Drive-through holiday events, virtual tree lightings and online shopping — we’ve grown quite accustomed to celebrating the holidays in a pandemic-friendly manner. And yet, here’s another way COVID-19 has affected our traditions and celebrations: socially distanced and virtual Santa visits!
That’s right — Santa, Mrs. Claus and his elves are not immune to our restrictions, but there are still plenty of ways to interact with our favorite seasonal characters while abiding by CDC guidelines all the while.
Put on your mask and your favorite ugly Christmas sweater and make your way to visit with Santa in a variety of unique ways throughout the Portland area. These reimagined Santa visits involve a snow globe, a drive-by parade, acrylic barriers, video calls and more — which prove that this is a holiday season we will surely never forget.
SOCIALLY DISTANT SANTA VISITS IN PORTLAND
November 27–December 31 (Select Dates)
The Cinnamon Bear at Oaks Park has been a beloved tradition during the holiday season for more than 80 years. And during this unusual season, Oaks Park is able to provide a drive-in experience! The live musical production will feature a sing-along with the Cocklebur Cowboys Band and special appearances by the Cinnamon Bear, Chipper the Squirrel and Santa Claus himself. The event occurs on select evenings through December 31 and tickets must be purchased in advance. Admission is $49 per car.
December 18–23 + January 1–3
The beloved Holiday Express trains may be parked for the season, but the Rail Heritage Center is teeming with holiday spirit, as Santa and his elves have transformed the center into a Christmas wonderland, but inside and out. Step outside to explore vintage rail cars and a classic diesel locomotive, adorned in twinkling holiday lights. And inside, Portland’s three historic steam locomotives tower over newly built model railroad displays, one of which climbs a 9-foot-tall holiday tree. Santa will be perched in the cab of the legendary SP 4449 steam locomotive, welcoming “visits” with kids looking in, safely distanced from a wooden staircase. Children can write personal letters to Santa, drop them in the North Pole mailbox, and in a few days, receive a personalized, handwritten response from Santa or his elves!
The maximum capacity for this event is 50 people at a time and masks are required. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children, and free for children 2 and under.
November 20–December 24 (Select Dates)
Washington Square has gone above and beyond to provide a safe shopping experience, including holiday meals to-go, extended hours and curbside pickup shopping. They’re also offering a unique contactless experience for visiting with Santa. Masks are required for Santa and all guests ages 5 and above, and social distancing will be maintained at all times. Reservations are not required but are recommended to limit crowds and allow for social distancing. Visits with Santa at Washington Square are completely free!
The Lloyd Center is still offering in-person SantaLand experiences, which includes a socially distanced visit with Santa and character appearances from The Grinch, Jack Skeleton and Sally, visible in an interactive window display. Check the Lloyd Center website to purchase your tickets in advance. 100% of the proceeds from this event will be donated to Howard’s Heart, a local nonprofit that supports foster young adults.
November 27–December 24
Head to the Lower Level Rotunda Pavilion at Pioneer Place to get your professional photos taken with Santa! Face coverings for you and Santa may be required during your contactless visit, based on current state regulations. Santa will be at Pioneer Place all the way through Christmas Eve! Reservations are required, so be sure to secure your spot in advance.
Visit the Safety Measures page to see how Pioneer Place is making guests feel comfortable at this time.
November 27–December 24
Clackamas Town Center in Happy Valley is hosting Santa every day from November 27 to Christmas Eve, incorporating safety measures, including enhanced cleaning, hand sanitizer, social distancing guidance and providing a contactless visit. Face coverings for you and Santa may be required during your contactless visit based on current state regulations. Reservations to visit Santa are strongly encouraged, but walk-up visits will be available as space allows throughout the day.
Black Santa Parade: December 12
Black Santa Wonderland: December 19 + 20
Black Santa has become a local tradition in Portland, and with recent restrictions surrounding COVID-19, we’ll have more opportunities than usual to see this famous character around town!
On Saturday, December 12 from 1:45–3 p.m., Santa will be making his way through East Portland one neighborhood at a time. Check out the parade map to see his route.
And on Saturday, December 19 and Sunday, December 20, Black Santa Wonderland will provide a drive-through experience that allows you to stop and exit your vehicle for a visit with Santa, who will be securely inside his snow globe. He will give each carload a Christmas goodie bag! Please remember to wear a mask when outside of your car, except when a photo is being taken. This event is free but registration is required.
November 7–December 24
By popular demand, Cabela’s all across the country, including right here in Tualatin, are continuing the tradition of Santa visits in a safe and responsible manner. Temperature screenings will be administered upon arrival, and children will visit with Santa on the other side of a Magic Santa Shield, an acrylic barrier in place at all times. All team members and families will wear face coverings and practice physical distancing throughout the experience, and all surfaces will be cleaned and sanitized between each visit. Each family will receive a free 4-by-6 studio-quality photo, as well as a free shareable video, and additional photo packages will be available for purchase. Reservations are also free and are required in all locations; simply select the Tualatin store, select your preferred time, and show your confirmation at check-in.
VIRTUAL SANTA VISITS
November 27–December 23
Bridgeport Village in Tigard is celebrating the season safely and responsibly with reimagined traditional favorites in addition to new holiday activities. One of those reimagined experiences is their virtual visits with Santa, offered daily from November 27 through Christmas Eve. Skip the lines and reserve a five-minute video call with Santa, which can be instantly downloaded and shared with family and friends. Reservations are required. Each 5-minute call is $24.95.
In addition to their socially distanced Santa visits, Clackamas Town Center and Pioneer Place invite you to a virtual visit with Santa through JingleRing. This brand new service lets you and your family book a virtual chat with Santa — and even Mrs. Claus reading a Christmas story. For $19.95, you’ll receive a personalized recorded message, and $24.95 offers a customized virtual experience for the whole family. Choose your preferences for ethnicity, language (including ASL), and faith, or select Sensitive Santa for children with special needs.
Your visit with Old Saint Nick may be anything but conventional, but we hope you still have a memorable holiday season!