For this story, we took some time to talk to one of the South’s most popular Santas, Santa Rick.
Santa Rick won’t tell you much about himself, but he’s careful to highlight his relationship with other members of the Claus family. After all, he has a responsibility as Santa’s helper to make sure that children understand who he is – and not just at Christmastime. “Santa is a title. It’s not just a name, it’s a title like being a judge or a principal of a high school.”
Rick told us that there’s no doubt Santa is real and he could be at a location near you. It also might be that the Santa you are visiting is another member of the Claus family helping during the holidays. Either way, the magic of Christmas is real and present at opportunities to see Santa.
With a snowy white designer beard and deep, jolly laugh, children clamor to tell him their holiday wishes at every event he attends. Rick also has a bustling Santa School in Atlanta where he teaches other members of his Claus family to bring Christmas cheer. “The most important quality for every Santa student is to have a heart that’s bigger on the outside than it is on the inside,” he says.
There are places to see Santa and the Claus family all around the South. Here are some highlights we found to celebrate Christmas cheer and tell St. Nick our biggest wishes.
Santa Rick is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and is one of the Southeast’s premier Santa helpers creating magical moments across the region
For over 45 years, families have been visiting Santa at Phipps. While they’re completely booked for 2023, there’s a way to get into this highly anticipated event in 2024 – if you act fast. Sign up for the email list, but don’t delay when you get a notice. The word around town is that reservations fill up by July.
Santa Rick plans on appearing for photos, if you’d like to meet this member of the Claus family. Another one of Santa’s helpers takes a dive at the aquarium to the delight of fans. Scuba Claus appears in the tanks on weekend dates throughout the holidays.
There’s also a Christmas tree that’s lit up by the aquarium’s electric eels. Sensors detect the eels electric discharges and correlate the light’s glow on the tree. A cool and educational event, there’s plenty of fun with animals planned for this celebration.
Asheville, North Carolina
Santa gets hardcore in North Carolina, and he has for over 25 years. Who knew that St. Nick, or at least one of his helpers, rappels down the iconic Chimney Rock’s natural 315-foot granite monolith? Maybe he was mistaken, since the natural formation looks a lot like a chimney. He must like the experience. It happens twice! And don’t worry, he gets some help from his professional climbing friends at Fox Mountain Guides, just to be safe.
While they watch, families can take some group photos on Santa’s sleigh or listen to live music Asheville-style.
Amelia Island, Florida
Dickens on Centre
There’s nothing like a coastal location decorated with thousands of twinkling lights for the holidays, and Amelia Island satisfies all the beach Christmas feels. This free event is also a spectacular way to see Santa with the kids. On December 8-10 this year, Santa sits in the kid’s zone to provide portraits and listen to wish lists.
Why this festival? The entire experience transforms Amelia Island to Victorian London. The historic district hosts a lighted parade, Victorian costume party, enchanted village, pet parade, food and entertainment as part of the event.
San Antonio, Texas
La Cantera Resort and Spa
Want to flip the script a bit? How about a trip to see The Grinch at the La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio? We’ve learned, through some special intel, that the Grinch had a change of heart and decided to have a happy Who-holiday eating, singing, and celebrating during the hotel’s lighting ceremony. The night is full of fun, with Grinch inspired cocktails, crafts, treats, and hot cocoa. If you miss the lighting, he’ll be back for brunch on December 2. Tickets for both of the events benefit the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas.
Charleston, South Carolina
This magical event is full of hot cocoa, stories with Santa, incredible bites, activities, and even a little Champagne. All of this holiday magic is set inside one of the hotel’s most incredible rooms, Camellia’s. What’s so special about the location? This room was designed to feel like something from Fabergé, glittering, opulent, and delicately pink. It’s the perfect special location for pictures of your little one with Santa, or his helper.
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This famous mall offers a chance to see Santa one-on-one while getting a little Christmas shopping marked off of your list. Santa also performs songs and tells stories on stage mornings during the season, a perfect accompaniment for your holiday photo.
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Old Army Pavilion
We’ve recently declared Oxford, Mississippi, one of the South’s most magical Christmas towns and the Holly Jolly Holiday celebration is a good example of why it fits the bill. Santa visits the real ice skating rink to bring holiday cheer to all. Don’t worry if ice skating seems intimidating. After all, there just aren’t a lot of opportunities to learn ice skating outside in the South. You can rent a ‘skate aid’ that supports you as you try out your blades. There’s also a peppermint trail to follow for some extra sweet treats.