13 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 so sign up as soon as you can.

ZooLights Sensory-Friendly Evenings

Nov. 30; Dec. 15, 2021

New this year, ZooLights will offer a special night for kids with autism or other sensitivities. Music will be turned off and blinking or moving lights will be static. Reservations required.

Kids Special Day Holiday Party

Dec. 1, 2021

Registration required and slots are filling quickly for this annual event that is now a drive-through. Stay in the car and receive treats, hear music, see lights and get a big wave from Santa.

Santa’s Workshop Special Needs Night

Dec. 1-2, 2021

Kids and family members can enjoy a fun visit with Santa inside his magical Naperville workshop. Reservations are required; walk-ups will not be accommodated. One family at a time will be inside to experience a brief, socially-distanced conversation with Santa. Families are welcome to take their own photos/videos.

Holiday Express – Special Needs Night

Dec. 3, 2021

Enjoy all the fun of Holiday Express in a low-sensory environment with reduced lighting and music. Pre-registration required. No waiting in lines. Take a ride on the Holiday Express train – a charming tour around scenic Lake Gregory – and enjoy a hay wagon ride, too. At the historic pioneer village, enjoy crafts, a reindeer food bar, story readings of holiday classics at the one-room schoolhouse and a special visit with Santa. Food and drinks available for purchase.

Sensory Friendly Holiday Party

Dec. 5, 2021

Join the Special Needs Mom Squad to celebrate the holidays with a buffet (including sensory friendly foods), pictures with Santa (bring your camera) and sensory friendly activities.

Sensory-Friendly Santa Experience

Dec. 5, 2021

Taking place prior to opening, the Sensory-Friendly Santa Experience will be carefully managed to accommodate guests with autism and other special needs, including necessary environmental adjustments to meet guests’ sensory challenges.

Soothing Santa

Dec. 5, 2021

Children with special needs and their families can visit with Santa and have a private photo session in a calming environment before the mall opens. Advance registration required.

Caring Santa

Dec. 5, 2021

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

Santa Cares Day

Dec. 5, 12, 2021

Kids with special needs can visit and take photos with Santa. Advance registration encouraged.

Santa Cares Day

Dec. 5, 12, 2021

Children within all spectrums of special needs and their families can experience a visit and photos with Santa before the mall opens. Reservations are encouraged.

Caring Santa

Dec. 12, 15, 2021

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 for private photo experience.

All is Calm

Dec. 15, 2021

Santa is making a special trip for kids with autism or other special needs. The exhibit, “A Christmas Story” Comes Home, will be sensory-friendly and accessible. Photos must be reserved in advance.

Have lunch with Santa with Autism Eats

Dec. 16, 2021

Enjoy a pizza buffet and take photos with Santa. Kids will receive a small gift.


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