Going to see Santa at the mall is so old school.
This year, opt for a more unique Santa sighting—one that’s actually fun and active-- whether on a beach, a ski slope, city near home or somewhere you’ve never been. Think of the bragging rights to seeing Santa schussing down a mountain on skis, surfing, scuba diving, or even arriving in a race car.
Here are fun 10 ways to see Santa Claus this winter:
1) For the Indy 500 Fans – Santa is now hosting visitors at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in a two-seater IndyCar with a police and elf escort. His sleigh will be driven by Ed Carpenter, owner of the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing IndyCar and ushering in the Museum’s Jolly Days Winter Wonderland where Santa will be on hand through Dec. 24 for photo ops. Afterward, Santa will slide down the two-story 47-foot Yule Slide. All holiday season, head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the inaugural Year of Lights at the Brickyard, with guests driving their cars through parts of the track to view the fantastic displays celebrating racing and the holidays.
2) Santa Scuba Diving with Sharks – At Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash., Santa will join five species of sharks and dozens of brightly colored tropical fish at 6 p.m. every Thursday and Friday in December, ending Dec. 23. He’ll also be diving weekends on Saturdays and Sundays in December, through Dec. 24 at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach in their Red Sea Tunnel featuring all varieties of tropical fish and a zebra shark.
3) Golf Carting with Santa -- The Captiva Florida parade featuring Santa and 50 decorated golf carts is a holiday tradition on Dec. 11 and part of a month-long celebration that starts right after Thanksgiving and ends Dec. 23.
4) Help Set a World Record with Most Skiing Santas -- This event on Dec. 10 is open to all ages at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado. All you need is a Santa Suit and a deeply discounted (just $23) lift ticket. Join Skiing Santas and Mrs. Claus Dec.17 on the slopes at Whistler Resort in British Columbia. Expect to see Santa on the slopes throughout ski country, like at Winter Park, home of the National Sports Center for the Disabled, where he’ll be on the slopes every weekend from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
5) Watch Santas on Surfboards-- At the annual Surfing Santas Event Christmas Eve in Cocoa Beach, Fla. which attracts more than 300 surfing Santas and 4,000 spectators. On the West Coast, in Huntington Beach CA, catch a wave Sundays with Surfing Santa during December at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort.
6) Santa for the Wine Afficionado –Ride The Napa Valley Wine Train With Santa as the popular gourmet and wine tasting experience on vintage Pullman rail cars runs daily until Dec. 29, with kids helping Santa to recover some lost toys. For train aficionados, there are many experiences that play out the classic “Polar Express” holiday tale, including on the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams, Ariz., and the Santa Express Train on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad in Colorado.
7) See Santa at a Historic German Market-- One of 2,500 in Germany, and the Emden Engelke-Markt on the North Sea coast, Father Christmas appears on the stage of the city garden at 5 p.m. daily to give out presents to the children. This market is known for its maritime atmosphere with festively illuminated museum ships and traditional sailing boats welcoming visitors onboard.
8) See Santa at a 700-Year Old Castle in Wales -- At Chirk Castle, Father Christmas will be on hand in the Adam Tower the second and third weekends of December with a gift for every visiting child.
9) Visit Santa in a Gilded Age Mansion -- in Newport RI, where The Breakers, The Elms, and Marble House—all over-the-top mansions and National Historic Landmarks –are decorated to the hilt with dining tables set with period silver and china, windows lit with candles and more than two dozen Christmas trees. At the Breakers, a big model train will travel around decorated trees; at The Elms, the ballroom becomes a Gilded Age streetscape complete with sleighs and a topiary horse among the mannequins in period dress. Santa makes appearances at alternating houses the first three Sundays in this month.
Eileen Ogintz is the creator of the syndicated column and website Taking the Kids. She is also the author of the ten-book Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and the Great Smoky Mountains. The third-edition of the Kid’s Guide to NYC has just been released.