All Aboard the Polar Express!
Editor’s note: A previous version contained an incorrect price for the Experimental Aircraft Association 88’s Breakfast with Santa. It is $7.
Doors Santa Claus can be found in various locations in Wichita, listening to the wish lists of local children – in new digs at Towne East Square, at a North Pole substation in south Wichita and in the Cabela’s store in northeast Wichita, to name a few.
His schedule is getting even busier over the remaining weekends before Christmas. Just this weekend alone, he’ll be at two breakfast events – one in which he’ll arrive by helicopter, then he’ll go on to pose for pictures with pets at the Kansas Humane Society, share some propulsion secrets during a free admission day at the Kansas Aviation Museum, ride in on a Harley trike to Twister City-Harley Davidson, hit the ice at the Wichita Ice Center and end the day in a Victorian setting in Old Cowtown Museum.
If that seems like a lot of activities for one man, my 9-year-old granddaughter has a totally plausible explanation: All of those Santas are really just helpers for the real Santa who is busy at the North Pole.
Here’s a list of a few places to visit with Santa – and even the Grinch – in Wichita before Christmas Day. His schedule is pretty booked up this time of year, so it’s not a comprehensive listing.
Every day through Dec. 24
Cabela’s, 2427 N. Greenwich, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays and Dec. 24. It’s the first year the Wichita outdoor sporting goods store is having Santa in continuous residence through Dec. 24, which is a practice borrowed from the store’s new parent company, Bass Pro Shops, said Kyle Brower, general manager. Santa arrived Thanksgiving weekend by Bass Tracker boat. Go online to www.cabelas.com to sign up for a specific time to see Santa or just get in line. Visitors get a free photo with Santa, with a cabin as a backdrop along with two taxidermied reindeer. Kids activities, including a letter-writing station, are also available; specific craft times happen from 5-7 p..m. weeknights and noon-5 p.m. weekends.
Towne East Square, 7700 E. Kellogg, and Towne West Square, 4600 W. Kellogg, various times through Dec. 24. Saint Nick puts in a similar schedule at both of the malls. At Towne East Square, he’s got some new décor and new activities for those waiting in line: a selfie station and interactive touchscreen games. A special storytime with Santa is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at Towne East Square. The east-side mall is offering for purchase a special FastPass photo package option that allows you to skip the line. For a complete schedule of when Santa’s in or to order the FastPass, visit www.simon.com/mall/towne-east-square. For his west mall schedule, visit townewestsquare.com/events/
Weekends through Dec. 23
North Pole Express Substation, 1841 S. Glenn, 6-9 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays for the next two weekends, Thursday-Sunday, Dec. 20-23. For more than 20 years, Patrick Flanigan has been putting on a Santa suit to listen to children’s wishes who visit him in a decorated shed with a large lighted yard display. (The display is on the Eagle’s top light displays list.) Last year more than 4,000 children visited, said Flanigan, whose inspiration for playing Santa was Henry Harvey, who starred in KAKE TV’s long-running “Santa’s Workshop.” Visiting children get at least one toy, which come by way of donations year-round from companies, employees clubs and individuals. When we visited this year, the granddaughters got a couple of toys each plus candy canes. Flanigan, who bills himself as the original Santa, advises being patient and dressing warm as some nights the line can wrap around the block.
Other multiple engagements
Botanica, 701 Amidon St. Not only is the Jolly One making appearances at the 5:30-8:30 nightly Illuminations display, the folks at Botanica also have booked him for some special events. You can pay for an exclusive VIP Santa visit and come early to Botanica, at 5 p.m., Monday-Wednesday, Dec. 17-19, to hang with Mr. Claus. Tickets are $20 for VIP Santa nights and include premier parking, Illuminations admission and other goodies; purchase them at botanica.org. Illuminations-only tickets are $10 with discounts and are available at QuikTrips, online at botanica.org and at the door.
Old Cowtown, 1865 W. Museum Blvd. This weekend and next weekend, the museum is hosting Santa for two breakfast events – 9-11 a.m. Saturdays, Dec. 8 and 15, and he’ll be a featured guest for the museum’s Victorian Christmas celebration 6-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 7-8 and 15-16. Tickets for Breakfast with Santa are $14 for adults, $12 for children for nonmembers at wichitatix.com. Members get a $2 discount on tickets for adults and children but must call 316-350-3323 for the rate. Regular museum admission, $9 with discounts available, applies for Victorian Christmas.
Wichita Ice Center, 505 W. Maple. You can go skating with Santa – along with some of his other winter-loving friends like Anna from “Frozen” and the center’s Polar Pete mascot – for the next three Saturday afternoons. “His skating skills are pretty good,” remarked Rob Boyle, manager of the center. He doesn’t skate continuously but he’s on the ice for much of the time, Boyle said. Times are noon-3 p.m. Dec. 8 and 15 and noon-5 p.m. Dec. 22. Cost is $10 ($7 admission plus $3 skate rental) or $5 with one donation per person of a nonperishable item for the Kansas Food Bank.
Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean. From noon-2 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 8 and 15, Santa will hang out in the science center’s main lobby to take gift and toy requests. The visit is free.
Museum of World Treasures, 825 E. 1st St. The museum is being transformed into the North Pole from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, when Kris Kringle comes to visit. Igloo forts and never-melting snowballs are part of the fun. Regular museum admission of $9.95 with discounts applies.
Polar Express event at O.J. Watson Park, 3022 S. McLean Blvd., select times through Dec. 23. Riding the special Polar Express miniature train at this Wichita park has become one of the hottest tickets during the holiday season. Park and Rec officials have added even more of the 75-minute sessions that include a reading of the award-winning “Polar Express” book, craft activities, a train ride and a visit with Santa. Reservations must be made in advance. Visit wichita.gov/parkandrec and click on the registration link to find the Polar Express class listing. Cost is $16 for ages 2 and older, free for those younger than 2.
Nowadays, Santa doesn’t just make his arrival by sleigh. That’s so 1800s. On Saturday, Dec. 8, he’s scheduled to arrive between 9 and 9:30 a.m. by helicopter at Jabara Airport, 3612 N. Webb Road. It’s part of the activities of the Experimental Aircraft Association 88’s Breakfast with Santa. Doors open for the breakfast at 7 a.m., with free introductory flights for kids ages 8 to 17 years of age from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Breakfast prices are $7 with discounts. Visit 88.eaachapter.org for more information.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, Santa will ride in to Twister City-Harley Davidson, 5427 Chuzy Drive in north Wichita, on a Harley trike. He’ll be there, posing for pictures and handing out goodie bags, until 4 p.m. The Grinch gets his turn from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15. No confirmation if Max, the Grinch’s trusty dog, will make the trip. Visit twistercityhd.com for more information.
If you have four-legged fur babies, you can get their photos with Santa during Santa Paws at the Kansas Humane Society, 3313 N. Hillside, between 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. Pets must be on a leash or in a kennel. Photo packages start at $20, with proceeds helping the society.
You know Santa loves air travel, so he’s making a special stop at the Kansas Aviation Museum, 3350 George Washington Blvd., from noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. Kids can make an ornament, learn about propulsion and more. Special free museum admission applies.