Tips for Making the Most of Family Santa Photos

CF Shopping Malls are changing the way families experience Santa this year. In fact, we’re thinking we might even be able to say it’s actually going to be magical this time around!

For the past five years, we’ve taken our boys to Downtown Toronto shopping centres for the classic mall Santa photo. I can’t say that it’s always been a pleasant experience. Between parking fiascos, long line-ups and toddler meltdowns, it’s actually been the total opposite. But, we’ve never missed a season. For some reason, we always put on our festive plaid (or woolly sweaters), pack up a bag full of bribery (screens and snacks) and bite the bullet. The pictures always tend to be worth it — even (or especially) the crying ones.

But, this year. we were pleasantly surprised to learn, that all of that’s changing. CF Shopping Malls developed a new system where you simply go online and sign up for your desired date and pre-pay for your Story Time with Santa visit. Not only do you get to choose the date, but you also select the exact TIME of your appointment. From there, all you do is show up and enjoy your hassle free holiday visit at a CF Shopping mall closest to you (you can check the locations on the website).

The Story Time with Santa Visit gets you THREE digital downloads of your favourite Santa photos, story time with Santa (where Santa actually sits and reads a book to the kids), a personalized email letter from Santa to your kids on Christmas Eve, and a take-home book of the same book that Santa reads to the kids during story time. It’s a magical holiday memory and since there’s no waiting in line, it’s great for all ages (no melt downs).

Our youngest was quite nervous to meet the Jolly ol’ man, but was easily convinced to hop up on the big comfy chair since there was no stress around the experience.

We also love that it’s in a mall because we strolled around, bought some great items (so many deals this time of year) and then got lunch. When we purchased our tickets to the Santa experience, we got an email with coupons to mall sales so that was another bonus to it all.

Anyhow, that’s just a little PSA for parents.


  1. Relax and don’t stress! Santa Photos aren’t meant to be Pinterest perfect. Many parents pick out perfect matching outfits and stress over trying to get that perfect shot. But, the beauty of it all is in the character — the quirky smiles, the silly haircuts, the tears, the shy smiles and so on. You’ll remember those finer moments more than the perfection when you look back at it all. So try to just enjoy it all.
  2. Book earlier appointments. The parking lots get packed with shoppers. So if you’re booking a time slot online, the earlier ones might make it easier to park. If you can’t get an early one, have someone drop you off at the door and then pick you up when you’re done at the mall.
  3. Make a day of it. We stayed at the mall for four hours and had a great experience. We visited with Santa, shopped and stayed for lunch.
  4. Avoid posting pictures of other children! If you’re posting images on social media, try to avoid posting videos or stories of other kids at the story time. It’s just good social media etiquette.
  5. If your children want to bring a favourite stuffy or security blanket, go with the flow. Leaving room for their little moods, makes the moment less stressful for everyone. Our little one was adamant that we bring him in a baby carrier. Even though he hasn’t been in one in years, we dug it out of storage and let him be carrier up to Santa in it. You never know what’s going through their little minds…
CFFairview Park, Story Time with Santa

Happy holiday season!

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