Should Malls Charge Kids For The Privilege Of Visiting Santa Claus?

UPDATE: Later on Monday, the mall’s management group announced it had decided to make visiting Santa Claus free after all.

“We have heard and value our loyal customers’ feedback and as a result, have decided to remove the photo package purchase requirements,” the mall said in a statement.


Imagine this: you’ve finally made it to the North Pole to visit the Big Guy himself. You walk slowly up to the door, snow crunching under your boots, and knock. This is it! You’ve made it all the way to Santa Claus’ house and now you get to unload your heart’s desires on the jolly fella. “That’ll be $35,” an elf pipes up.

Paying admission to visit Santa Claus might not be part of the average Christmas fantasy, but it’s the reality at one New Jersey mall: in order to enter the Adventure to Santa holiday display, visitors will pay anywhere from $35 to $50, depending on which package they choose. Those admission fees include a photo of your kid with Santa, or if you want to pay more, a video of the visit.

Though the elaborate display includes a lot more than just hanging out with St. Nick long enough to tell him you want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, no matter how you slice it, it’ll cost you to get to the Big Guy himself — or see him at all.

Santa’s headquarters doesn’t have any windows, meaning kids passing by can’t even sneak a peek of that snow-white beard without paying up.

“He’s locked up in his castle,” one mother complained to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The mall’s management says this display is extra special, however.

“Families who experienced this exciting amenity last year commented that it was nothing like any Santa visit they had ever had before, and parents were thrilled with not just the adventure but the quality of the photos as well,” Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust wrote in a statement Sunday night. Last year, that experience was free.

If you don’t want to pay, you can go to one of PREIT’s “more traditional Santa visits” at its six other malls near Philly, the group added.

Mall visitors have been complaining on social media, saying that the expensive admission could exclude children in lower-income households.

“I find it classist and it creates a divide between children during a holiday which is supposed to be about equality and giving and having everyone participate in the joy of Christmas,” one customer who complained on Facebook told the Inquirer.

Some say it’s one thing to charge parents for the right to take a photo of their progeny with Santa, but the lap visit at least should be free.

What do you think? Weigh in with our poll below:

Parents fume at Cherry Hill Mall’s pricey Santa [Philadelphia Inquirer]

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