa is free, but photo packages aren’t. You don’t have to buy the official photos, but if you do, they start around $40, and there’s another line for that after Santa. Only have one person wait in that line and send the rest of the crew to another less crowded part of Macy’s to wait for you.
Macy’s wants Santa to appear in the real world as he does in your child’s mind, so should you or your child prefer a visit to a Black or Spanish-speaking Santa, just note that on your reservation, or you can usually let the elves know when you arrive.
Those who require special accommodations to visit Santa can also add them to their reservation and then email SantalandNewYork@macys.com. There are two sensory-friendly early mornings that will be available this season, so check for those when planning your visit.
New York City is especially magical during the holidays, so don’t skip Santaland while you are in town. Just be sure to make a free reservation in advance of your visit so you don’t miss out on seeing Santa.