21 Santa events for kids with special needs

Every child looks forward to whispering their special wishes in the jolly old elf’s ear this time of year, but many of Santa’s appearances can be noisy, crowded and include really long waits in line. So, we rounded up a few great places with special Santas eager to hear those wishes just from kids with special needs and their families. But these events are always popular and spots fill up quickly.

Sensory Santa

When: Nov. 24, 8-10 a.m

Where: Fashion Outlets of Chicago, 5220 Fashion Outlets Way, Rosemont

Enjoy meeting Santa in a controlled, sensory-friendly environment before the Fashion Outlets of Chicago opens. Tickets must be reserved in advance. Accommodations are made to support all sensory, physical, and developmental needs.

Santa Cares Day

When: Nov. 24, 8-9:30 a.m.

Where: Northbrook Court, 1515 Lake Cook Road, Northbrook

Kids with special needs can visit and take photos with Santa at Northbrook Court. Advance registration required.

Sensory-Friendly Santa

When. Nov. 24, 8-9:30 a.m. 

Where: Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago

Water Tower Place is hosting kids with special needs, in partnership with Autism Speaks and Cherry Hill Programs, for time with Santa. 8-9:30 a.m. Advance registration required.

Soothing Santa

When: Nov. 24, 9-10:30 a.m.

Where: Southlake Mall, 2109 Southlake Mall, Merrillville, Ind. 

Kids on the autism spectrum can meet with Santa for a private photo session. Advance tickets required. 

Sensory-Friendly Santa

When: Nov. 25, 8-9:30 a.m.

Where: Oak Brook Center, 100 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook

Kids can meet with Santa in a quieter atmosphere before the mall opens to the public. Advance tickets required.

Soothing Santa

When: Dec. 1, 8 (9-10:30 a.m.)

Where: 122 Hawthorn Center, Vernon Hills

Hawthorn Mall’s Santa will meet with families with special needs before the mall opens to the public in the new “The Elf on the Shelf: Santa’s Magical Photo Adventure” set. Advance registration required.

Caring Santa

When: Dec. 1, 8 (8-10 a.m.)

Where: Woodfield Mall, 5 Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg

Kids with special needs, particularly with those with autism, can enjoy meeting a Caring Santa at Woodfield Mall, sponsored by Autism Speaks. Advance registration required.

Special Kids Holiday Party

When: Dec. 4, 3:30-8 p.m.

Where: Wilder Mansion, 211 S. Prospect Ave., Elmhurst

This annual party for children with special needs includes a visit with Santa, cookies, arts and crafts and a Lego room. Every child goes home with a keepsake photograph with Santa and a gift bag. 

Santa House Special Needs Night

When: Dec. 2-4, 12 (5-8 p.m.)

Where: Riverwalk at Jackson Avenue and Webster Street, Naperville

Santa’s little house on the Naperville Riverwalk will be occupied by Santa and kids can visit and have their photo taken. Free, photos $8 or two for $15.

Holiday Express – Special Needs Night 

When: Dec. 6, 5-8 p.m.

Where: Blackberry Farm, 100 S. Barnes Road, Aurora

Enjoy all the fun of Blackberry Farm’s Holiday Express in a low-sensory environment. No waiting in lines. Instead, guests will experience a setup that’s sensitive to special needs families, with reduced lighting and music. Blackberry Farm is ADA compliant, but the hay wagon is non-handicap accessible. Food and drinks available for purchase. 

AHSS Holiday Festival for All

When: Dec. 7, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Where: Arlington Heights, Chicago (Lakeview) and Northbrook

Autism Home Support Services invites families to their Chicagoland autism centers for a fun-filled festival. Kids will able to enjoy holiday games, treats, crafts and a special visit from Santa. 

Special Needs Archery Class

When: Dec. 7, 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Where: The Archery Place, 1725 Crescent Lake Drive, Montgomery

Kids with special needs get a unique time with Santa learning basic archery skills. Limited spots available. Parents may be asked to help depending on their child’s needs.

Soothing Santa

When: Dec. 8, 9-11 a.m.

Where: Chicago Ridge Mall, 444 Chicago Ridge, Chicago Ridge

Santa visits just kids with special needs. Advance tickets required.

Santa Cares: Sensory-Friendly Santa

When: Dec. 8, 9-10:30 a.m

Where: Northfield Square Mall, 600 N. State Route 50, Bourbonnais

Kids with special needs can have time with Santa. Advance tickets required. 

Soothing Santa

When: Dec. 8, 9:30-11 a.m. 

Where: Fox Valley Mall, 195 Fox Valley Center, Aurora

Visit with Santa in a quieter atmosphere set up with kids with special needs in mind.

Santa Cares

When: Dec. 8, 7:30-9:30 a.m.

Where: Yorktown Shopping Center, 203 Yorktown Center, Lombard

Enjoy time with Santa.  Advance registration required.

Caring Santa

When: Dec. 8, 9-11 a.m.

Where: Gurnee Mills, 6170 W. Grand Ave., Gurnee

Kids with special needs will find a Santa who appreciates them in a quieter time at the mall. 

Sensory Sensitive Cookies with Santa

When: Dec. 11, 5-8 p.m. (Three time slots)

Where: 220 N Euclid Ave., Oak Park.

Families with sensory issues can spend time with Santa at the Cheney Mansion thanks to the Park District of Oak Park and WSSRA. In addition to activities, there will be cookies and milk. Make sure to bring a camera. Spaces are expected to fill up; register in advance. 

All is Calm 

When: Dec. 13, 10 a.m.-1 pm. and 4-7 p.m.

Where: Indiana Welcome Center, 7770 Corinne Drive, Hammond, Ind.

Santa is making a special trip for kids with autism or other special needs. He will be positioned off “Santa’s Mountain” for this event. Kids can write letters to Santa, make crafts, enjoy the lighted Christmas trees and the exhibit, “A Christmas Story” Comes Home.” 

Breakfast with Mr. & Mrs. Deaf Santa

When: Dec. 14, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Where: Archer Park, 4901 S. Kilbourn Ave., Chicago

Children with all types of hearing loss will meet and eat with Santa. $5, free 5 and under. 

Have lunch with Santa

When: Dec. 14, Dec. 15

Where: Romeoville, Chicago

Autism Eats is sponsoring a unique lunch with Santa where all behaviors are accepted. Dec. 14 is 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Mistwood Golf Course, 1700 W. Renwick Road, Romeoville, Dec. 15 is noon-3 p.m. at La Villa Restaurant, 3638 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago. $10+.

Special Needs Holiday Celebration

When: Dec. 21

Where: Aurora

The annual Autism Family Foundation’s celebration includes a visit with Santa and craft making. Free but advance registration required by Nov. 30.


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